Oliver Burkeman’s Life-Changing “Four Thousand Weeks”

Sure, every so often a book comes along someone labels a “life-changing” work. And then there are those rarer books, still, that are truly life changing. Oliver Burkeman’s Four-Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals is the latter.

I subscribe to a variety of informative literary newsletters. From The New York Times and Washington Post to LitHub and The Millions, I regularly read each of these missives. When I begin seeing glowing reviews in multiple such newsletters, I know the title holds promise. When both The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal agree a book is good, you have a must-buy title.

Repeatedly I encountered encouraging words recommending Four Thousand Weeks. Particularly intriguing was most reviewers weren’t appearing to follow the standard book review tropes. Instead, I noticed a distinct trend in which many reviewing the book were commenting on the positive, stress-reducing impact the book was having on their personal lives.

That’s not a surprising result. Burkeman, an award-winning author and columnist who reads as if he’s an approachable behavioral scientist, has written the work we all need. His timing couldn’t be better.

In a nutshell, Burkeman explores how precious a resource our time and attention are and how we so often fritter time away fulfilling others’ expectations and feeding the incessant demand to always be improving ourselves, our efficiencies and our capitalist output. He also observes so many of us are awaiting perfect conditions to begin the projects we most seek to complete, yet that ideal time will likely never arrive. The drive to always be improving has become so widespread a problem the multitudes often justify leisure pursuits solely based on those few stolen moments’ capacities to make us more productive come the work week.

We have that all wrong, and Burkeman provides the history that’s made us behave this way, while also presenting simple and practical guidance for re-prioritizing the people, events and works we most value. I can’t think of a better book for the era in which we find ourselves where references to late-stage capitalism and the Great Resignation have become so prominent.

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