Book Review: 168 Hours

“In our distracted world, even fallow hours take discipline.” Laura Vanderkam, 168 Hours: You have More Time Than You Think, 80
168 Hours.  Everyone gets the same amount of time each week.  It’s one thing that is not impacted by your gender, your socioeconomic status, your education, or even your motivation.  Everyone gets the exact same number of seconds, minutes, and hours in a calendar week.  How are you choosing to spend yours?  In her book, 168 Hours: You have More Time Than You Think, Laura Vanderkam helps us see that we all likely have FAR more time available than we ever thought possible.  It’s all about being intentional and choosing how we are going to spend our lives.
This book was a great read and a wonderful mix of theory and practicality.  I’m grateful for the way that Vanderkam shared about choices she makes as a writer, a wife, a mom, and a friend.  There were several areas that she dove into that were particularly applicable for me to consider.  I read this over the summer, making it a great time to evaluate priorities before the next school year gets underway.
I highlighted several things while reading and have posted those notes below…
  • “Simply changing my words from ‘I don’t have time for that’ to ‘That’s not a priority for me’ has completely changed the way that I organize my life. Actually, the way I live my life.” Location 61
  • In our distracted world, even fallow hours take discipline. Location 80
  • The weekly 168-hour cycle is big enough to give a true picture of our lives. Years and decades are made up of a mosaic of repeating patterns of 168 hours. Yes, there is room for randomness, and the mosaic will evolve over time, but whether you pay attention to the pattern is still a choice. Largely, the true picture of our lives will be a function of how we set the tiles. Location 1191
  • when you focus on what you do best, on what brings you the most satisfaction, there is plenty of space for everything. Location 231
  • you can choose how to spend your 168 hours, and you have more time than you think. Location 310
  • Time-diary studies are valuable in sociology because they force us to face the reality that a day has 24 hours and a week has 168, and all our activities must, in fact, fit within these limits. Location 373
  • Effective people outsource, ignore, or minimize everything else. The coming chapters will talk about how to identify these core competencies at home and at work. You’ll need to change your life to spend more time on these things, and less on the things that are neither meaningful nor pleasurable for you or for people you care about. I will not pretend this is easy. Location 445
  • An individual’s core competencies are best thought of as abilities that can be leveraged across multiple spheres. They should be important and meaningful. And they should be the things we do best and that others cannot do nearly as well. Location 591
  • Broadly, those who get the most out of life try to figure out and focus on their core competencies. They know that at least one key difference between happy, successful people, and those just muddling along is that the happy ones spend as many of their 168 hours as possible on their core competencies—honing their focus to get somewhere—and, like modern corporations, chucking everything else. Location 596
  • The second part of the “love what you do” equation—that the right job needs to be challenging—is more intriguing. At first blush, people often seem to prefer easy tasks. But as Amabile tells me, “Most people get bored with ‘easy’ jobs.” Ultimately, you want work that’s optimally challenging, where “the work calls on your best skills, and helps you develop new skills—but is not completely beyond your skill level.” This is because such work puts you in a state that the psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi terms “flow.” Decades ago, in a now famous and widely chronicled experiment, Csíkszentmihályi and his colleagues decided to figure out exactly when people were happiest. They gave thousands of people pagers that would go off randomly throughout the day, and asked them to record what they were doing and how they felt (aside from being annoyed at the incessant buzzing). They found that people were happiest when they were completely absorbed in activities that were difficult but doable, to the point where their brains no longer had space to ruminate about the troubles of daily life. Time seemed to warp, as Csíkszentmihályi wrote in his 1990 book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. “Hours pass by in minutes, and minutes can stretch out to seem like hours.” When researchers interviewed people with considerable skills in certain areas—for instance, composers seated at the piano, figure skaters in the middle of intense practice—such people spoke of feeling as though they were carried along by water. They were almost floating. Hence, “flow.” Location 955
  • What do I love so much I’d do it for free? How can I get someone to pay me to do that? If there’s no obvious job title in an organization doing what I love (and often there isn’t), what’s a low-cost way I could start a business doing that, and get the cash register ringing quickly? Location 1,163
  • If you’re pretty sure you are in the right job, then try asking this question: If someone offered me a windfall to never do the “stuff” of my work again, how would I feel about that? Location 1,230
  • Any “work” that is not advancing you toward the professional life you want should not count as work. It is wasted time. Location 1,312
  • a lot of the busyness that goes on during workdays gives us a false sense of productivity that’s dishonest to indulge. Doing a lot does not mean you’re doing anything important with your 168 hours. Location 1,318
  • What do you want to do during your workday? Location 1,340
  • Young children naturally want to spend time with their parents, but even older children can be lured into the habit if you behave like you truly want to invest time with them. That means not checking your Blackberry every 3 minutes. The point is to treat your children as privileged clients. You have to think through the time you’re going to spend together because it is valuable. If you don’t, one of two things will happen. Location 2,212
  • I think time is too precious for us to be totally leisurely about leisure. 2,841
  • What one to three leisure pursuits would I like to build, regularly, into my 168 hours? Location 3,174

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *