There are 168 hours in a week.
If you work 40 hours per week and sleep 8 hours per night (56 hours per week), you’ve accounted for 96 hours. You have an additional 72 waking hours per week.
What are you doing with this time?
Let’s assume you spend 10 hours per week commuting, 10 hours handling chores and errands, and 5 hours showering and getting dressed. Let’s also assume you work 50 hours per week instead of 40.
You still have 37 additional hours per week.
How are you spending that time?
That’s the question today’s guest, Laura Vanderkam, tried to answer by analyzing more than 1,000 time logs kept by full-time professional workers.
Laura is a mom of four young children. She works five days a week from 6:30 am to 5:30 pm, plus checks email in the evenings. She could claim to work 11-hour days. She could claim to be overworked and time-strapped.
But she doesn’t. She says, in fact, that she has more personal time than most people think.
Within her 11-hour workday, Laura takes breaks for lunch, quick exercise breaks, and conversations with her family. She occasionally pops out of work for doctor or dentist appointments. She handles online errands and checks Facebook or Twitter.
Her 11-hour workday, when scrutinized more closely, only amounts to around 9 hours of actual work.
Her life, in other words, includes space for downtime.
When she started looking at time logs kept by professional white-collar workers, she noticed the same pattern. Many people who thought they worked 60+ hour weeks actually only worked 40 to 50 hours. Many people who thought they were sleep-deprived actually slept for 7.5 to 8 hours per night.
In preparation for this interview, I logged my time in 15-minute increments over the course of a 168-hour week. I saw the same patterns that Laura described within my own life. Over the course of a 168-hour week, I worked for 43.25 hours. I slept for 53.75 hours, which is more than 7.5 hours per night. Working and sleeping consumed 97 hours of my week. That left 71 hours for other activities.
The good news: I only spent one hour watching TV that week.
The bad news: housework, chores, cooking, errands and “life management,” like opening mail, consumed nearly 20 hours of my week. This shocked me; I assumed I spent far less time on domestic tasks.
The worst news: I spend 9.5 hours “puttering,” not doing anything in particular. I’m not referring to intentional recharging time, such as time spent reading, meditating or journaling. I’m referring to a time vortex, hours that evaporate into the ether.
I asked Laura what she thought about the 9.5 hours that I lost in a time vortex.
“If you don’t take a real break, your brain will take a fake one,” she replied.
Translation: I need more frequent and intentional breaks. Exercise more. Get outdoors. Stretch.
I’m not the only one.
Our society shares a collective narrative that Americans are overworked, sleep-deprived and don’t have enough time for family or personal lives. That’s our emotional truth. But statistics paint a different picture. When we track our time in 15-minute increments over the course of a 168-hour week, we don’t see deprivation. We see abundance.
In today’s episode, Laura describes this surprising fact: we have more time than we think.
She also shares tactics on how to reduce chores and errands, stay focused and productive at work, and recognize the difference between “effort” and “diminishing returns.”
If you feel busy, stressed and overworked, you’ll love hearing Laura’s refreshing, uplifting perspective on how to manage and recognize your abundance of time.
Check out the episode!
If you’d like to learn more, Laura’s book 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think made a HUGE impression on me, inspiring me to keep a detailed time log (which helped me pinpoint my exact time-wasters).
I also enjoyed her latest book, I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time.
Speaking of time: if you’re an entrepreneur, you might spend a lot of time sending invoices, tracking payments, and dealing with the books. Eliminate those tasks by using Freshbooks, a program that automates your invoicing and bookkeeping.
Try it FREE for 30 days by visiting Freshbooks.com/paula. When they ask how you heard about their service, please mention this show.
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