• Four Thousand Weeks

  • Time Management for Mortals
  • By: Oliver Burkeman
  • Narrated by: Oliver Burkeman
  • Length: 5 hrs and 54 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (4,271 ratings)

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Four Thousand Weeks

By: Oliver Burkeman
Narrated by: Oliver Burkeman
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Publisher's Summary

2021 Financial Times Books of the Year

An Instant New York Times Best Seller

This program is read by the author.

Time is our biggest worry: There is too little of it. The acclaimed Guardian writer Oliver Burkeman offers a lively, entertaining philosophical guide to time and time management, setting aside superficial efficiency solutions in favor of reckoning with and finding joy in the finitude of human life.

The average human lifespan is absurdly, insultingly brief. Assuming you live to be eighty, you have just over four thousand weeks.

Nobody needs telling there isn’t enough time. We’re obsessed with our lengthening to-do lists, our overfilled inboxes, work-life balance, and the ceaseless battle against distraction; and we’re deluged with advice on becoming more productive and efficient, and “life hacks” to optimize our days. But such techniques often end up making things worse. The sense of anxious hurry grows more intense, and still the most meaningful parts of life seem to lie just beyond the horizon. Still, we rarely make the connection between our daily struggles with time and the ultimate time management problem: the challenge of how best to use our four thousand weeks.

Drawing on the insights of both ancient and contemporary philosophers, psychologists, and spiritual teachers, Oliver Burkeman delivers an entertaining, humorous, practical, and ultimately profound guide to time and time management. Rejecting the futile modern fixation on “getting everything done,” Four Thousand Weeks introduces listeners to tools for constructing a meaningful life by embracing finitude, showing how many of the unhelpful ways we’ve come to think about time aren’t inescapable, unchanging truths, but choices we’ve made as individuals and as a society - and that we could do things differently. 

A Macmillan Audio production from Farrar, Straus and Giroux

©2021 Oliver Burkeman (P)2021 Macmillan Audio

What listeners say about Four Thousand Weeks

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    5 out of 5 stars

Make TIME for this one...

There is a book on procrastination that has been sitting unfinished on my shelf for about 8 years. It mocks my as I walk past and I actively avert my gaze so that I don't have to feel that clenching in my chest that comes with avoiding tasks.

That should tell you everything you need to know about me.

I am a chronic procrastinator with escapist fantasies of being a productivity guru, of arriving at some magical point in the future when my life is perfectly balanced and systematized and I never have to worry about low motivation or indecisiveness or being late ever again... Perhaps you can relate?

Of course, this is the fantasy I go to to avoid actually taking the steps that would get me there. It simultaneously distracts me from my present and paralyzes me with its unrealistic expectations.

I spent so much time living in future anxieties and past regrets that I missed my life in as it is actually happening.

I originally purchased this book for the same reason I do every book I buy: so I don't have to start and / or finish the last one I bought.

However, I immediately felt that this one was different. This is the first time management booked that hasn't merely scratched the surface. It dove deep into the existential dilemma of the anxiety induced by life simply being to short and our feeble attempts to fix, avoid, or transcend that fact.

I deeply needed this book, not another system or self help guru or bullet point article or checklist or any other clever avoidance tactic. I needed to confront what was lurking at the bottom of my neurosis, accept it, and surrender to it.

This was a painful process that involved a considerable amount of grief as I let go of the illusion of infinite potentiality and laid to rest my meticulously constructed avatar of the perfect version of myself. Lots of emotions came up from my past: guilt, resentment, rage, regret, despair... but as I surrendered to these too and just allowed them to be without trying to "fix" them, a funny thing happened: I became lighter.

This book set me free to be the me I currently am, the one who can actually change my present circumstances, and liberated me to live life imperfectly with the knowledge that I can't do everything, be everything, fix everyone, and that I don't need to.

It gave me permission to go slow, experience deep time, and really immerse myself in moments instead of planning for the next thing. As I began to do this, the constant feeling of rush and my compulsive need to try to control time vanished, not at first, but in time. I've realized this is the state I want to spend my life in, not running around trying to do everything only to never experience any of it.

This book even helped me to accept the finitude of life and my own mortality, instead of raging against it by attempting to plan every little thing and desperately clinging to accomplishments, experiences, and possessions.

