Against productivity


Against productivity


This past week I read Oliver Burkeman’s new book, Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals (recommended.)

Burkeman argues that time management systems and productivity hacks are ultimately self-defeating: “they do work – in the sense that you’ll get more done, race to more meetings, ferry your kids to more after-school activities, generate more profit for your employer — and yet, paradoxically, you only feel busier, more anxious, and somehow emptier as a result.”

He recommends that we adopt a different mindset towards time, one centered on a full awareness and acceptance of the “finitude” of our existence. After all, if we’re fortunate to live the actuarial 80 years, all we’ve got is 4,000 weeks.

He provides ten tools for “embracing your finitude”:



1. Adopt a ‘fixed volume’ approach to productivity. (Predetermined time boundaries for your daily work.)

2. Serialize, serialize, serialize. (Focus on one big project at a time.)

3. Decide in advance what to fail at.

4. Focus on what you’ve already completed, not just on what’s left to complete.

5. Consolidate your caring.

6. Embrace boring and single-purpose technology (e.g., Kindle reader instead of your phone)

7. Seek out novelty in the mundane

8. Be a ‘researcher’ in relationships (deliberately adopt an attitude of curiosity)

9. Cultivate instantaneous generosity (act on the impulse right away)

10. Practice doing nothing