Four Thousand Weeks

books life


Everything this book says boils down to “Live in the Present”.

We have heard this advice counts times and this point this is a quote I brush of as cliche and turn toward counts the countless other “Productivity Gurus” to learn about the latest hacks, tips and tricks to maximise my output. All you get is one life right? So what wrong in tring to get everything in that life?

Seems like I was wrong and this book opened me upto a new way of thinking. Plus the author is an ex-productivity nerd like me so we really connected 😉


Intro: In the Long Run, We’re All Dead

  • we’ve been granted the mental capacities to make almost infinitely ambitious plans, yet practically no time at all to put them into action.
  • It’s somehow vastly more aggravating to wait two minutes for the microwave than two hours for the oven—or ten seconds for a slow-loading web page versus three days to receive the same information by mail.
    • Note: technology, which is aimed to bring us more time is accelerating our sense of time
  • for almost the whole of history, the entire point of being rich was not having to work so much

Part I: Choosing to Choose

1.The Limit-Embracing Life

  • We recoil from the notion that this is it—that this life, with all its flaws and inescapable vulnerabilities, its extreme brevity, and our limited influence over how it unfolds, is the only one we’ll get a shot at. Instead, we mentally fight against the way things are—so that, in the words of the psychotherapist Bruce Tift, “we don’t have to consciously participate in what it’s like to feel claustrophobic, imprisoned, powerless, and constrained by reality.”
  • the more you confront the facts of finitude instead—and work with them, rather than against them—the more productive, meaningful, and joyful life becomes.
  • a limit-embracing attitude to time means organizing your days with the understanding that you definitely won’t have time for everything you want to do
  • This confrontation with limitation also reveals the truth that freedom, sometimes, is to be found not in achieving greater sovereignty over your own schedule but in allowing yourself to be constrained by the rhythms of community—participating in forms of social life where you don’t get to decide exactly what you do or when you do it.
  • There is an alternative: the unfashionable but powerful notion of letting time use you, approaching life not as an opportunity to implement your predetermined plans for success but as a matter of responding to the needs of your place and your moment in history.

2.The Efficiency Trap

  • it’s the definition of “what needs doing” that expands to fill the time available.
    • Note: perhaps we should start thinking about the time available to allocate instead of the tasks to be done
  • 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.
  • the only route to psychological freedom is to let go of the limit-denying fantasy of getting it all done and instead to focus on doing a few things that count.
  • The technologies we use to try to “get on top of everything” always fail us, in the end, because they increase the size of the “everything” of which we’re trying to get on top.

3.Facing Finitude

  • Our limited time isn’t just one among various things we have to cope with; rather, it’s the thing that defines us, as humans, before we start coping with anything at all.
  • Everything Is Borrowed Time
    • Note: 4k weeks is better than 0 weeks period. This is an opertunity to practice gratitude. Everyday be thankful of the fact that you get to wake up and embrace this day.
  • So maybe it’s not that you’ve been cheated out of an unlimited supply of time; maybe it’s almost incomprehensibly miraculous to have been granted any time at all.
  • Being alive is just happenstance, and not one more day of it is guaranteed.
    • Note: this is why being grateful every morning is important
  • The exhilaration that sometimes arises when you grasp this truth about finitude has been called the “joy of missing out,” by way of a deliberate contrast with the idea of the “fear of missing out.”

4.Becoming a Better Procrastinator

  • the point isn’t to eradicate procrastination, but to choose more wisely what you’re going to procrastinate on, in order to focus on what matters most
  • The real measure of any time management technique is whether or not it helps you neglect the right things.
  • Principle number one is to pay yourself first when it comes to time.
  • After years of trying and failing to make time for her illustration work, by taming her to-do list and shuffling her schedule, Abel saw that her only viable option was to claim time instead—to just start drawing, for an hour or two, every day, and to accept the consequences, even if those included neglecting other activities she sincerely valued.
  • The second principle is to limit your work in progress.
  • The third principle is to resist the allure of middling priorities.
  • Loss is a given. That ship has sailed—and what a relief.

The Inevitability of Settling

  • we tend to contrast a life of settling with a life of what he labels “striving,” or living life to the fullest. But this is a mistake,
  • because living life to the fullest requires settling.
  • “You must settle, in a relatively enduring way, upon something that will be the object of your striving, in order for that striving to count as striving,” he writes: you can’t become an ultrasuccessful lawyer or artist or politician without first “settling” on law, or art, or politics, and therefore deciding to forgo the potential rewards of other careers. If you flit between them all, you’ll succeed in none of them. Likewise, there’s no possibility of a romantic relationship being truly fulfilling unless you’re willing, at least for a while, to settle for that specific relationship, with all its imperfections—which means spurning the seductive lure of an infinite number of superior imaginary alternatives.
    • Note: writes godin
  • joy of missing out
  • renunciation of alternatives is what makes their choice a meaningful one in the first place.

