Time Management for Mortals

Even though Oliver Burkeman is not a Christian, he has written a deeply Christian book. His book, Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals, book could be summarized as saying, “You’re not God!!” or as Moses wrote thousands of years ago, “Teach us to number our days, That we may present to You [God] a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). Burkeman clearly understands that we’re all going to die. We’re all mortal. And so he takes that fact and applies it to our current moment and relationship with time.

Burkeman’s book is part-philosophy, part-history, and part-productivity “self help.” But it’s the first two things (philosophy and history) which inform his suggestions for how to manage our time and how to get things done. Burkeman shows that the idea that all we need to do to be productive is first jam “big rocks” into our life is a lie. Too many big rocks exist. And we have to choose to let some important things go.

Burkeman powerfully shows that often our attempts to “be more productive” are really attempts to evade our limits and mortality. We even pursue distractions on the internet because it gives us a feeling of limitlessness. But once we realize that we only have about 4,000 weeks on this earth, we will alter the way we work. Instead of trying to be a “god,” we will embrace our limits and begin to focus on what truly matters.

He gives plenty of practical applications throughout the book such an embracing a “fixed volume” to our work. In other words, we choose a certain amount to do, and only do that. Furthermore, working on one thing at a time, rather than attempting to multitask, can help us plod along and get things done. All of these are helpful applications of Burkeman’s main point: we are mortal and must remember that.

Of course, Burkeman is wrong in profound ways such as denying that an afterlife exists. If so many modern productivity gurus want to persuade us to be “gods,” Burkeman wants our faces planted firmly in the dust, remembering that from dust we came and to dust we will return, no more no less. But the Bible presents us with a different pictures. We are not “gods” but made in the image of God (Gen 1:26-27). We are not only dust, but infused with the breath of life from God (Gen 2:7). We are mortal but will raised to immortality (1 Cor 15:53).

Building on the Christian foundation is sturdier than Burkeman’s secularism, for we can confidently move through life with humility. We serve a sovereign God who redeems all things, even our our wasted time. We can realize and embrace our limits. But we don’t need to stress that our lives will end and our work left undone. Because all of work in the Lord is not in vain (1 Cor 15:58).

So take up and read this important book. But remember, the end of our time on earth is not the end of our story.

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