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Four Thousand Weeks

Four Thousand Weeks

by Oliver Burkeman


28.4K reads


Arguably, time management is all life is. Yet the modern discipline known as time management—like its hipper cousin, productivity—is a depressingly narrow-minded affair, focused on how to crank through as many work tasks as possible, or on devising the perfect morning routine, or on cooki...


Consider all the technology intended to help us gain the upper hand over time: by any sane logic, in a world with dishwashers, microwaves, and jet engines, time ought to feel more expansive and abundant, thanks to all the hours freed up. But this is nobody’s actual experience. Instead, li...

The paradox of limitation

The more you try to manage your time with the goal of achieving a feeling of total control, and freedom from the inevitable constraints of being human, the more stressful, empty, and frustrating life gets.

But the more you confront the facts of finitud...

It means organizing your days with the understanding that you definitely won’t have time for everything you want to do, or that other people want you to do—and so, at the very least, you can stop beating yourself up for failing. 

  • Since hard choices are unavoida...


I’m not suggesting our troubles with time are somehow all in the mind, or that a simple change of outlook will cause them all to vanish. Time pressure comes largely from forces outside ourselves: from a cutthroat economy; from the loss of the social safety nets and family networks that us...


Acquire a reputation for doing your work at amazing speed, and you’ll be given more of it.

“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion,” the English humorist and historian Parkinson wrote in 1955.

And it doesn’t apply only to work. It applies to everything that needs doing. 

Rendering yourself more efficient—either by implementing various productivity techniques or by driving yourself harder —won’t generally result in the feeling of having “enough time,” because,

the demands will increase to offset any benefits. Far fro...

The modern world provides an endless supply of things that seem worth doing, and so there arises an inevitable and unbridgeable gap between what you’d ideally like to do and what you actually can do.

The internet makes this all much more difficult because it promise...

The point isn’t to eradicate procrastination but to choose more wisely what you’re going to procrastinate on, in order to focus on what matters most. The real measure of any time management technique is whether or not it helps you neglect the right things.

  • The ...

We tend to think of it merely as a matter of not being particularly interested in whatever it is we’re doing, but in fact, it’s an intense reaction to the uncomfortable reality of confronting your limited control.

You’re obliged to deal with how your experience is unfol...

It states that any task you’re planning to tackle will always take longer than you expect.

In other words, even if you know that a given project is likely to overrun, and you adjust your schedule accordingly, it’ll just overrun your new estimated finishing time, too. It...

The truth is that it’s impossible to become so efficient and organized that you could respond to a limitless number of incoming demands. It’s usually equally impossible to spend what feels like “enough time” on your work and with your children, and on socializing, traveling, or e...

  • Adopt a “fixed volume” approach to productivity. It’s better to begin from the assumption that tough choices are inevitable and to focus on making them consciously and well.
  • Focus on one big project at a time and see it to completion before moving on...

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