Counting the Weeks

Submitted By:
Nathan Taylor, Zurich International School, Switzerland

Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, August 10, 2021

Despite its subtitle, this book is not about time management as we know it; it is about mortality. Insights from historians and philosophers supplant task list manifestos and time boxing strategies. The introduction features quotes from Karl Jung and Richard Rohr and wastes no time exploring the book's central conceit: we humans have on average only 4000 weeks on this earth. A seasoned student of time management techniques and discourse, Burkeman recounts Western society's (surprisingly recent) instrumentation of time. This history points readers to a harsh truth: time cannot be mastered. "The more you try to manage your time with the goal of achieving a feeling of total control," in fact, "the more stressful, empty, and frustrating life gets." Instead, Burkeman suggests that we should "confront the facts of finitude . . . and work with them rather than against them" so as to access an authentically "productive, meaningful, and joyful life." This book is about letting go of our obsession with squeezing every ounce out of our day, meticulously planning for our future conquests and successes while forgetting about the beauty of today. Funny, thoughtful, and iconoclastic, Four Thousand Weeks challenges us to examine our values and join in life's daily dance.

Leadership Practice
Psychology & Human Development