Ethan Nichtern speaks with Oliver Burkeman about his new book, Four Thousand Weeks, and how a constant emphasis on productivity prevents us from being in the present moment.
Oliver Burkeman is the author of The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking. His new book, Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals, is now available. Oliver wrote a long-running weekly column on psychology for The Guardian, “This Column Will Change Your Life,” and his work has also appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Psychologies, and New Philosopher. Learn more about him at oliverburkeman.com, plus be sure to follow him on Twitter.
Time Management for Mortals
Ethan welcomes Oliver to The Road Home, and they discuss Oliver’s new book, Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals. They talk about how humans have a hard time conceptualizing time, the problem with thinking of time as a resource, and why our emphasis on efficiency and productivity keep us from fully inhabiting the present moment.
“Many of our problems come from the fact that we think of [time] as a resource, as a thing that is separate from us, that we get to use or that we are in somehow or that we possess, and it isn’t quite any of those things.” – Oliver Burkeman
Ram Dass reconciles time within the paradox of ‘being here now’ on Here and Now Ep. 179
Digital Distractions (19:45)
The topic turns to the finitude of life and how it often feels like we are infinite souls in a finite universe. There is something both disappointing and also freeing about accepting limitations. Ethan gets Oliver’s take on how digital distractions play into our time management. They discuss the cultural pursuit of ongoing limitlessness, and using time for a future goal.
“There’s something wrong with placing all your value in the future, even if your goal is something more wholesome than corporate profit, it’s all to do with living in the future instead of experiencing the moment.” – Oliver Burkeman
The Cycle of Productivity (40:00)
Ethan and Oliver discuss finitude versus continuity as they contemplate how the concept of time management changes if we think beyond just a single lifetime. Ethan explores how the world is getting more nihilistic as the cycle of productivity drains some of the life out of us. Oliver ends the show with a touch of cosmic insignificance therapy to make us all feel a bit better.
“It’s the acceptance of something unpleasant that has the effect of providing energy and focus to do things that feel like the right thing to be doing.” – Oliver Burkeman