Saturday Reader: Examine all your hours to maximize their use

2010-08-07T00:00:00Z Saturday Reader: Examine all your hours to maximize their useRichard Pachter Mcclatchy Newspapers Arizona Daily Star
August 07, 2010 12:00 am  • 

So we have 168 hours every week. How do we spend it? Let's see: Going to and from work and work itself for my "real" job takes 55 hours; I sleep about 50 hours or so, so that leaves about another 60 to be with my family, shop, cook, eat and read and review at least a book a week. I don't watch a lot of TV except for Tony Bourdain and an occasional "CSI" or "Law & Order" when they're in season. Baseball games don't count, 'cause I usually read or write between pitches. Maybe I could do something with the remaining time: tighten my abs, volunteer, learn Spanish, write my memoirs or finish that Raymond Chandler pastiche.

Laura Vanderkam asks each of us to look at the ways we spend our time, hour by hour, each week. And "spend" is exactly the right word, as time is the sum and substance of our wealth that allows all to be possible: No time, no nuttin', honey.

She begins by profiling a woman who "has it all." She runs a company, hangs out with her kids, hikes, chills and even has time to get her hair done. "When do you sleep?" asked President Obama, at a recent small business-owners' conference she also had time to attend. Good question!

In order to assess where one's precious time is spent, Vanderkam suggests we track our tasks using a log that she devised as an Excel spreadsheet (www.my168hours.com/168-Hours-Log.xls), or a .pdf file that you can fill in with a pen or pencil (www.my168hours.com/168-Hours-Log.pdf).

You must be painfully honest or your time will not reconcile with the actual amount of hours and days in the week (there are seven, not nine, incidentally). But it's an interesting exercise, albeit one that may not lead to much, other than concluding that you are already about as productive as possible. If only we could find a way to do without sleeping.

Vanderkam, a freelance writer, interviewed several other folks to see how they manage to do all they do with the same 168 hours as the rest of us. Not surprisingly, many multitask, though Vanderkam is not very big on that, suggesting instead that we focus on a single mission at a time.

Aside from recommending time-management methods, Vanderkam asks the readers to look at their core competencies and goals to also see if they're spending their lives wisely, doing what they do and enjoy best. In other words, quality, not just quantity: Not a bad question.

About the book

"168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think" by Laura Vanderkam; Portfolio; 272 pages ($25.95).

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