Skip to content

4000 weeks

Although I don't read that many books nowadays, because a lot of them feel like procrastination, I can recommend one:

4000 weeks by Oliver Burkeman

I love hardship, but it's hard for me to talk about it, because I have the feeling that everyone around me loves convenience and comfort.

I see some virtue in doing uncomfortable stuff, e.g. waking up at 5am, fasting for 36 hours, working out, climbing hills with my bike.

The author talks a lot about the virtue of doing hard stuff and how to "manage your time", but without some busy-ness tactics.


Some lovely quotes:

What “matters” is subjective, so you’ve no grounds for assuming that there will be time for everything that you, or your employer, or your culture happens to deem important. But the other exasperating issue is that if you succeed in fitting more in, you’ll find the goalposts start to shift: more things will begin to seem important, meaningful, or obligatory. Acquire a reputation for doing your work at amazing speed, and you’ll be given more of it. Figure out how to spend enough time with your kids and at the office, so you don’t feel guilty about either, and you’ll suddenly feel some new social pressure: to spend more time exercising or to join the parent-teacher association. The same goes for chores: when housewives first got access to “labor-saving” devices like washing machines and vacuum cleaners, no time was saved at all, because society’s standards of cleanliness simply rose to offset the benefits; now that you could return each of your husband’s shirts to a spotless condition after a single wearing, it began to feel like you should, to show how much you loved him. “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion."

The general principle in operation is one you might call the “efficiency trap.” Rendering yourself more efficient — either by implementing various productivity techniques or by driving yourself harder — won’t generally result in the feeling of having “enough time,” because, all else being equal, the demands will increase to offset any benefits. Far from getting things done, you’ll be creating new things to do.

... it isn’t really the thought that counts, but the effort — which is to say, the inconvenience. When you render the process more convenient, you drain it of its meaning.

About apps and other technologies, that make our lives easier:

It’s true that everything runs more smoothly this way. But smoothness, it turns out, is a dubious virtue, since it’s often the unsmoothed textures of life that make it livable, helping nurture the relationships that are crucial for mental and physical health, and for the resilience of our communities.