“It is safe to say that time has become the primary obsession of modern life. Some people are having enough sex. Some people have enough money. But no one seems to have enough hours in the day.” Laura Vanderkam in 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think

Who doesn't want more time? I'm sure that's why I was attracted to the title of this book, and it came highly recommended by James Chartrand, my writing instructor at Damn Fine Words. James was so impressed with the importance of the book that she interviewed the book's author Laura Vanderkam and shared it with our whole class. After listening to that, I couldn't wait to read the book, and I wasn't disappointed. Vanderkam has done a serious study of how we use our time and has compared it to studies done in the past. I came away with a sense of relief and hopefulness that even though things are changing fast and furiously around us, we CAN take charge of our time and arrange those segments at our disposal in ways that yield a full and meaningful life. “I want to make sure you take away two thoughts,” writes Vanderkam. “You can choose how to spend your 168 hours, and you have more time than you think.” She provides information and strategies for doing just that.

She begins with an important assumption. “If you want to do something or become something — and you want to do it well — it takes time.” The book is filled with real life examples of men and women who have made varying but equally satisfying choices about the way they spend their allotted time in life. She suggests we reframe the whole question of time management with the premise that there is enough time to do what we are called to do, but we have to make choices to use that time wisely. This is not a book about what you ought to do. It's a book about possibilities.

One particularly fascinating part of the book looked at time spent by men and women with young children today compared to their parents and grandparents. She also interviewed many successful people who were managing to live full, balanced, and satisfying lives without the advantage of wealth or privilege. She uncovered the secrets of their time management and describes “the new home economy.” We hear so much doom and gloom about the fast pace of our society and the way we're shortchanging our children because so many mothers are working. Vanderkam provided compelling facts and figures to the contrary. She concluded that young parents do not need to feel so conflicted about trying to juggle a career and parenthood and still have some time for themselves.

To extract the greatest value from this book, read it with an open mind and do the suggested exercises for identifying your own core competencies and your “List of 100 Dreams.” Then be prepared to focus on those things and let some other things go “by ignoring, minimizing, or outsourcing.” Vanderkam calls us to define “work” as “activities that are advancing you toward the career and life you want.”

Here a few of the fascinating excerpts I highlighted:

“The best way to create more time is to actually get better at your professional craft.”

“I have realized that the important thing is not to be flawless, but to be compelling enough to make up for the flaws.”

“This is the anatomy of a breakthrough for busy, balanced people: Know what the next level looks like. Understand the metrics and gatekeepers…Be open to possibilities and plan for opportunities. Be ready to ride the wave.”

“Lots of people ponder what they'd do if things went wrong. Try to spend an equal number of your 168 hours pondering what you'd do if things went right.”

“Time is too precious to be lackadaisical about leisure.”

I found 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam to be filled with “Aha” moments, and I commend it highly to anyone of any age.

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