A couple of weeks ago I read Laura Vanderkam’s 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think

I stumbled across a reference to Vanderkam’s book while reading Best Time Management Tips for Writers, an archived post from Michelle V. Rafter over at her blog WordCount.

The consummate seeker of all things efficient, I was hooked at the title. (Also the eternal penny pincher, I first had to wait for it to arrive at the library.)

It was absolutely worth the wait and I digested it in a matter of hours.

The premise of the content is outlined in the introduction. “Looking at life in 168-hour blocks is a useful paradigm shift, because-unlike the ocassionally crunched weekday-well planned blocks of 168 hours are big enough to accommodate full-time work, intense involvement with your family, rejuvenating leisure time, adequate sleep and everything else that actually matters.”

I am a proponent of reframing our approach to time management from a logistical perspective versus deeming ourselves victims of our obligations.  Simply put, we are each allotted 168 hours per week to spend how we choose.

Sleep, work, quality time with family and recreation are discussed with candor.  In doing so, the author’s tone never strays from that of practical application.  The text is engaging and skillfully dodges the trap of condescension or preachiness that often leave readers wary.  She inserts real world case studies, remains wonderfully down to earth and appropriately self deprecating in a way that leaves her even more relatable to the reader.

The chapter devoted to work particularly resonated with me.  Vanderkam explains “This is the 168 Hours principal for work:  Ideally, there should be almost nothing during your work hours – whatever you choose those to be – that is not advancing you toward your goals for the career and life you want.”

Dissenters will no doubt discount this philosophy as aloof and impractical.  I was intrigued and found it intrinsically pragmatic.

Hear me out: I am a proponent of the theory that we train our clients and colleagues to misuse our time.  Those who bemoan how busy they are also those that complain how much is expected of them.  But how responsible are they for those preconceived expectations?

“I have to stay connected 24/7.  People expect me to respond to emails immediately.” Do they really?  Or, as is more often the case, have they simply become accustomed to you doing so?

I have to imagine that these are the same people who keep the automatic alert notification in their email turned on whenever they are working at their computer.  (Okay, respectfully, if this is you, please stop reading now.  Don’t come back until you have disabled it. Really, help me help you.)

 While they’re gone, I bet these are the same people that call and leave me a voicemail telling me they have just sent me an email. Seriously? Seriously?

Somewhere along the line we all became unwitting participants in a competition in which the “busiest” person wins.  Heart attacks, ulcers and divorce are not prizes people.

The author calls us out on the absurdity of this notion.  “A lot of the busyness that goes on during the workday gives us a false sense of productivity that’s dishonest to indulge.”

I notice a lot of this going on.  Busyness is not a synonym for productivity.  How is it that so few recognize the distinction?

Tim Kreider recently published a post for the New York Times titled The ‘Busy’ Trap with the telling tag-line: The “crazy busy” existence so many of us complain about is almost entirely self-imposed.  Definitely worth a read, at last count the post had racked up a dizzying 813 responses.  Suffice to say, there were some very offended busy people.  Fortunately, they managed to find time in their demanding schedule to read and comment on the article.

I digress.

Vanderkam tackles the challenge of hatching a plan of attack.   “You can compress time spent on non-core competency activities with a three part strategy: ignore it, minimize it, outsource it.”

Each is explored in characteristic detail by way of doable techniques.  However, she fully acknowledges that while these tactics free up an incredible amount of time “they are also scary as hell.”

Let’s be candid.  Anyone who specifically sought out a book titled 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, is not likely known for their laid back, come what may, demeanor.  The concept of giving up control, even for the sake of acquiring more time, can be disturbing to those of us that thrive on it.

So, how will you spend your 168 hours?

Other recommended reading: For those of you interested in tips for heightened productivity, time management and the like, I would recommend visiting the Life Hacker website.  I have subscribed to their feed for years.  Their tag-line: Tips, tricks, and downloads for getting things done, is spot on.






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