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A lot of ink has been spilled on time management and productivity hacking; you can find endless tips on how to master your workflow, tame your inbox, slay your to-do list. Far less examined, however, is the philosophy that underlies these strategies. My guest says that when you do examine that philosophy, you find it doesn't actually align with lived experience.
His name is Oliver Burkeman, and in his book, 4,000 Weeks: Time Management for Mortals, he forwards a philosophy of time management that is more realistic and humane. Today on the show, Oliver makes the case for a kind of contrarian way to make the most of the 4,000 weeks of the average human lifespan, beginning with why he reached a point in his own life where he realized that standard methods of productivity hacking were futile and just made him feel busier and less happy. We then get into the fact that we'd like to do an infinite number of things, but are finite beings, and how this contrast creates an anxiety that we attempt to soothe and deny through productivity techniques. We then discuss the problem of treating time as a thing, a resource that's separate from the self, and how one antidote to this mindset is to do things for pure enjoyment alone. Oliver explains why engaging in efficiency for its own sake only creates more stuff to do, and why recognizing you can never "clear the decks" of your daily tasks, nor get everything done, can actually help you focus on the things that matter most. We end our conversation with why really digging into a deep philosophy of time by facing up to its stakes and engaging in what Oliver calls "cosmic insignificance therapy," can allow you to live a bolder, more meaningful life.
Resources Related to the Podcast
- AoM Article: Your Three Selves and How Not to Fall Into Despair
- AoM Article: Good News! You're Life Isn't Limitless!
- AoM Podcast #602: The Case for Being Unproductive
- AoM Article: 75+ Hobby Ideas for Men
- AoM Podcast #527: The Journey to the Second Half of Life With Richard Rohr
- Tombstone "there is no normal life" scene
Connect With Oliver