Thursday, March 27, 2014

Nonfiction Review: 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think

At the beginning of January, I picked up two time management books at the library that I had heard good things about. One of those was 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam. Ironically, it took me two months to finish reading the book, so apparently, I really needed it! That’s no reflection on the book, only my inability to read two books at once. I enjoyed the book and learned some useful tips on making better use of my time.

Vanderkam’s main premise is that everyone has 168 hours in each week, and that the current belief that everyone is too busy and no one has any free time is a myth. She says that we all have plenty of time…if we use it wisely and according to our own priorities. She advocates starting with an analysis of how you currently spend your time by keeping a detailed time log for a week or two. I really liked this idea and downloaded the time log forms from her website.  She then details how to analyze that data, looking for wasted time or excessive time spent on trivial things. She also suggests identifying your core competencies, those things that only you can do and that support your highest priorities.

She next discusses goals and suggests starting with a brainstorming session to make your own list of 100 Goals/Dreams, just a free association kind of list of everything – big and little – you would like to do with your life. From that long list of goals, she says to take a few and develop smaller steps that need to be taken to move closer to the goals. This is something I started doing several years ago that has worked very well for me. I used to teach and consult with companies on how to reach their goals, and I taught them to break each goal down into specific objectives and then break those into individual steps to take. I realized that the same things I had taught to corporations would work for my own personal goals. I also made sure that all of my smaller objectives were measurable, and I find that that helps me to stay on track.

In 168 Hours, Vanderkam addresses both work and home time, with lots of suggestions for choosing priorities, finding work you love, meeting longer-term career goals, and having plenty of time in your life for the things that are really important to you, whether that’s family, work, exercise, volunteering, or some combination of those. Her tips range from making breakthroughs in your career to streamlining your wardrobe and serving simple meals and everything in between. Her main focus is on using the time you have more effectively, according to what’s important to you.

Overall, I found the book useful. I did the time tracking and didn’t see anything earth-shattering, but it confirmed what I already suspected – mainly that much of my time was being sucked up by e-mail and responses to Facebook groups. Seeing that in black and white and reading Vanderkam’s advice helped me to come up with some strategies. Now I just need to make those into habits! Not everything in the book was applicable to me – I have a chronic illness, so I actually DO have less time than most people because I have to spend so much time sleeping and resting. But, I can apply her concepts within the time that I do have, and I liked her focus on defining what is important to you. Besides its usefulness, 168 Hours was interesting and well written, backed up by fascinating research, interviews, and lots of inspiring examples.

238 pages, Portfolio (Penguin group)


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