Despite being a writer of non-fiction, I prefer to lose myself in well written fiction (especially Kate Atkinson’s). So when I come across something un-put-down-able, the type that has me say, nay shout, “everyone should read this book”! I’m compelled to share. Someone dear to me mentioned the impact of reading Oliver Burkeman’s Four Thousand Weeks:Time Management for Mortals and, trusting their judgment, I downloaded a sample, immediately purchased, and haven’t looked back. I’m captivated: reading, reading again, highlighting like a fiend. I’m reading at the expense of things on my to-do-list, the irony not lost.

Without the recommendation I would have thought “oh, it’s just another book on time management, er, no thanks.” Yes, it is about time management, but not in the way we mostly think about time management. It’s so much more than that. It encompasses a deep exploration of how we spend our time, often on the things that don’t really matter (scrolling? solitaire? browsing?), rather than the things that do, why on earth we do that and how we might shift our focus. The author explores the relevant states of procrastination, control, impatience and so on, all interesting, but more importantly is placing all this in the fundamental knowledge we hate to acknowledge – that we are mortal. If we’re lucky we may have four thousand weeks, may be more, may be less. What if we could really square that reality with how we live, the choices we make? He writes:

“It’s only by facing our finitude that we can step into a truly authentic relationship with life.”

Beyond the glibness of carpe diem, living each day as if it were our last, the book is an exploration of finding the courage to acknowledge we will run out of time. We will. So I’ve been asking myself the question “what do I care about?” with new intensity. A fresh realisation about what I love to do and what I don’t. Some of these activities come from a deep sense of duty and loyalty and I’m exploring with my therapist where I might deliberately loosen that grip for the sake of something more meaningful. Less about happy joy happy (although that would be nice) and more about feeling profound satisfaction – regularly, intentionally. I hear part of me saying “you deserve to be satisfied!” (which my therapist will undoubtedly be very pleased to hear).

The last two lines from Mary Oliver’s The Summer Day poem keep coming to me:

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?”

If you’d like to explore your own sense of time, mortality and what’s meaningful, do reach out (in the knowledge I’m generally full, with a waiting list).

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