Tom Chen

January 12, 2023

Four thousand weeks

One of my favorite books I read last year was Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman. Here are some of the insights from the book that I'm thinking about a lot as we enter this new year.

  1. The average human life is a measly four thousand weeks long. You definitely won't have time in your life to do everything you want to do or that other people want you to do.
  2. Hard choices must be made about what to focus on and, just as important, what to neglect. All of us must decide which balls to let drop, which people to disappoint, which cherished ambitions to abandon, which roles to fail at, which experiences to miss out on.
  3. The day will never arrive when you finally have everything under control. There is no moment in the future when you'll magically be done with everything and have loads of free time to finally get to the real work you want to do. Stop postponing the "real meaning" of your existence into the future, and throw yourself into life now. 
  4. Each moment of the work you spend your time doing in life can only matter in the moment it is done, not at the end. This is true whether or not your efforts ever reach what the rest of the world defines as fruition and whether or not you live to see your work completed. Life is nothing more than a succession of present moments, and then you die. Now is all you ever get.
  5. No one really cares what you do with your life, and ultimately a single human life is a drop in the bucket of the universe. You can therefore stop worrying about what others think of you, about disappointing anyone, or about being punished for stepping out of line. You are cosmically insignificant, so you might as well stop holding back. Put bold plans into practice, and go after what you want.
  6. Many of the things you're already doing with your life are more meaningful than you think.

About Tom Chen

A software developer living in Vermont