3 Great Steps Toward Maximizing Time: My Lessons From Laura Vanderkam’s 168 Hours

168 Hours Book CoverMuch acclaim is associated with Laura Vanderkam’s exploration of the myths, misconceptions, and outright misallocations of time that contribute to sabotaging our lifestyles. 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think is the book title that I’ve been repeating like a mantra as of late. Perhaps the only book that examines the subject of maximizing our time through a 21st-century, cyber era lens, it accurately paints the modern picture of time misusage, and offers solutions that are based on realistic options. Reading it has made an undeniable impression on me, and its lessons, once applied, were responsible for changing my outlook and my life practically overnight. Let me share with you three of my “great awakenings”, inspired entirely from Vanderkam’s message.

Wide Screen Equals Narrow Agenda

The message has been rammed down our throats for nearly 3 generations now, yet our cultural response has been to
ignore it one-thousand percent: We spend too much time watching television. The latest Nielsen survey indicates that Americans ingest 30 hours of TV per week, which breaks down to over 4 hours per day, or one-sixth of our existence. Vanderkam’s time-reclaiming suggestion, which makes the most sense to me, is simple: Start there! Entertainment is certainly necessary for decompression, but when we personally reach statistic status, that’s our cue to make a change. Reality shows…who needs them? We live the reality. Just cutting our TV viewing in half will reinstall 15 hours of free time per week into our busy schedules. That’s enough time to engage with our children, learn to cook, practice a hobby, or get the exercise that “we have no time for”!

Monitor That Monitor

Myrtle at LaptopThe most 21st-century sector of our time-use involves another display screen that enslaves us. Email and social media have quickly evolved from being of convenience to being burdensome. When we rely upon them for personal as well as business communications, the burden is compounded, occupying as much as an entire day’s worth of our time per week! Vanderkam’s passages relating to the malice of this medium illustrated for me that email can truly eat me alive unless I decide to tame it. Those of us who don’t have connectivity flexibility in our jobs are caught in the trap. The rest of us have a choice, and should take the liberty to make it. My technique is to keep my inbox closed, committing to checking it only 3 times a day. Alas, I have reclaimed balance, not to mention well over 12 hours of useful time each week.

Wait Just an Interstice!

And a brief note on Vanderkam’s reminder about interstices….I’ve become a tremendous advocate of utilizing the nooks & crannies in our day that would otherwise slip away as wasted time. Ever find yourself waiting on a long line, or in the doctor’s office waiting room for longer than you expected? Time to catch up on deleting old email via your phone. Need to let your computer load some updates or download new software? Spend the moments organizing your expense receipts. For further inspiration in this department, acquire a copy of 168 Hours, and let it revise your whole perspective on what “enough time” really means. Then, share your impressions.