Book Summaries

Book Summary – 168 Hours by Laura Vanderkam

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In 168 hours, there is easily time to sleep 8 hours a night (56 hours per week) and work 50 hours a week, if you desire. That adds up to 106 hours, leaving 62 hours per week for other things.

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Author Laura Vanderkam, in her book 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, shares some great insights on how we have more time than we think we do have and how our time can be maximized by focusing on our priorities.  168 Hours is the story of how some people manage to be fully engaged in their professional and personal lives. It is the story of how people take their careers to the next level while still nurturing their communities, families, and souls.

We all have the same amount of time, the homeless man, the billionaire, the teacher, the blogger, the investor, all of us have the same 24 hours daily, 8,760 hours yearly, 168 hours weekly, 1,440 minutes per day, and how we spend it determines how fulfilled our lives become. Our indoctrination growing up has shaped the way we look at time and changing that programming can and should lead to putting your destiny in your hands.

Here are some of my favorite takeaways from reading 168 Hours by Laura Vanderkam:

You can choose how to spend your 168 hours, and you have more time than you think.

Our ability to choose, our free will is what distinguishes us from other mammals. You don’t have to do anything you do not want to do: You don’t have to be on social media, you don’t have to have seen House of Cards, Games of throne or Harry Porter even though you are going to get lots of awkward looks for not seeing these series. You have to get used to the naysayers that would tell you things like, you can not run marathons – do you want to commit suicide? You can/should not skydive because you need to have kids before taking the jump, although family and friends usually mean well those words from them are the greatest killer of dreams.

In other words, when it comes to daily life, the time-crunch narrative doesn’t tell the whole story. 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.

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 try to squeeze these high-impact activities around the edges of things that are easy, or that seem inevitable merely because we always do them or because we think others expect us to. And consequently, we feel overworked and underrested, and tend to believe stories that confirm this view.

In 168 hours, there is easily time to sleep 8 hours a night (56 hours per week) and work 50 hours a week, if you desire. That adds up to 106 hours, leaving 62 hours per week for other things.

Our life is lived in hours.

While we think of our lives in grand abstractions, a life is actually lived in hours. If you want to be a writer, you must dedicate hours to putting words on a page. To be a mindful parent, you must spend time with your child, teaching him that even though he loves the new shoes he picked out, he has to take them off so mommy can pay for them. A solid marriage requires conversation and intimacy and a focus on family projects.

If you want to sing well in a functioning chorus, you must show up to rehearsals and practice on your own in addition to setting goals and attending to any administrative duties. If you want to be healthy, you must exercise and get enough sleep. In short, if you want to do something or become something—and you want to do it well—it takes time.

 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.

  • On a more fundamental level, you’ll need to figure out what you want to do during your 168 hours. Many of us have no idea; one of the benefits of claiming to be overworked or starved for time is that it lets you off the hook for dealing with the burden of choice.

In the time many of us waste watching TV we don’t really like or frittering away hours on meaningless conference calls, we could make big changes. We could go back to school. We could write a novel each year. Seriously. It takes about 1,000 hours to write a book, and if you stop watching 20 hours of TV per week, you’ll free up the time right there

Matter of Choice

  • Nonetheless, it is a choice, and not a matter of lacking time. When you say “I don’t have time,” this puts the responsibility on someone else: a boss, a client, your family. Or else it puts the responsibility on some nebulous force: capitalism, society, the monster under the bed.”
  • Regardless, the power slips out of your hands. “It’s not a priority” turns those 168 hours back into a blank slate, to be filled as you choose with the things you decide matter.

A Job or a Life

  • A job is, in essence, a bundle of tasks that have been clumped together and assigned to an individual,” Troy Smith and Jan Rivkin of Harvard Business School once wrote. A life is likewise a bundle of tasks and activities an individual takes on.
  • Some, like sleeping and eating, are required, but the rest are simply combinations of choices each of us makes, bundled together for one reason or another, and as Smith and Rivkin wrote, “there is no reason to assume . . . that tasks must continue to be bundled together in the future in the same pattern they have been bundled in the past.” The bundle of Nobel Prize-winning chemist and poet is not necessarily an intuitive one, but there’s no reason it can’t exist.

A job is, in essence, a bundle of tasks that have been clumped together and assigned to an individual,
A life is likewise a bundle of tasks and activities an individual takes on.

Focus on your Core Competencies

  • 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 meaningful. And they should be the things we do best and that others cannot do nearly as well.

 In economics, the law of comparative advantage states that even if one party in a transaction is better at everything than the other party, it can sometimes still make sense for both to specialize, since time and resources are always going to be limited.

  • Though you will save many hours by seizing control of your calendar, and clearing away non-core-competency activities, in the long run, the best way to create more time is to actually get better at your professional craft.

We spend a lot of our waking hours working. Generally not the bulk, but a lot nonetheless. Like choosing the right spouse, being in the right job can give you amazing energy for the entirety of your 168 hours.

  • If you love what you do, you’ll have more energy for the rest of your life, too. If you’re trying to build a career while raising a young family, you will have more energy for your children if you work 50 hours a week in a job you love than if you work 30 in a job you hate. Or at least you’ll come up with better art projects.
  • In other words, the right job leverages your core competencies—things you do best and enjoy—and meets certain working conditions, including autonomy and being challenged to the extent of your abilities.

To thrive in a world where someone else is always cheaper, you have to be distinctive at what you do. In some cases, just to survive, you have to be world class.

You can compress time spent on non-core-competency activities with a three-part strategy:

• Ignore it

A great way to clear your professional calendar is to quit projects or give up responsibilities that are leeching time that you could devote to core-competency activities. You can also decline to take these projects on in the first place

• Minimize it

• Outsource it

We tend to underestimate how much time things will take in the short run, which is why people often run late. But we tend to overestimate how much time things take in the long run.

If you spend 15 minutes a day, five times per week, honestly practicing French conversation with the intention of getting better, you will do just fine in Paris in a year

Log your time

  • Tally up the time spent on the major categories (sleep, work, interacting with children, and so on). If you think your totals are unusual, go ahead and record another week. But keep in mind that when things are important to us, we tend to find ways to fit them in. People who really value exercise take their running shoes along on business trips and stay in hotels with treadmills. People who really value interacting with their children set up times to call them, and write individual e-mails to each of them about their days.

Keep a time log until you are satisfied that you have a complete picture of how you spend your time.

All the best in your quest to get better. Don’t Best: Live with Passion.

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Lifelong Learner | Entrepreneur | Digital Strategist at Reputiva LLC | Marathoner | Bibliophile |