S4-EP7: Oliver Burkeman on Embracing Finitude and Completing a Few Meaningful Things
Debbie Weil talks to author Oliver Burkeman from his home in Yorkshire about the finitude of the human lifespan, the problem with bucket lists, and our use of social media as a distraction.
Debbie is always on the lookout for guests who can lend a new perspective to the concept of time and our perception of how much of it we have. For those in midlife and beyond, the better phrase might be how much time we have left. So when she read Oliver Burkeman’s new book, Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals, she knew he had to come on the show.
Plus the book is terrific and it’s getting lots of notice.
The first sentence is “The average human life span is absurdly, terrifyingly, insultingly short.” In other words, about 4,000 weeks.
Oliver is a British author and journalist who wrote a popular weekly column, This Column Will Change Your Life, for The Guardian for over a decade. He has reported from London, Washington and New York and recently moved with his wife and son from Brooklyn, NY back to Yorkshire in the UK to be near his family.
He has established himself as a tongue-in-cheek expert on productivity and time management and how that does – or does not – lead to happiness.
He sums up his new book very nicely in his Twitter profile: explaining that 4,000 Weeks is about “embracing limitation & finally getting round to what matters.”
As he’s 46, he’s only lived about 2,400 of those 4,000 weeks himself but he tells Debbie in this episode that he may be getting closer to a better relationship with time.
Debbie and Oliver talk about time and self-worth, why we are so future-oriented, the connection between time and happiness, and why it might be okay that we use social media as a distraction.
Oliver is a contrarian thinker but he’s truly interested in how to build a meaningful life. Debbie had a number of aha moments in this conversation and listeners will too!
Mentioned in this episode or useful:
- Oliver Burkeman’s website
- @oliverburkeman on Twitter
- Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2021)
- The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman (Farrar, Straus and Giroux; Reprint edition, 2013)
- This Column Will Change Your Life (The Guardian, 2006 – 2020)
- The antidote to the time anxiety that savages our lives (review of 4,000 Weeks in The Marginalian, Dec. 26, 2021)
- Jung on the Provisional Life (Jungian Center for the Spiritual Sciences)
- Who is Marie-Louise von Franz? (David C. Hamilton, Jungian Psychoanalyst, IAAP)
- Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2008)
- What is Flow in Psychology? (PositivePsychology.com, November 25 2021)
- Understanding Nonlinear Time (The Four Winds, November 27 2018)
- Chronos vs Kairos: How Ancient Greeks Saw Time (McKinley Valentine, November 3 2020)
- Telic vs atelic activities, and the meaning of life (Philosophy as a Way of Life, September 27 2019)
- Midlife: A Philosophical Guide by Kieran Setiya (Princeton University Press, 2017)
- Kieran Setiya
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