Thursday, March 29, 2012

168 Hours: Time Management Book Review

I recently finished reading 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam, and I LOVED it.  It's the book I wish I had written, but also made me realize I probably will never be a serious author because I don't have the desire to spend THAT MUCH TIME researching and revising, which she clearly has done.  The writing is really good - tons of research, easy to read and flows smoothly.   I read this in a day, and I don't (can't) usually do this with nonfiction.

If you're into time management and productivity stuff, it's worth a read.  If you feel stressed out and like you never get to do the things you want, this book is for you.

The concept of a week being 168 hours isn't revolutionary, but I admit I never thought about it like that.  I've kept a few days' worth of time diaries, but never a whole week.  (I'll do this when we return from vacation.)

Her advice is to keep a time diary for a week, and then review it to see WHAT you're spending time on.  Likely there's a lot of low-priority stuff on there, and from that, you can make changes to mindfully spend time on what YOU think is important.

I love the reframing of "I'm too busy to do x" as "x is not a priority for me".  I don't think we use that enough in our daily lives.  We fill up our time with tasks that we *think* need to be done, but in the grand scheme of things, maybe not.  Or maybe not by us.

There are real-life examples of interesting (and relatable) people.  I will say that in many places it seems to target a certain upper middle class income range, which may be off-putting to some people.  But I liked that focus, because it spent a fair amount of time discussing how you can deploy your financial resources to help you "find" more time - sending out your laundry (which alas, I cannot find anyone to do in my town), hiring housecleaners or a personal chef, etc. 

One quibble I had with this book is the definite bias against parents who give up or significantly downshift their careers.   It came up in a few different places and made me a bit grumbly.  Yes, I totally agree with her when she says it's hard to have a capital-C Career if you work less than 30 hours a week. 

But she tends to brush off the idea that some people *want* that.  Her argument came across like she thinks the only reason people quit jobs or go part-time is because they want to spend more time with their kids, and then proceeds to point out that you can squeeze in 40-45 hours of work easily in a week and still have plenty of time for kids.

From a pure time perspective, yes, this is true.  But speaking from experience, there are other reasons people choose to reduce their career aspirations when they have kids.  In our case (and for many others I know) it's because we want to limit (or not use) hours of outside childcare.  I personally wanted to experience as much of my daughter's early years as I could- the good, the gross, and the boring.  I also wanted a life that *felt* more relaxed, hence my 2.5 day work week.  

Maybe this is turning into a bit of a "but what about me?" argument, but it bugged me repeatedly.  I've started reading her new book All the Money in the World, and I think there's a little more latitude there for people who might enjoy things like baking, keeping house, etc. as a pursuit in itself.

This is another book I'd like to keep around to get a 'refresher' when things feel like they're getting crazy or I'm losing sight of what's important.  I highly recommend it.  Go get it now!


  1. I wonder if she takes into consideration that working where you do a 40-45 hour work week doesn't exist? = )

    1. she does, but she also points out that people who spend tons of hours at work are often surfing the web or doing non-essential things. The book is all about discovering inefficient time use.

    2. Though sometimes all that surreptitious web surfing at work is actually part and parcel of the dreaded unofficial "Face Time" reqs that too many companies have.

      "But what about me?" arguments are the best. I think we all need to keep engaging in those!


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