I feel so content. I am actually enjoying things now that I've stopped trying to "improve" and funnily enough, my motivation is up, my procrastinating has greatly diminished, I no longer feel so burdened by indecision now that all the pressure of choosing is gone, and I spend far less time lying awake in bed at night rehashing the past and worrying about the future.

This book will stay in my cue for times I inevitably spiral into procrastinating or rushing.
That other book on procrastination will likely remain on my bookshelf forever, unfinished, and now, I'm totally fine with that.

148 people found this helpful

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Interesting but didn’t really help

I loved the premise of this book - that managing our time is not only useless but detrimental. The author’s delve into this subject was deep and insightful. Many of his quotes gave me “aha!” moments, as did his analogies and concrete examples. For instance we think of human history as long, stretching for eons. In reality, in each generation there are people who live to be 100 years old. Conceivably, as each centenarian dies another is born. Counting those lives, the number of generations of human beings who lived going back to our origins is a chain of only 600 people - 350 back to the time of the Egyptian pharaohs. He presents many fascinating ways of looking at time. But as to definite, doable ways of getting off our hamster wheels of ever increasing speed while multitasking and trying to achieve a work/life balance? The advice there for me was vague at best. “Time is not a river sweeping us along, we are the river”? Move things from low priority lists to high priority as they get done? Accept you’ll never get everything done? Most of this did not really help. This book was not a waste of a credit, and the author’s narration was fine, but I finished hoping for more.

38 people found this helpful

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Wonderful

Most of what the author is saying won’t be news to anyone above the age of 35 but it is connected and written in such an insightful, wise and gentle way that you actually manage to hear it. And as most things that are true to the core it is at the same time liberating and heartbreaking.

20 people found this helpful

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The book you (didn’t know) that you’ve been waiting for all your life! :)

This book is both a masterpiece of the self help/productivity genre and the best response/critique of it. This not a cynical snarky
Tear down of the concepts and lessons you may have gotten attached to from studying time management and productivity. It is a very entertaining sober look at the sides of this world that most people don’t address or are loath to admit. If you are familiar with any of Birke and other writing or are interested in this book then there is surely something in it you will find very valuable and enjoyable. If you don’t think you need to read this book because you have perfected your work life balance , time management and productivity, then you absolutely need to read this book more then anyone else.

20 people found this helpful

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Strong concept, poor execution

This book would have made for a great blog post, but, for a whole book, it lacks.

The concept is we have roughly 4,000 weeks to live, that we have unreal expectations of legacy endeavors and a life unfulfilled. That no one cares what we do and the universe could care less so just live your life.

The author is engaging, but the stories are redundant and there's nothing really ground breaking here, although it has that potential. I was hoping for more.

15 people found this helpful

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Thought provoking enough to want to read twice

In fact that’s what I plan to do. A book about the philosophy of time management. The realization that it cannot be managed. And why knowing that is the key to managing the little that you can wisely.

14 people found this helpful

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existential crisis in a book

This really made me think about how I spend my life, time, and what I value. It makes one reflect on the choices or lack of choices one makes in every day life. You only have so much time and we are finite beings. I really liked how this put so many things in life in a different perspective. Thank you for an amazing read and truly changing my relationship with time and my relationship with what I truly value.

11 people found this helpful

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Very useful for recovering productivity nerds

This book is aimed at people who have thrown themselves wholeheartedly into personal productivity, but failed to experience the promises benefits of a calm, controlled and fulfilling life. The author explains clearly why such techniques can’t lead to that goal, and makes practical, counterintuitive suggestions around what can.

8 people found this helpful

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Perfect book at the perfect time

Not only is he a good writer but a good narrator too. This was a refreshing dose of reality at a time when I am trying to make conscious change in my life. We are all doing a much better job than we think, and this book is a great opportunity to de-stress and rethink life during and after pandemic.

6 people found this helpful

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Life changing.

Although at times the author cites contradictory spiritual traditions and assumes an inherently materialistic, post-modern world view in an effort to appeal to all readers all the time, (an impossible task by the author’s own admission) I nevertheless found that every word written in this book was well orchestrated a d aimed at one goal - to change your perspective on time and how you choose to feel about it, for the better. This turned out to be one of those books that moves you; with that said, I’ll be buying a hard copy for my shelf at home and to share with others.

5 people found this helpful