5.The Watermelon Problem

  • That problem is distraction
  • After all, it hardly matters how committed you are to making the best use of your limited time if, day after day, your attention gets wrenched away by things on which you never wanted to focus

6.The Intimate Interrupter

  • clearer it became to him that the real problem had been not the activity itself but his internal resistance to experiencing it. When he stopped trying to block out those sensations and attended to them instead, the discomfort would evaporate.
  • The overarching point is that what we think of as “distractions” aren’t the ultimate cause of our being distracted. They’re just the places we go to seek relief from the discomfort of confronting limitation.
  • Yet there’s a sense in which accepting this lack of any solution is the solution.
  • Some Zen Buddhists hold that the entirety of human suffering can be boiled down to this effort to resist paying full attention to the way things are going, because we wish they were going differently
  • And the paradoxical reward for accepting reality’s constraints is that they no longer feel so constraining.

Part II: Beyond Control

7.We Never Really Have Time

  • As the writer David Cain points out, we never have time in the same sense that we have the cash in our wallets or the shoes on our feet. When we claim that we have time, what we really mean is that we expect it. “We assume we have three hours or three days to do something,” Cain writes, “but it never actually comes into our possession.”
  • So it’s a constant source of anxiety and agitation, because our expectations are forever running up against the stubborn reality that time isn’t in our possession and can’t be brought under our control.
  • Our efforts to influence the future aren’t the problem. The problem—the source of all the anxiety—is the need that we feel, from our vantage point here in the present moment, to be able to know that those efforts will prove successful.
  • Then Krishnamurti “said in a soft, almost shy voice, ‘You see, I don’t mind what happens.’ ” (when asked about his secret for happiness)
  • But all a plan is—all it could ever possibly be—is a present-moment statement of intent. It’s an expression of your current thoughts about how you’d ideally like to deploy your modest influence over the future. The future, of course, is under no obligation to comply

8.You Are Here

  • the more you focus on using time well, the more each day begins to feel like something you have to get through, en route to some calmer, better, more fulfilling point in the future, which never actually arrives.
  • can’t be the case that concerns for the future must always automatically take precedence
  • By trying too hard to make the most of his time, he misses his life
  • For all its chilled-out associations, the attempt to be here now is therefore still another instrumentalist attempt to use the present moment purely as a means to an end, in an effort to feel in control of your unfolding time.
  • Radically Condensed Instructions for Being Just as You Are, “We cannot get anything out of life. There is no outside where we could take this thing to. There is no little pocket, situated outside of life, [to which we could] steal life’s provisions and squirrel them away. The life of this moment has no outside.”
  • Living more fully in the present may be simply a matter of finally realizing that you never had any other option but to be here now.

9.Rediscovering Rest (imp)

  • De Graaf had put his finger on one of the sneakier problems with treating time solely as something to be used as well as possible, which is that we start to experience pressure to use our leisure time productively, too.
  • The Latin word for business, negotium, translates literally as “not-leisure,” reflecting the view that work was a deviation from the highest human calling.
    • Note: when u think about it, its true leasure is our highest calling, which everyone is striving towards
  • while all that recreation might have been fun, it wasn’t exactly optional. People faced strong social pressure not to work all the time
    • Note: this is for olden days and we are facing the opp
  • It becomes difficult to enjoy a moment of rest for itself alone, without regard for any potential future benefits, because rest that has no instrumental value feels wasteful.
  • The truth, then, is that spending at least some of your leisure time “wastefully,” focused solely on the pleasure of the experience, is the only way not to waste it—to be truly at leisure
  • You need ways to make it likely that rest will actually happen.
  • We might seek to incorporate into our daily lives more things we do for their own sake alone—to spend some of our time, that is, on activities in which the only thing we’re trying to get from them is the doing itself

