This post is a review of Laura Vanderkam’s bestselling book – “168 Hours: You Have More Time than You Think”.
This is a book on time management. But if there is one point that encapsulates its usefulness and practicality, then it has to be the tagline itself. The idea that we should
to view time in 168 hours: the number of hours we all have in a week.
Not a day, or two or typical working hours or even the weekend- but a whole week! The writer herself points out: it is large enough to be useful and flexible, but short enough to be relevant and easy to schedule.
I found the book very helpful and practical. Below is a list of the points that wowed me or resonated with me:
Vanderkam elaborates on the trap of ‘busyness’. We work hard but not at the tasks that will help us get ahead. Recognizing this tendency is imperative to succeed. Being busy doing the work that matters is what will help us get ahead in our careers, better our relationships and lead amazing lives. I also got another addition on my book list : Brigid Schulte’s “Overwhelmed“.
One of the ways to have more time is to focus on our priorities and goals. These should determine where and when and how we spend our time. I loved how the author suggests using the phrase ‘Not a Priority‘ instead of ‘Don’t have time’ in our conversations. She mentions this same point in her famous TED talk.
This is a simple but powerful exercise that helps understand how we actually spend time. As someone who has tracked her time repeatedly for stretches of a month each (Laura Vanderkam has personally followed tracked her time for over two years); it was eye opening to observe how and where I was spending time. It also highlighted periods I engage in mindless activity, times I get distracted easily, and gave me a better estimate of how much time my daily tasks actually consume. Plus, knowing what typical days look like is super useful to schedule and plan.
The examples of real people and anecdotes help reinforce the concepts and act as motivating factors. Seriously, if so many people with two jobs and kids can do it, there must be a way. What I also enjoyed was the underlying message, that the techniques are merely guidelines, and that we need to tweak this system based on our life: our work, schedules, family, needs, commitments and so on.
One solid piece of advice is to recognize our strengths and traits that make us special. There are certain tasks that only we can accomplish : tasks that only we add value to. In order to reclaim many hours of our life, the writer suggests taking a long, hard look at the chores we do. Unless it is an activity only we can add value to, she advises to delegate, outsource or completely nix the activity. She also adds that not all chores can be held to this principle. But even if we phase off one or two large tasks, that can gift us a significant amount of time to pursue more impactful and higher priority work.
Planning our free time is a marvelous tip included in the book. The writer shares that unless we consciously plan activities and leisure time pursuits, any spare minutes or even hours we recover will be lost in mindless distractions. Hence, it is necessary to keep handy a list of things we want to do in our spare time, classified further by the time needed for completion for each of those. This way, when we get time, based on how much we have; we can use it wisely to improve and recharge ourselves.
Points to Ponder/ Next Steps:
- Tasks to delete/ delegate/ teach T
- Write down activities for Spare Moments
I consider 168 Hours more than a book: it is a fantastic guide for anyone looking to improve their life and manage their time wisely. Laura Vanderkam’s blog and website have many more tips and are treasure troves of information. The author is also an inspiration because she practices what she preaches in her own challengingly busy daily life : one hectic work schedule involving plenty of travel, four kids, an equally busy executive spouse, pets and friends. Her techniques of keeping priorities and staying focussed definitely work to make the most of our time and life!