I tried a calendar that's meant to boost productivity by mapping out the number of weeks you have left to live — here's how it went
- Alex Lloyd tried using the "4K Weeks"
calendarfor a month to see if he could be more productive.
- The calendar is a poster with 4,576 squares, the number of weeks in the average human's life.
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I work 50 to 55 hours a week as a full-time digital writer and
I tend to use hand-drawn schedules to stay on top of my work. I get my thoughts and deadlines down on paper and stick them to my wall, then physically tick off the daily tasks I set myself.
Regardless of all my organizational tools, I often find myself aimlessly scrolling on my phone during the work day.
In the search for ways to improve my productivity, I discovered the "4K Weeks Poster" — a wall calendar that doesn't plot days, weeks, or months but displays a timeline of your entire life.
I decided to try it for one month as a productivity experiment
Would this calendar help increase my focus and work rate, or make me reassess how I spend my time?
According to 4kweeks.com, the brand behind the poster: "The average (optimistic) life span is about 4,576 weeks."
Before you buy the "My Life In Weeks" poster, which retails at $49.90, you need to enter your birthdate to calculate how many weeks you've been alive. But the real goal is to estimate how many weeks you have left.
Each week is represented by a small black box — the weeks from your birthday to the day of purchase come filled in. It's then your job to fill in the remainder as time ticks by.
The premise is simple: Once you're reminded of your mortality, you'll be more focused on achieving your goals and less inclined to waste time. That's the theory, anyway.
As a 29-year-old well on his way to 30, I'd used 1,549 of my weeks and had only 3,027 left
The estimated delivery of the calendar was also two weeks away. I'll be 1,551 weeks old by then, I thought.
I kept my usual lists on the wall but moved them aside to prioritize the new calendar. I planned to follow my typical schedule, but I was prepared to let this new system change things if I felt a renewed sense of motivation.
When the calendar finally arrived, I was struck by how short the paper seemed
The calendar had an immediate effect on me: I felt my life was finite and had a flashing panic of what I'd do with it. I stuck the calendar to my wall right above my desk so it would hover over me as I worked.
For the first two weeks, this impact stayed with me.
I tend to pick up my phone during the work day around once an hour just to visit things like Twitter. This generally lasts between five to 10 minutes at a time.
With the calendar beside me, I picked up my phone just as regularly, but a glance at my remaining weeks snapped me out of this behaviour much quicker
I seemed to reduce my phone time to around one minute or two. Aimless scrolling also felt less satisfying during this time.
I write a daily to-do list that covers everything I need to accomplish that day, and extra things I hope to achieve. Generally, this second list is made up of five extra items and two to three are unchecked by the time I wrap up. In the first two weeks, I found I was finishing all of these additional tasks or had just one remaining.
I didn't feel the urge to work longer hours because the calendar didn't inspire me to work more — rather, the black boxes were a reminder that you can't get your time back, so it's important you use it wisely.
This renewed focus just meant I worked more efficiently and left me with time each day to complete smaller jobs
If I was lagging on a task, I deliberately looked at the calendar. This gave me a boost of urgency.
As I filled an empty box with black ink and the number of weeks "left to live" reduced by one, the impact of the calendar felt refreshed.
By week three, however, the novelty began to wear off. So much so that I forgot to tick off the box until midway through week four.
I still had moments where I would look at the calendar and get a fresh kick of motivation, but at times it became the distraction
I began looking at the weeks and pondering life's big questions that are far too intense for the middle of a work day.
Overall, this calendar had a minimal effect on my productivity. My working hours over the course of each week remained the same, and my efficiency during those hours averaged out — sometimes it boosted my concentration, sometimes it took it away.
The calendar was effective, but for a very short period of time
It can be sobering to consider your limited time on this planet, but looking at the poster too often diluted that impact. It faded into the background.
I think this calendar works, just not above my desk. I won't get rid of it — rather, I'll unroll it sparingly as a reminder to work harder and reflect on my broader goals.
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