The Dark Side of Being Obsessed With Productivity – The Ringer


“Productivity is a trap. Nobody in the history of humanity has ever achieved work-life balance. The real problem isn’t our limited time. The real problem—or so I hope to convince you—is that we’ve unwittingly inherited, and feel pressured to live by, a troublesome set of ideas about how to use our limited time, all of which are pretty much guaranteed to make things worse.”

That’s how Oliver Burkeman, the author of Four Thousand Weeks, explains our relationship to happiness and time. In this episode, he and Derek talk about his philosophy, the downside of constantly living for some future achievement, goals versus habits, and making peace with our finitude.

Host: Derek Thompson
Guest: Oliver Burkeman
Producer: Devon Manze

Subscribe: Spotify

In the following excerpt, Derek and Oliver Burkeman discuss how our perception of time influences our happiness or lack thereof.

Derek Thompson: I really loved this book. I thought it was absolutely sensational at combining two of my real interests: the way that we work, on the one hand, and our relationship with time, on the other. And I don’t know how deep we’re going to get into the science of time. It might not even be that important to grasp some of the basics from your book, but I’ve just always been fascinated by this idea that our relationship to happiness is so often a relationship to time, that you think about some of the things that bring the least amount of happiness. It can be regret, it can be anxiety. I see those as very time-based.

Regret is about the past, anxiety is about the future. And both of them require or entail our mind time-traveling to a place that we are not because we can never be physically in the past or in the future. We have to be plunged experientially into the present, at least our bodies. But our minds are constantly trying to time-travel on us. And I think that so many concepts of lack of satisfaction or anxiety or unhappiness come from this interplay of happiness and time. At a big-picture level before we dive in, do you see things in a similar way? That a lot of our relationship to happiness and unhappiness is fundamentally about a relationship to time?

Oliver Burkeman: Yeah, I absolutely think it is. I mean, one of the things I wanted to do in writing a book that was purportedly about time management was really make the case that nothing isn’t time management if you think about it expansively enough. What I’m about to say is not something that nobody said before, but it’s like we’re in …….


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