Hitting The Books: An Impression Of The "4000 Weeks" Book

hitting the books
time unmanagement
4000 Weeks

What Book?

4000 Weeks book cover

The 400 Weeks by Oliver Burkeman was one of the things recommended to me by a friend when I asked for an advise on work/life situation and daily routines and focus and prioritisation of the daily tasks.

I've listened to it in an audiobook format - which might not have been the best medium for this book given the weight of the subject at hand, but it was good enough as the narrator's voice and pace was great, and the book is written in a very voice-readable way: it's easy to engage with, even given the fairly sobering subject that on average we have 4000 weeks of time in our lives.

Overall it resonated with the core motive of "The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck" by Mark Manson, in a way that there's a limited amount of things we could attentively care about - and there's a limited amount of time we have to care about things. So essentially the goal is to focus on what we really care about and spend our precious resources on things that are dear to us, and not on amount of work we can do per day, or getting more efficient at time management - the latter, specifically, because if we focus on getting work done more efficiently, there will just be more work to do, so instead it's more rewarding to focus on doing the meaningful and rewarding work/activities/communication/relationships.

The Gist

It's well worth reading, and it's not a good idea for me to try to lay it out here - but what I wanted to save here for future reference is some questions and hints found at the end of the book.


...are things to ask yourself to decide how to choose and prioritise things in life:

  • Does this choice diminish or enlarge me? Choose uncomfortable enlargement over comfortable diminishment. The "choice" being anything from work to friendship to relationships.
  • Impossible standards are impossible. Face it. Choose several achievable tasks and focus on those. The "standards" being what we think we can do - or rather, what we thing we must do.
  • Nobody cares what we’re doing with our lives, so don’t struggle to prove it to anyone. How do you really enjoy spending your days? We often have ingrained obligation to prove ourselves to parents, peers, society and so on - but nobody really needs that.
  • In which areas are you waiting till you know what you’re doing? Nobody ever does, so don’t wait. We want to be certain we have enough skills or knowledge or control to start doing something or pursuing an opportunity - but that's never sufficient, so no reason to wait.
  • What actions might be meaningful today if you accept that you might never see the results? There's certain fatalistic but liberating thought that we might never see the results of our efforts - but so what? What if we don't have to?

...are things that might help to get what answers to the questions above imply:

  • Fixed volume approach to productivity: “eventual” todo list with everything, and “current” todo list win N tasks max, no adding new till some are done. Maybe one more for “blocked” things waiting on something.
  • Focus on one or at most two projects at a time, till you’re done or it’s evidently not working.
  • Accept that some things will have to be postponed/abandoned: work or sport when ill, renovation when changing jobs etc.
  • Focus on things you did, not on what you need to do. Small wins are still wins, and they’re very encouraging.
  • Limit and prioritize what you give a fuck about. There’s just so many fucks to give.
  • Make devices boring. Remove social media, for instance. Make the gadgets a tool, not an escape from your reality. (I'm leaving it here, though it sounds dubious to me; sounds like addressing the symptom rather than problem)
  • Embrace the mundane: everyday tasks could be engaging if you accept them as part of life they are and not as a burden.
  • Curiosity over worry: instead of fearing what comes next or how tantalising the experience is going to be, be curious about what it actually is going to be and the process/conversation/surroundings. It most probably is going to be much better than you think.
  • Be generous immediately: don’t delay giving a praise or make a donation or encourage someone.
  • Learn to do nothing. Worry about nothing, just be for a spell.

All of the above is not a literal quote, rather my own impression/interpretation of the book's text - though I think it reflects the book's sentiments fairly well.