Oliver Burkeman is a journalist and author of the book 4000 Weeks: Time Management for Mortals. He previously wrote a popular weekly column on psychology for The Guardian, playfully titled ‘This Column will Change Your Life’ and has also written two other books, Help and The Antidote.
What if you stopped trying to do everything, so that you could actually do what matters most?
Long to-do lists, overfilled inboxes & constant distractions are symptoms of modern life but the productivity hacks and on-demand services that promise to solve the problem and give us more time don’t really seem to work.
That’s because the fundamental problem here is that we are limited, and so is our time. If you live to 80, the total time you have on this planet is 4000 weeks - an incredibly short period when you actually think about it.
The solutions that actually work, as today’s guest Oliver Burkeman points out, are the ones that help us embrace our limits rather than denying them. In this episode we discuss:
- The time management myths that are holding you back
- Practical strategies that help you focus on what matters most
- The true cost of convenience culture
We also talk about how writing the book changed Oliver’s relationship to time, the path to producing original creative work and the issues with self-help culture. This was a great conversation - Oliver articulates so many things about time management and self-help that I suspected were true but couldn’t put the words to, so I’m sure you’ll get a lot out of it.
- Introducing Oliver [00:39]
- Oliver shares how his move back to York lined up with the subject matter that he’s writing about [02:07]
- When did Oliver first realise that he wanted to optimise his time? [03:12]
- With cost and sacrifice the big themes in 4,000 Weeks, what did writing the book actually cost Oliver? [06:37]
- How do we recognise our limitations and work on our potential without constantly struggling between the two? [12:01]
- How does Jung’s concept of the third man help us better understand the reality of our finitude? [16:58]
- Why is it important to ‘pay yourself first’? How can this advice help us optimise our time and our resources? [19:25]
- How often does Oliver review his list of priorities? What are the common struggles people face in task management? [25:33]
- Why does the desire to take control of our time actually risk the potential of living a meaningful life? [31:26]
- Why is time synchronicity an important aspect of society? [35:39]
- Is outsourcing tasks versus doing them yourself actually convenient? [39:49]
- Why did Oliver choose to focus on the area of self-help and productivity in his books? [46:47]
- Why do we find today’s self-help culture cringe and embarrassing? Is there a deeper meaning to these reactions? [51:49]
- How necessary is time in developing one’s creative journey or career? How does pursuing the wrong path point us toward the right one? [56:28]
- How can doing the next right thing enable us to live better lives amidst today’s calendars and to-do lists? [01:01:23]
- Closing remarks [01:03:39]
Follow Oliver online
- Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman
- HELP!: How to Become Slightly Happier and Get a Bit More Done by Oliver Burkeman
- The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman
- Helsinki Bus Station Theory
- Why do we lose so much time to online distraction?