Oliver Burkeman:Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management For Mortals

Most books about time management are written as guides to creating the perfect schedule or productivity method for cranking through as many items on our to-do list as we possibly can. Even when those methods work, they somehow still leave us feeling stressed & overwhelmed, paddling frantically against a current whose strength we can never match.

The fundamental problem is that none of the typical time management books address the very grim fact that our lives on planet earth are woefully brief – & so managing to clear out all our e-mails every day no longer holds up as being one of our most essential accomplishments once we confront how absurdly, terrifyingly, insultingly short life really is.

Oliver Burkeman is an award-winning writer for the Guardian, who one day did the math most of us would rather avoid. If we live until we’re 80, all we get are four thousand weeks. In his new uber-selling book, “Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management For Mortals,” Burkeman asserts that given the relatively short time frame of even the longest life, time management should be everyone’s most pressing concern. “Arguably,” he points out, “time management is all life is.”

Formerly obsessed with finding the best ways of getting more accomplished every day, Burkeman found (just as we have) that none of the productivity hacks he learned truly lived up to their promises. And so he turned his focus to ways of getting the most out of life tied to one’s personal dreams, aspirations & purpose. And that led him to asking some rather pointed questions about how we unwittingly squander so much of the precious time we have:

  • Why do we seem to crave distraction from the things we want to do the most?
  • Why do we imagine we’ll someday reach a state of productivity perfection, with nothing left on our to-do lists?
  • How many of us delay a creative project by telling ourselves “I’ll start when I have more time. I’m just too busy right now?

Burkeman provides the sobering & insightful answers to all these questions, but his book – the focus of this entire podcast – was really written to urge us to (not morbidly) keep the idea of our mortality always present in our minds, as doing so will steadily influence us to be far more courageous in living the life we really desire.

In a moment when all of us are deeply pondering the purpose & meaning of our lives, Burkeman’s insights couldn’t have arrived at a better time!

By Mark C. Crowley

Mark C. Crowley is the author of Lead From The Heart: Transformational Leadership For The 21st Century which has been taught in 11 American universities. He is a global speaker, leadership consultant and thought leader on the topics of workplace culture and employee engagement.