Book Club: Four Thousand Weeks

Once in a while, we invite a member of our community to share a book that inspires them.

Today's book recommendation is from Brenda, who's part of our Operations team. Her recommendation is Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals, by Oliver Burkeman.

What drew you to pick up this book?

“The average human lifespan is absurdly, terrifyingly, insultingly short.”

I’m often haunted by the thought that I don’t have enough time to do all the things I want to do, yet I find myself spending my time frivolously. I figured I wouldn’t be able to reform my habits using sheer willpower alone, so I hoped this book would help me gain a new approach to organise my time better.

What genre(s) do you normally read, and why? 

I almost exclusively read non-fiction and self-improvement. Reality inspires me more than fiction because knowing that someone else has done something (whether extraordinary or simple but ingenious that no one else considered before) makes me feel like perhaps that’s something within my reach as well.

Most importantly what I enjoy most are the new perspectives I often walk away with that I feel I can apply to my own life. It could be how to improve my communication, ways to eat or sleep better, improve my creativity, overcome old mindsets and mental boundaries or just learn from someone else’s experience. I enjoy finding useful pieces of advice or quotes that I jot down in my notebook to review when I’m feeling uninspired.

What were some of your biggest takeaways from the book? 

“Convenience culture seduces us into imagining that we might find room for everything important by eliminating only life’s tedious tasks. But it’s a lie. You have to choose a few things, sacrifice everything else, and deal with the inevitable sense of loss that results.”

I think I somehow always thought if I managed my time better, if I were more productive, perhaps I’d be able to do all the things I want to do. Four Thousand Weeks made me realise that I definitely don’t have time for all the things I want to do. I get carried away with new interests very easily, and it’s sobering for me to acknowledge that I won’t have the time to be good at everything I’m interested in even if I manage my time perfectly. 

It also made me face the fact that there will never be that moment when I eventually push past every hurdle, task and burden where life is finally perfect and I can kick back and relax with no worries. There will always be the next problem to overcome so rather than delay gratification, I can still choose to enjoy life even when things aren’t exactly the way I want them to be. 

Is there anything you're going to do differently, now that you've read this book? 

“You need to learn how to start saying no to things you do want to do, with the recognition that you have only one life.”

To start saying ‘no’. Rather than agree to things because I feel compelled to, I can choose to reject invitations to focus on other priorities - even if they don’t seem like priorities to others. 

To accept that some things just take the time that they take. I often find myself rushing through things just to resolve them but the book posits that sometimes when you just let things be, a solution presents itself naturally. 

To act on good impulses when they come up. I often put aside instincts to do something (whether to pay someone a compliment or to make a donation) for a more ‘convenient time’ but the act of putting it off for later usually ends up in me not doing it ever and wishing I’d done it sooner.

Read this if you...  

Struggle with time guilt.

Are caught in a productivity trap.

Need a leg up with time management.

Want to face your own mortality.

What other books are you looking forward to reading this year? 

How not to die - Michael Greger : To eat better

Total meditation - Deepak Chopra : To slow down

Why we sleep - Matthew Walker : To sleep well

How yoga works - Geshe Michael Roach : To understand yogic philosophy