Today, I spoke to Laura Vanderkam, a USA Today contributor and author of 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think. In this interview, Laura talks about what can be accomplished in 168 hours, how she manages her weekly schedule, gives some time management tips, and more.
What can be accomplished in 168 hours?
A lot! Think about it: every person who has ever lived on planet Earth had 168 hours each week. Ben Franklin, Margaret Thatcher, whoever your personal hero happens to be. There are many reasons for not living the life you want, but a lack of time shouldn’t be one of them. I believe that in the 168 hours we all have each week, there is plenty of time to build a Career with a capital C, raise a big happy family, exercise, volunteer, and still get enough sleep.
How do you manage your weekly schedule?
Ideally, I’d work 40 hours, spend 40 hours with family, have 30 for personal pursuits and 58 to sleep. Lately, I’ve been busy with the book, so I’m working more hours, and getting a little less personal time, but eventually things will return to normal. For me, Mon-Thurs, I wake up around 6:30 with the kids. I start work around 8am and go to 6pm with a break for a run. Then I hang out with my family from 6-9pm, and try to get another hour of work in, or some time with my husband, after the kids go to bed. On Tuesday nights, I have choir rehearsals. I work a half-day on Fridays. Weekends are pretty much all family time, though I usually run at least once, and squeeze in 4-5 hours of work. I try to do as little housework as possible.
What time management tips do you have for the overloaded worker?
First, ask “Do I need to be there?” Knocking a non-critical meeting or a phone call off your schedule can free up an hour right there. Schedule short, regular, one-on-one meetings with anyone who reports to you – this has a big payoff in minimizing interruptions. A really helpful exercise, though it takes some time, is to actually log every minute/hour you are working (or your whole week! You can download a 168-hour spreadsheet at My168hours.com). Analyze what is truly work and what is not. If it’s not important work, see if you can’t ignore it, minimize it, or outsource it. And my favorite tip? Write your year-end performance review in January. That way you know what’s most important to do over the next year, and what you can skip.
Why do you say people have more time than they think?
Many people who work full-time think they don’t have time for personal pursuits. But if you work 50 hours – far more than most people – and sleep 8 hours a night (56 per week), that still leaves 62 for other things. This is a lot of time. More time than you’re working! The question is whether you’re spending these hours in a way that is meaningful for you and the people you care about.
Why did you decide to write this book?
As a new mom several years ago, I kept hearing that there just wasn’t time to build a career and raise a family. So I set out to write about this “time crunch.” Only, as I started to interview busy people, I realized that many didn’t feel starved for time at all. I changed my mind and decided to let myself be inspired by people who view time as abundant – and hopefully readers will be too.
Laura Vanderkam, a New York City-based journalist, is the author of Grindhopping: Build a Rewarding Career without Paying Your Dues (McGraw-Hill, 2007), which the New York Post selected as one of four notable career books of 2007. Her latest book is called 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think (Portfolio, 2010). She is a member of USA Today’s Board of Contributors, and her work has also appeared in the Wall Street Journal, City Journal, Scientific American, Reader’s Digest, Reason, and other publications. She specializes in translating complex economic, policy or scientific ideas into readable prose, and making people say “I never thought of it that way before.” A 2001 graduate of Princeton, she enjoys writing fiction, running, and singing soprano with the Young New Yorkers’ Chorus, an organization for which she serves as president, and which specializes in commissioning new music from composers under age 35.