Do you feel too busy, too spread thin, and constantly overwhelmed? Feel like you have to choose between work, sleep, exercise, and family or friends? You’re not alone. Americans are more stressed than ever — and not just because of the crazy political climate. It feels there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done.
Time management expert Laura Vanderkam, bestselling author of 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think and I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make The Most Of Their Time, is here to tell you that there are. Vanderkam’s approach is about more than tips, tricks and life hacks that save a few minutes (or seconds) here or there. As her first book’s title alludes, there are a whopping 168 hours in a week. Making the most of them comes down to recognizing that, identifying the commitments and goals that are most important to you and allotting those hours accordingly.
It sounds simple, but Vanderkam has good reason to believe her strategy works. She’s analyzed the workdays, weekends, and morning routines of hundreds of busy people, from major CEOs to workings moms trying to have it all. The book invites you to read their time logs, which is one of the most interesting and satisfying aspects of it (who doesn’t enjoy a peek into the lives of the rich and powerful?). Taken as a whole, they’re also incredibly informative.
Successful people tend to schedule non-negotiables, such as exercise and work that requires a lot of brain power, in the early morning when they are less likely to be interrupted or derailed. They look for pockets of dead time that you can use for multiple purposes. (Depending on your mode of transportation, you could make phone calls or read briefings during an otherwise wasted commute. Vanderkam writes regularly about using her kids’ sports practices as time to work toward her ambitious reading goals.) Breaking up the week into smaller slots allows you to recognize how you’re actually spending your days. (Does your work schedule mean you miss your kids’ bedtime? Squeeze in 30 minutes of reading together before school — it still adds up to hours of quality time each week.)
Perhaps most importantly, productive people are realistic about their schedules and the time various tasks and commitments actually take (research shows most people tend to overestimate how much time they spend actually working).
Plowing through Vanderkam’s books — What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, 168 Hours and I Know How She Does It — and trying out a time log myself changed the way I look at my time and even inspired my to-do list strategy. It’s worth giving a shot, even if only for the voyeuristic pleasure of seeing how other people manage their lives. And for those “too busy” to read, her titles are available in audiobooks, too.
Scouted is here to share practical, entertaining, and sometimes unexpected ideas for products that you might like. Follow our Flipboard magazine for more Scouted. Please note that if you buy something featured in one of our posts, The Daily Beast may collect a share of sales.