Why “Four Thousand Weeks” became a bestseller

In a fast-paced world obsessed with hustle culture, Oliver Burkeman’s “Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals” is an antidote to the rat race, offering advice on how to slow down, smell the roses, and enjoy our finite time here on earth.

Since its August 2001 release, the book has become an unforgettable hit and surprise New York Times best seller.

Burkeman, a New York-based psychology columnist for Prisonstold the Post that he “spent years as a ‘productivity wizard,'” obsessing over the time management technique that would ultimately bring [him] peace of mind and feeling in control [his] times.”

Author Oliver Berkeman
Author Oliver Berkeman

And yet he didn’t. Instead, Burkeman realized that our lives are short — as he puts it, “absurdly, terrifyingly, insultingly short.” A lifespan of 80 years is just four thousand weeks, hence the title.

Four thousand weeks of time management ethics
A lifespan of 80 years is just four thousand weeks, hence the title.

In our short, silly little time to be alive, we are bombarded with tasks and time management tips on how to make the most of every second. But instead of becoming more productive, we become more stressed – and frankly unhappy.

“What we’re really looking for when we’re trying to ‘get over it all’ is the ability to do more with our time than it’s possible for humans to do,” says Burkeman.

Instead, “Four Thousand Weeks” advocates an embrace of the finitude of our short time here. Drawing on the wisdom of ancient philosophers, spiritual leaders, and psychologists, Burkeman urges readers to accept that being the most productive may not mean being the most satisfied.

His number one advice for readers: “I think it’s all about bearing the stress of not getting things done so you can focus on what matters most, instead of endlessly tying up loose ends and never getting around to the things that matter. If an activity or project or relationship really matters to you, you just have to give it some of your time and attention right away, even if other things may be delayed or sidelined.”