4,000 Weeks

My father passed away 23 years ago in March 2000, at the age of 66. He lived for about 3450 weeks, well short of the average life span. He worked most of his life and then had multiple medical problems which stole the ability to enjoy his later years in a way he would have preferred.

The book 4000 Weeks by Oliver Burkeman explores the idea of living life to the fullest. Through stories, advice, and personal anecdotes, Burkeman encourages readers to embrace the uncertainty of life and to find joy in the moments that make up our lives. He explores the popularized concept of time management from a different point of view, by tapping into ancient knowledge from famous philosophers, researchers, and spiritual figures, rather than promoting the contemporary idea of high-level productivity and constant self-optimization. I highly recommend checking it out if you are not familiar with this book.

The concept of 4000 weeks: the average time we are expected to live on this planet.

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.

–Oliver Burkeman

As I came to the anniversary of his passing, I wondered about my dad and how he might have spent the last 23 years had he survived, a thought I have often had. He would have seen me raise two amazing boys to adulthood. He would have experienced my growing love of fishing over the years, something he used to do when he was younger, and would have probably gone with me and my family for some of our adventures. He would have been able to try new things, experience some of the joy in all of our lives, and also seen all the wonderful things his wife has done in nearly a quarter century since his parting.

I am just over 2800 weeks into my journey, and am more focused on what a week brings to my life than ever before. My remaining 1200 (+ or -) are full of possibilities and potential. How about you? How are you spending your weeks? Are they all the same — work 40, shop for groceries, do some chores, maybe a night out or going fishing once in while — repeat?

Or do you genuinely try to work in unique experiences with your family and friends, to make each and every week count?

The only route to psychological freedom is to let go of the limit-denying fantasy of getting it all done and instead to focus on doing a few things that count.

–Oliver Burkeman


Rich Gassen
Rich Gassen
Rich Gassen was born and raised in Wisconsin and is a lifelong resident of the Madison area. He supervises print production at UW-Madison’s Digital Publishing and Printing Services, focusing on empowerment and autonomy with staff, and process improvements. He came to the UW in 2010 after working in private sector print shops for much of his career. Rich also chairs the planning committee for the Campus Supervisors Network (CSN), a community of practice at UW-Madison with over 1300 active members. CSN supports other supervisors in their roles, offering training and networking events on campus, a weekly newsletter, and a website of resources. CSN facilitates group discussions, book clubs, and other events, and also mentors other leaders on campus. When not at work, Rich enjoys spending time with his wife and two adult boys in the outdoors and fishing the many lakes and rivers of southern Wisconsin are the main hobby of choice.

DO YOU HAVE THE "WRITE" STUFF? If you’re ready to share your wisdom of experience, we’re ready to share it with our massive global audience – by giving you the opportunity to become a published Contributor on our award-winning Site with (your own byline). And who knows? – it may be your first step in discovering your “hidden Hemmingway”. LEARN MORE HERE


  1. As I scrolled through the articles written, yours caught my eye. The title hit me and I wanted to see what you had written. It hit home in many ways, even though my parents died 10 years apart, I was 13 when my mom passed, and 23 when my dad passed. Today as I walk with others who’s parents are still here and require care as they age further into their 80’s and 90’s, I often wonder what my parents would have enjoyed, what I would have had to do for them. I am now 72, and think of my own mortality, what I can accomplish for the remaining years, that if I am blessed to live another 25 years, I need together cracking on the things I have let go of that I want to complete. God is surely my strength in all things and I leave it up to him, promising to do my part. Thank you for this article

    • You’re welcome, Lynn. You are contemplating the same thing with your parents that I do with my dad. And yes, we have to get cracking on the things we really want to accomplish and the friendships we want to nurture, because those are the things we will look back on with regret later on. Thanks for commenting!