Choosing How to Spend 168 Hours

September 16, 2013

Hourglass charm by Freshly Fig on Etsy.

By Amy Hackworth. Hourglass charm on etsy.

Do hourglasses give anyone else a little anxiety? Though I think they’re beautiful, I’m haunted by their relentlessness. Nothing can stop those little sandy seconds from turning into minutes and hours and days and years, and will I ever finish (or even start) all the things I hope to?

Perhaps it’s this anxiety that draws me to Laura Vanderkam’s work about time management. Among other things, she researches and writes about making the most of the 168 hours each of us has in every week. Her book is called 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think.

Vanderkam’s first step to reclaiming some of that extra time is to keep a time log for a week. It’s the beginning of her “time makeover” (see all the steps in this pdf). Tracking a full week’s 168 hours can teach us a lot about how we’re using — and misusing — our time, she says. It’s the starting point to creating a life that includes family time, work, exercise, hobbies, creativity and leisure, plus a full night’s sleep!

“Think about every hour of your week as a choice,” Vanderkam writes. For me, this is a liberating idea. I’m in the habit of talking about what I “have” to do on any given day, without acknowledging that all of those “have to’s” are actually things I’ve chosen, and gladly.

The demands of motherhood and family and running a household and having meaningful writing work are all things I hoped for and readily agreed to. Remembering these were choices, and therefore the hours of my week that they consume are choices, too, changes how I feel about those especially demanding hours. Instead of claiming, “I don’t have time,” Vanderkam suggests the more honest, “It’s not a priority.”

There are certainly hours in my week that I’m not spending very deliberately and plenty that don’t accurately reflect my priorities. This week, I’m setting out to find them

Are you interested in trying it or does it seem too detailed? How do you manage the many choices of your day? Time management experts, please share!

P.S. I highly recommend Laura’s recent blog post about which minutes we choose to remember our lives. And another of her books about productivity suggests making the most of early morning hours; read a funny review here.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Regina September 16, 2013 at 10:22 am

I was introduced to the concept of 168 hours several years ago through a book about simplifying your life. I didn’t track things per minute, but I drew up my hours on a grid to see where my time went. I think I should do the exercise again now that I have kids!

And recently, to create time for more productive things, I stopped playing games on my iPhone (I get addicted to games pretty easily!). I’m a bit amazed by the progress I’ve made in my other hobbies since then!


2 Carrie September 16, 2013 at 11:35 am

I’m a huge fan of Laura Vanderkam’s work, and recently wrote a guest post on her blog about what I learned from my time diary:

I’ve done this exercise several times over the last two years and it’s life-changing.


3 Amy Hackworth September 16, 2013 at 12:45 pm

Carrie, I saw your post! So great! Thanks for commenting.


4 Carter Higgins September 16, 2013 at 1:21 pm

How timely! (Groan.) But truly, I was just thinking about this over the weekend. I can’t complain about how little time I have if I refresh Twitter like a mad woman. I’ve gained a lot of awareness recently, but have miles to go. And minutes to claim!


5 Ellie September 16, 2013 at 1:52 pm

I never say ”I didn’t have time to” but ”I didn’t take the time to”. Now, I don’t exactly want to know how much time I spend reading…


6 Carrie @ Her Organized Inspired Life September 16, 2013 at 3:32 pm

This is a book I need to read! I’m all about being organized, but I sure could improve on my time management. Productivity is something I hold in high regard, yet I know I waste too much time not doing things that I want to accomplish. It drives me nuts.
Thanks for the resource.


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