Off the Clock (2018) gives practical advice on how to get more out of your time, from freeing up your busy schedule to achieving more work in shorter intervals. Using personal anecdotes as well as scientific insights, Vanderkam explores why some of us feel like we have all the time in the world, while others feel as though time is slipping through their fingers.
In an exclusive blink, Laura Vanderkam explains what you can do today to feel less busy and get more done.
We may not readily admit it, but most of us have an obsession. The author, for instance, is obsessed with time, and the ways in which we pass it. She’s so obsessed, in fact, that she’s spent years logging how much time she spends on different activities. Her logbook is extremely precise. For example, she could tell you that, on Friday, July 14th, 2017 she got up at precisely 6:45 a.m., spent exactly 45 minutes on paperwork from her child’s school and later, for 30 minutes, dealt with her mail.
Prior to logging her time, the author thought she had a pretty good handle on how she spent her days. Her logbook, however, quickly showed her that she had had no clue.
For instance, despite often telling people she worked 50 hours a week, she was shocked to discover that she was actually averaging only 40 hours. And she’s not the only one prone to this overestimation. In 2011, a study by the Bureau of Labour Statistics found that people claiming to work more than 75 hours a week were typically overestimating by around 25 hours. Indeed, the author recently interviewed a young man who reported working 180 hours a week. An impressive accomplishment, given that this is twelve more hours than a week contains.
This raises an important question: If we’re not working as much as we think we are, where is our time really going?
Surprisingly, many people don’t want to know the answer to this question. Although rigorous time tracking provides a deeper understanding of how you’re actually spending each week, many of us are resistant to the idea.
For starters, we may worry that tracking time will show us just how many hours we’re wasting on things that aren’t meaningful or beneficial to us or our loved ones. Second, we may fear that tracking our time will constantly remind us of our finite time on earth, which will lead to anxiety about misspending each minute.
Despite these potential downsides, the author found time tracking allowed her to recalibrate her life. Armed with greater knowledge, she was able to make positive changes in how she spent her time.
For instance, once she discovered she was spending almost 327 hours per year on reading trashy magazines, she became motivated to carve out time to plan her reading habits more carefully. After making lists of good books and scheduling time to buy them, she replaced her consumption of celebrity gossip with a more nourishing diet of quality titles.