4000 Weeks Time Management for Mortals

By: Les Schafer

There are few books out there that have made an impact on my life.  In most cases I am left with the feeling that someone has pulled back the curtain on one of life’s mysteries. By impact I mean it changed my perspective on life, or myself, or how to tell a story, to name a few.  Some of the books were A Prayer For Owen Meany, by John Irving, Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, and The Road Less Traveled by, Scott Peck (which 4000 Weeks reference). Add to this list 4000 Weeks, by Oliver Burkeman.

In our hustle culture with many distractions to keep us hooked on what we think we should be paying attention to, and with so many other books written about how to maximize your time, along comes a book that says wait a minute, how about looking at time from a different perspective.

Just like how Road Less Traveled starts out with the premise that has people trying to accept the premise that life is not fair, so does 4000 Weeks start off with saying that you are never going to be able to do it all.

“The problem with trying to make time for everything that feels important—or just for enough of what feels important—is that you definitely never will. The reason isn’t that you haven’t yet discovered the right time management tricks or supplied sufficient effort, or that you need to start getting up earlier, or that you’re generally useless. It’s that the underlying assumption is unwarranted: there’s no reason to believe you’ll ever feel ‘on top of things,’ or make time for everything that matters, simply by getting more done.”

Oliver looks at time and our current culture, past cultures, religions and philosophy to give readers a foundational perspective on time. But at the end of the day, it’s about how you mentally approach and value your own time and how you want to use it. Once you identify what’s important and what has value you then have a choice to give it your time, dedication, and focus.  This could be cooking dinner for your family, walking your dog, blocking out time to do work related activities, or reading a book.

The take aways and applications for me is that it has allowed me to be more committed to the task at hand and to not worry about the other things I was not doing or wanted to do at the time. It allowed me to be more present and in the moment. It allowed me to be more appreciative and satisfied.  This focus then becomes the anchor that truly can cause a breakthrough in listening and understanding and empathy and forging stronger relationships (should the action or non action oriented task include other people).

This book is not for everyone and can at times maybe make to many points and reference to many historical events, writings and stories. I enjoyed learning more context, which I felt added to the points he was trying to make.  For the cliff notes version, he does offer 10 tangible action items at the end of the book that one can implement in their life with the hope of making a difference in their time management activities.

Lastly, the other impact this book has had in my life by taking on it’s fundamental teachings and applying them to my life has been a significant decrease in my anxiety and feeling anxious. By being more in the moment and accepting that what I was doing at the time was the right thing to be doing it was funny how the voices in my head became quiet.  You know, the voice that says what you should be doing next or to hurry up what you’re doing now and move on to the next thing began to go silent. For me this was everything and worth the price I paid for this book and worth the time I spent on this book and will continue to use this book as a guiding resource in my life that I will frequent often.

I hope taking a short moment out of your day to read this little blog was worth your time!

With that said I will leave you with one more quote from the book, ““what you pay attention to will define, for you, what reality is.”