The Meaning Of Busy: How Many Hours Do You Truly Work?

P1090347Last month, half-a-dozen lucky DRIVEN Professional women joined me in attending an intimate dinner event with one of my favorite authors, Laura Vanderkam. Laura is a productivity expert and her newest book I Know How She Does It is both an empowering and inspiring read for any business person. Attendees of the dinner witnessed Laura as she was interviewed about her book’s subject matter, particularly in the area of making the most of the 700,000 hours we’re granted to live our lives.

In her research for the book, Laura interviewed strictly “qualified busy women”, defined as making over $100K annually, and having at least one child under 18 living at home. These women were asked to reveal the secrets to their success through keeping hourly time charts of a single week in their lives. Laura then organized and categorized the data, and translated it all to her readers in the form of advice for making the most of our time. Revealed was incredibly valuable information that had never been presented before, including one real gem of a concept that was discussed in depth at last month’s dinner.

Out Of Proportion

The most helpful discovery to me was that most of the interviewed women managed to work a FULL week at about 50 hours! This figure even includes a couple of accountants during their busy season. Hearing this left me at once comforted and ill-at-ease; I feel a sense of relief knowing that a great week of work CAN be accomplished within a realistic time window (leaving 118 hours per week to do everything else life has to offer), but my unease rests with how often people’s reflexive answer is “Busy” to the question “How are you?”.P1090320

In our current society, there is a tendency for people to brag, or even seek social martyrdom, in the form of complaint about how many hours they work. Personally reported numbers of 70 to 90 hours per week are not unusual when I pose the question to other businesspeople. Laura suggests that when someone offers these Herculean numbers, you can take the liberty to discount their assessment by a third. The reason is that people’s perceptions of hours logged and the number of actual productive hours worked are sharply at odds. For example, being at the office from 8am until 6pm may constitute as 10 hours of “work”, but that’s before you’ve factored in the half-hour you dilly-dallied on Facebook, your immersion in that online gossip article trail, and the conversation you found yourself caught up in while retrieving that 3rd cup of coffee.

Take The Challenge

Upon the conclusion of our dinner that night, I posed a challenge to the group of participants that aimed to get them onto the right track in their quest for maximization of time. I asked them what it would take to get used to stating confidently and with pride “I worked 50 hours this week, and I KICKED it!” Understanding the power of focused work, and not work for the sake of stacking up the hours, is the most authentic place to start your journey toward a more efficient you….a you with dozens of surplus hours each week, with which to truly live your life.

To learn more, grab a copy of I Know How She Does It, and gain a wider perspective.