Book review: 168 Hours — You Have More Time Than You Think
This review ran in the June 6 edition of The Hamilton Spectator.
Portfolio / Penguin
To my Facebook friends and the 57 friends in waiting, this is goodbye.
I’m checking out of Facebook Nation. While the Facebook team offered to temporarily suspend my account, I’ve opted for permanent deletion. No turning back. Over and out.
It’s best we part ways. It’s not that I spent an inordinate amount of time on Facebook. Or stole hours away from when when I should of been earning my paycheque, spending quality time with family or sleeping.
All told, I spent less than hour on Facebook over the past couple years. I didn’t post a single photo or comment. Never updated my profile. Never asked anyone to be my Facebook friend. Never played Farmville.
I deleted my account out of guilt. I wasn’t being honest with my virtual friends. I had no intention and zero interest in accepting the dozens of friend requests that were piling up from people I knew, vaguely remembered and couldn’t recall having met before. Reliving my high school days is not high on my priority list.
What's worse, I was completely ignoring the people I’d already accepted as friends. I never checked the messages you sent. Never followed your chats. Never responded to your pokes. Never wondered what you were up to and never felt the urge to find out, at least not on online.
So rather than feign interest, I’m opting out.
Maybe if I’d spent more time on Facebook, I would of been a better friend and appreciated the allure of the world’s most popular social media site.
But there are only so many hours in my day. There are just 168 hours in a week. And life is short.
For many of us, 168 hours in a week doesn’t seem like nearly enough time. We complain that we’re forever run off our feet. Insanely busy. Hopelessly overworked and under-rested. Trapped in a time bind with no end in sight.
Author Laura Vanderkam doesn’t buy it. She calls the much discussed time crunch a myth. We tend to overestimate how much time we spend on work, parenting and chores and underestimate our time spent on leisure.
“The problem is not that we’re all overworked or under-rested, it’s that most of us have absolutely no idea how we spend our 168 hours,” says Vanderkam. That gives us a convenient out and let’s us focus on doing what’s easy rather than what’s important and matters most.
“We don’t think about how we want to spend our time, and so we spend massive amounts of time on things – television, Web surfing, housework, errands – that give a slight amount of pleasure or feeling of accomplishment but do little for our careers, our families or our personal lives. We spend very little time on things that require more thought or initiative, like nurturing our kids, exercising or engaging in the limited hours we do work in deliberate practice of our professional crafts. “
We need to face the hard yet hopeful truth. We can choose how to spend our 168 hours and we have more time than you think.
Here’s how to carry out a time makeover. Start by logging how you currently spend your time hour by hour from a Monday to Sunday. You’ll be surprised at where your time goes.
Create your personal list of 100 dreams. What do you want to do, or do more of, with your time? What do you want to accomplish within your lifetime?
Along with your list of dreams, identify your core competencies. What are the half-dozen things you do best and better than other people? What do you enjoy doing the most? And how many of your 168 hours do you currently devote to your core competencies?
Having done your homework, it’s time to start over with a blank slate and fill in a week’s worth of 168 hourly slots. If you sleep eight hours a night and work 50 hours a week, you still have 62 hours to pursue your 100 dreams and hone your core competencies.
“All those entries in our 168 hours? Except for sleeping and eating (and making sure your children do the same), you probably don’t have to do any of them. Everything on there is a choice. There may be extremely unpleasant consequences to making different choices, but they are choices all the same. If you plan to keep them in there, recognize that doing so is your decision.”
Fill as much of your 168 hours as possible with blocks of core competency time and ignore, minimize or outsource everything else. Learn to take a pass on what’s not a priority for you.
Many of us invest a good chunk of our week at work so it’s worth asking if we’re in the right job. Don’t assume that working fewer hours is the answer to a more balanced, less hectic and happier life. Spending 50 hours a week doing a job you love is far better than wasting 30 hours in a job you can’t stand. If you love what you do, you’ll have more energy for everything else in your life.
“Harsh as this sounds, if you’re not in the right job – a job that is moving you toward where you want to be in life – then you’re wasting almost all the time you’re spending at work.”
To find out if you’re in the right job, honestly answer these four questions:
Does my job tap into my intrinsic motivation – things I loved as a kid or would do for free?
Does my job give me a reasonable amount of autonomy?
Am I challenged regularly to the extent of my abilities?
And does my work environment, the organization I work for and my coworkers encourage my best work?
If you answer no to any of the questions, what can you change next week or during the next year?
Can you create the right job with your current employer? At another organization? Or out on your own?
If you want to make smarter use of your time and be more engaged at work, home and in our community, Vanderkam has some clear headed and practical advice. Over the next week, block off some of your 168 hours and read her book. It will be time well spent.
Jay Robb lives and works in Hamilton and no longer has a Facebook page.