Notes from ‘Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals’ by Oliver Burkeman

Five notions to consider as you look at your life in relation to time and “getting things done”:

  1. Choose uncomfortable enlargement over comfortable diminishment.

  2. Are you holding yourself to or judging yourself by impossible standards? Drop them.

  3. In what ways have you yet failed to accept the fact that you’re who you are and 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? Everyone’s just winging it, you might as well get on with it.

  5. How would you spend your days differently if you didn’t care so much about seeing your action reach fruition?

Ten Tools for Embracing your Finitude

  1. Adopt a fixed-volume approach to productivity. e.g. Keep two to-do lists one that contains everything you want to do, and a second which contains things you’re actively working on, which should be limited to a small number of items (at most ten). Or, establish time limits for your daily work.

  2. Serialize! Focus on one big project at a time and see it to completion before moving on.

  3. Decide in advance what to fail at. Accept that you’ll do a poor job at things which you aren’t currently focusing on, and that should diminish the shame of failing.

  4. Focus on what you’ve already completed, not just on what’s left to complete. Celebrate your daily achievements, since you’ll never finish everything that’s left. Keep a “done” list of what you’ve completed in the day.

  5. Consolidate your caring. There are lots of problems in the world, but you only have a finite amount of attention. Pick a few causes and work towards them.

  6. Embrace boring and single-purpose technology. Make your devices as boring as possible: delete social-media apps and switch your devices to grayscale. Read on a kindle instead of your phone.

  7. Seek out novelty in the mundane. Avoid routines when possible, walk a new way, etc. Experience each moment in greater detail, pay more attention.

  8. Be a researcher in relationships. Adopt an attitude of curiosity in which your goal isn’t to achieve any particular outcome or successfully explain your position, but “to figure out who this human being is.” Curiosity is satisfied regardless of the outcome. Choose wonder over worry whenever you can.

  9. Cultivate instantaneous generosity. Whenever a generous impulse arises in your mind, act on it right away. Don’t wait until later when you can “do a better job.”

  10. Practice doing nothing. Stop trying to evade how reality feels, calm down and make better choices with your time.

“One lives as one can. … The individual path is the way you make for yourself, which is never prescribed, which you do not know in advance and which simply comes into being itself when you put one foot in front of the other. … Quietly do the next and most necessary thing.” - Carl Jung

Keven Elliff @keven