The day will never arrive when you finally have everything under control
Rating: 5/5 – Recommended without hesitation
This is not the time management book you think it is. This is not a collection of sweet tips and tricks for perfectly optimizing your schedule so that you can finally get to everything on your to-do list. This is not an uplifting message about how you too can have it all if you just try a little bit harder.
This book delivers a relentless and implacable truth: “You can’t do it all. Make peace with that.”
My 30s has been spent trying to figure out where I want to put my time, with the number of possibilities seeming to grow every day. How was I supposed to decide when all of these pursuits seemed meritorious and important? Four Thousand Weeks addresses this quandary with this anecdote:
There is a story attributed to Warren Buffett—although probably only in the apocryphal way in which wise insights get attributed to Albert Einstein or the Buddha, regardless of their real source—in which the famously shrewd investor is asked by his personal pilot about how to set priorities. I’d be tempted to respond, “Just focus on flying the plane!” But apparently this didn’t take place midflight, because Buffett’s advice is different: he tells the man to make a list of the top twenty-five things he wants out of life and then to arrange them in order, from the most important to the least. The top five, Buffett says, should be those around which he organizes his time. But contrary to what the pilot might have been expecting to hear, the remaining twenty, Buffett allegedly explains, aren’t the second-tier priorities to which he should turn when he gets the chance. Far from it. In fact, they’re the ones he should actively avoid at all costs—because they’re the ambitions insufficiently important to him to form the core of his life yet seductive enough to distract him from the ones that matter most.
You can’t do it all. You’re going to have to say no to good and worthwhile endeavors in order to have time for what matters most to you.
This was a very clarifying insight for me, and I’ve already started to prune out some of my activities to make room for stuff that I really care about.
Four Thousand Weeks has a lot more to say about our inherent mortal limitations, and I highly recommend this book to anyone who has felt like they can’t possibly fit all their desires into a single lifetime.