Purpose of Four Thousand Weeks Book Summary: The purpose of this book summary is to give you a reality check on how you have been manipulated by the self-help gurus into believing that ‘you can be a productivity machine’
We think if we can have complete control over our time then we can get everything done. However, when that doesn’t happen, you feel guilty and unhappy. Then?
You look for books/youtube videos/articles to teach you how you can get total control over your time. Your typical self-help books and productivity gurus manipulate you into believing that ‘these new 5 hacks/techniques’ can help you achieve more.
In fact, quotes like ‘if Bill gates can become rich using these 24 hours in a day then why are you complaining’ has created immense pressure on our little shoulder to utilize every bit of our time as best as we can. We all just try to rush through life, including a bunch of tasks in our ever-growing to-do list so we can satisfy our need to be productive like a machine.
However, Oliver Burkeman says in his book ‘Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals’ that “The average human life span is absurdly, terrifyingly, insultingly short.” (About 4,000 weeks, on average; thus the title.)
Now, can you tell me without taking another second what are you planning to do with these 4000 weeks or shall I say your life?
Well, whatever your aspiration is, I am 100% sure, you don’t want to be the BEST MACHINE in the world. For example; You may want to be the best writer in the world but not the best typewriter or you may want to be the best pilot in the world but not the best engine, right?
To circle it back, Four Thousand Weeks teaches us that since our time is limited on this planet, we must set realistic parameters for ourselves to make our lives much more enjoyable and meaningful.
Oliver Burkeman suggests the solution in ‘Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals’ on Time Management for Mortals. Shall we start?
The Solution | Accept Your Limitations and Work Within Them
Oliver says in Four Thousand Weeks that while you will never have enough to do everything (since you only have four thousand weeks), believing that you can control your time can only bring problems in your life. But that doesn’t you cannot have a purpose-driven life. Let’s see the solution he suggests.
The solution involves accepting two unpleasant facts and using tactics to work within these limitations to have a highly impactful life:
FACT #1: You will never feel as though you have mastered your time
The first fact about your time you must accept is that you’ll never have enough time to complete all the tasks you want to. You will not be able to meet your and society’s expectations of ‘getting everything done’ When you accept this, you free yourself from the burden of trying to be unstoppable productivity machine.
The only reason why you are so obsessed with controlling your time is that you are manipulated by the self-help gurus. YouTubers and self-help book authors glorify their journey that ‘how they were broke once but then they utilize their time and now they are crazy rich and successful’
However, my observation says what you don’t realize is that,
“Time cannot be caged in your expectations” and
“You are not born to remember as a machine who used to work really hard. You are born to enjoy life, to have fun, to be committed to your work so that on your deathbed (or after 4000 weeks), you don’t have anything to regret on”
“It doesn’t matter how many things you can get done, it is WHAT you did”-Renuka
All in all, kick out the expectation of having total control over your time.
FACT #2: Your Life is Finite
If only you were a machine who can function just by a click for ages, it would have been a lot easier to expect yourself to be a musician today and the astronaut another day. Your time is limited on this earth, and to make the most out of it, you have to realize that you have to let go of one thing to be become an expert in some other field. That’s what opportunity cost is all about – choosing to say YES after analyzing what you are saying NO matters less.
Let’s now discuss 3 tactic to make your life more meaningful, and managing time effectively:
1 Commit to The Life You Dream About: I want to be the best writer in this world but I also want to be a YouTuber and sometimes I also want to be a great blogger. But can I be everything?
No! And even if I try, I am going to fail at all because I wouldn’t be dedicated to any ONE thing that I truly aspire to be – WRITING.
Similarly, you should take a moment to think, WHAT KIND OF LIFE YOU WANT FOR YOURSELF? WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE? WHAT MATTERS MOST TO YOU? WHAT ARE YOU NOT REDY TO SACRFICE FOR THE WORLD?
To me, it was my passion to write. Hence, I had to let go of few things in life. Honestly speaking, every opportunity is going to feel like a big break to your career. But, at the end, some opportunities are going to matter more than the other.
The decision is on you to CHOOSE ONLY THOSE OPPORTUNITIES THAT HELP YOU TO HAVE A LIFE THAT YOU DREAM ABOUT.
So, from today onwards, instead of making a long to-do list out of pure motivation, try to make a dedicate list of only those tasks that actually creates an impact in your life.
Anything that is a distraction in your journey to achieve your dream life, AVOID IT, even if it means saying No to some really tempting opportunities. Because, remember, your time is finite.
- Say No to Things That Don’t Take You Closer To Your Dream Life
- Save Your Energy and Focus by committing to only few but important tasks
- Don’t Say Yes to any opportunity without analyzing it’s opportunity cost.
“You will be way more happier when you are good at your work rather than keeping your options open for new things”
2 Focus on Being In the Present; Not Dreaming About Future: It is way easier to be lost in your dream land about what all you can do rather than living in the present and actually making things happen.
The delusion of ‘having total control over time’ encourages you to sacrifice your present time in the service of making your future better. However, when future doesn’t unfold as per your expectations, you feel unhappy and hurt.
Hence, Oliver says in Four Thousand Weeks that we should focus more in the present moment rather than living in our imaginary world. Because it’s the present moment that you can make as you wish by taking action NOW.
For example; If you want to score good grades in your class. It cannot happen just by thinking about it. You need to sit down NOW and STUDY (If you want to how to make the boring tasks fun like studying, read this blog) Hence, you have control over this moment – to make present beautiful not the other way around.
So, take a pause and ask yourself, what can you do NOW to have a present that feels complete and satisfying?
3 Incorporate Purposeless Time In Your Schedule: I recently took a challenge to wake up at 5 AM for doing NOTHING.
WHY? Well, let’s see:
We are always consuming information from the outside world be it in the form of Instagram reels or reading books. But we never give our minds enough rest to digest what we have consumed. Perhaps, this is the reason why you have lost your power to think and make decisions independently.
Life is not just about running faster so you aren’t left behind. Life is about enjoying every second with all your presence. To practice the art of living in the present moment, I decided to do nothing and just live as if there is nothing to look forward to. This helped me to get rid of the future addiction and enjoy the present moment as it is.
Oliver Burkeman has done a great job in Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by challenging the current toxic hustle culture and extreme productivity. I highly recommend you to read this book as Four Thousand Weeks will teach you how you can have a life that you are dedicated to rather living a life of other’s expectations.