168 Hours: Do You Have More Time Than You Think?

July 23, 2010 | By | Comments (0)

A few weeks ago I interviewed Laura Vanderkam, author of 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, for my weekly podcast. I was eager to chat with her despite the fact that she takes a jab at Real Simple in the first chapter of her book. Vanderkam's premise is that we are not as "time-starved" as we think we are. To prove this, she interviews several successful people like Theresa Daytner, who in addition to being the CEO of a large construction group bearing her name, is the mother of six, including eight-year-old twins.

Daytner likes to exercise and play in her garden. She reads Jodi Picoult novels in addition to her regular book club picks (because she's got time to read for fun and for discussion). She schedules regular appointments for hair and massages. Somehow, this woman seems to have the time to do it all while still sleeping seven hours a night. Oh yeah, did I mention she also coaches a soccer team?

Reading about Daytner—and other successful people like her—made me feel slightly inadequate. But more important, the book helped me take stock of how much more I could be accomplishing in a given week and identify where my time is spent needlessly. Do I really need that extra trip to Target? Do I have to spend half of Saturday looking at window treatments in three different stores when I could as easily order them online?

Some listeners of my podcast disagreed with Vanderkam's philosophy. "Was I the only one to find this completely crazy," one listener wrote. "There are so many
things besides working and sleep that need to be done and don’t feel
optional. I don’t think it is as simple as 168 hours minus sleep time [and] work time. There are school drop offs and pick ups, homework, meal
prep, laundry, doctors visits, bill paying, bathtime…"

Another commented, "Really, how can we of the normal world take this seriously?"

Vanderkam's main point is that most of us have absolutely no idea how we spend our 168 hours a week. She suggests keeping a time diary, starting with a completely blank weekly grid with the 168 hourly time slots. When you start filling it with work and sleep, you still have more time per week outside of work than you do in (assuming a 50-hour work week).

I've tried to take some of Vanderkam's suggestions to heart. Instead of saying "I don't have time" for something, I substitute the words "That's not a priority." This tiny change has helped me figure out which tasks are truly important and which ones are not. I've also given up on extraneous errands. For example, I thought about going to the store today during lunch but decided it was more important to get this blog post written.

Have you ever tracked your time in a diary? Do you know how you spend your 168 hours every week?