10.The Impatience Spiral

  • the wise man (the reader is constantly being informed) is like a tree that bends instead of breaking in the wind, or water that flows around obstacles in its path
  • It’s not so much that we’re too busy, or too distractible, but that we’re unwilling to accept the truth that reading is the sort of activity that largely operates according to its own schedule.
  • The high achievers of Silicon Valley reminded Brown of herself in her days as an alcoholic.
    • Note: they are using achievement and the endless todolist as a distraction
  • alcoholism is fundamentally a result of attempting to exert a level of control over your emotions that you can’t ever attain.
  • As the world gets faster and faster, we come to believe that our happiness, or our financial survival, depends on our being able to work and move and make things happen at superhuman speed. We grow anxious about not keeping up—so to quell the anxiety, to try to achieve the feeling that our lives are under control, we move faster. But this only generates an addictive spiral. We push ourselves harder to get rid of anxiety, but the result is actually more anxiety, because the faster we go, the clearer it becomes that we’ll never succeed in getting ourselves or the rest of the world to move as fast as we feel is necessary. (Meanwhile, we suffer the other effects of moving too fast: poor work output, a worse diet, damaged
  • that you can’t truly hope to beat alcohol until you give up all hope of beating alcohol.
  • When you finally face the truth that you can’t dictate how fast things go, you stop trying to outrun your anxiety, and your anxiety is transformed.

11.Staying on the Bus

  • But as society accelerates, something shifts. In more and more contexts, patience becomes a form of power.
  • Peck’s insight here—that if you’re willing to endure the discomfort of not knowing, a solution will often present itself
  • because there’s less uncertainty in just calling things off than in waiting to see how they might develop.
  • Three Principles of Patience
  • The first is to develop a taste for having problems
  • The second principle is to embrace radical incrementalism.
  • “Stay on the bus. Stay on the fucking bus.”
    • Note: this is the advice given to photograph students who learn a sub field for 3 years. Its takes more time to make that field your own

12.The Loneliness of the Digital Nomad

  • Yet the truth is that time is also a “network good,” one that derives its value from how many other people have access to it, too, and how well their portion is coordinated with yours.
  • every gain in personal temporal freedom entails a corresponding loss in how easy it is to coordinate your time with other people’s
  • Or to put things slightly differently, the more Swedes who were off work simultaneously, the happier people got
    • Note: this showed that its not just about the vacation, its also about the people u join u too

13.Cosmic Insignificance Therapy

  • implausible, for almost all people, to demand of themselves that they be a Michelangelo, a Mozart, or an Einstein…There have only been a few dozen such people in the entire history of humanity
  • Cosmic insignificance therapy is an invitation to face the truth about your irrelevance in the grand scheme of things
  • In fact, it entails precisely the opposite: refusing to hold them to an abstract and overdemanding standard of remarkableness, against which they can only ever be found wanting, and taking them instead on their own terms, dropping back down from godlike fantasies of cosmic significance into the experience of life as it concretely, finitely—and often enough, marvelously—really is.

14.The Human Disease

  • But the deeper truth behind all this is to be found in Heidegger’s mysterious suggestion that we don’t get or have time at all—that instead we are time.
  • The peace of mind on offer here is of a higher order: it lies in the recognition that being unable to escape from the problems of finitude is not, in itself, a problem.
  • His sole advice for walking such a path was to “quietly do the next and most necessary thing.
  • But really, the “next and most necessary thing” is all that any of us can ever aspire to do in any moment.
  • But in reality, it’s a curse. To hope for a given outcome is to place your faith in something outside yourself, and outside the current moment

Five Questions

  1. Where in your life or your work are you currently pursuing comfort, when what’s called for is a little discomfort?
    • James Hollis recommends asking of every significant decision in life: “Does this choice diminish me, or enlarge me?”
  2. Are you holding yourself to, and judging yourself by, standards of productivity or performance that are impossible to meet?
  3. In what ways have you yet to accept the fact that you are who you are, not the person you think you ought to be?
  4. In which areas of life are you still holding back until you feel like you know what you’re doing?
  5. How would you spend your days differently if you didn’t care so much about seeing your actions reach fruition?

Ten Tools for Embracing Your Finitude

  1. Adopt a “fixed volume” approach to productivity. A complementary strategy is to establish predetermined time boundaries for your daily work. keep two to-do lists, one “open” and one “closed.”
  2. Serialize, serialize, serialize.
  3. Decide in advance what to fail at. You’ll inevitably end up underachieving at something, simply because your time and energy are finite. But the great benefit of strategic underachievement. But even in these essential domains, there’s scope to fail on a cyclical basis
  4. Focus on what you’ve already completed, not just on what’s left to complete.
  5. Consolidate your caring. Social media is a giant machine for getting you to spend your time caring about the wrong things (this page), but for the same reason, it’s also a machine for getting you to care about too many things, even if they’re each indisputably worthwhile.
  6. Embrace boring and single-purpose technology.
  7. Seek out novelty in the mundane.
  8. Be a “researcher” in relationships.
  9. Cultivate instantaneous generosity.
  10. Practice doing nothing.