You have time to do it all


Recently I read “168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think,” by Laura Vanderkam. I confess, I wasn’t very excited to read it. My business coach gave it to me as an assignment AND asked me to track my activities for two weeks. To give you some context, I was feeling overwhelmed by all I “had to do” with running my business, working on professional and personal development and doing the things that keep me alive (eating, sleeping, etc).

I read the book and of course, learned a ton. Laura, who has four kids by the way, boldly states that 168 hours is enough time to do everything you want to do: spend quality time with family and your partner, work, exercise 5 times a week, socialize with friends, pursue personal interests (playing an instrument, writing a book, etc.) and get this—get 8 hours of sleep a night.

She gives a lot of data and examples—chock-full of working moms—who really do it all. How do they do it? It involves a mix of outsourcing (which means prioritizing professional house cleaners on the household budget), bartering and more challenging things. They’re more difficult because they require behavioral changes. She suggests letting go of unimportant tasks from your to do list or reducing activities that aren’t adding great value (e.g., watching TV).

Laura says we use a lot of excuses such as “I don’t have time to do…” or “I’m way too busy”—basically the ones I use liberally. And that’s how l feel in the moment, but if I dig just a bit deeper, I know that I actually have time and that the real answer is more like “It’s not a high priority” or “I don’t want to do it” or even worse, “I’m too lazy.”

AND that’s why I didn’t want to do the assignment. I didn’t want to see how much time I was wasting. BUT I did it (because I’m a good student) and it was revealing. Here are few insights I had as well as changes I’ve made:

  • I got an average of 46 hours of sleep—much less than I expected. I perform better with 8 hours of sleep. I now make more of an effort to go to bed early and I’ve noticed that I workout much more consistently in the morning!
  • I do a lot of switching of activities throughout the day—and this consumes a lot of energy. AND I’m constantly distracted by emails and texts. The irony is that I advise clients to timeblock to fully maximize their job search efforts (“do as I say…). So I’ve scheduled blocks of time to do certain tasks such as writing. I’ve also turned off email and text notifications. Talk about FOMO—the first couple of days were rough, but now I feel liberated and only check when I have breaks. I can honestly say I get a lot more done in a day!
  • I don’t work nearly as much as I thought I did. This is one of the key points of the book—we all think we work way more than we actually do. You’ll see in my summary, I just have “work,” but I broke out exactly what I did during the day: meetings, calls, writing, etc. Some of my day was spent surfing the net for personal stuff, I ran a couple of personal errands, went to lunch, caught up with friends (via calls and texts). What affects our perception is how much time we are at work and how much we think about it.

I also realized I have a lot more time to do some projects that keep getting pushed down my list, but are important to me. Laura suggests making a dream list of big and small things you’d like to do such as writing a book (that’s on my list), taking more trips or spending more time with your kids. So you know why you’re optimizing time and then what to focus your newfound free time on. Also, I’m more intentional and mindful about how I spend my time. I want to enjoy everything I do. I’m even more selective on what TV shows I watch, try not to multitask and definitely don’t feel guilty!

Here’s my challenge to you: document your activities for a couple of weeks, be thorough and honest, draw insights, decide what changes you’d like to make and make them! Connect to me in LinkedIn and let me know what you discovered about yourself. Please feel free to use this template—it includes the summary tab with my results and insights.

And just like Laura says: “This is what happens when you treat your 168 hours as a blank slate. This is what happens when you fill them up only with things that deserve to be there. You build a life where you really can have it all.”