No more excuses: You’ve got the time

Posted Aug. 15, 2010, at 5:43 p.m.

168 HOURS: YOU HAVE MORE TIME THAN YOU THINK, by Laura Vanderkam, copyright 2010, Portfolio, $25.95-$32.50 Canada, 262 pages, includes notes and index.

One half-hour.

A half-hour a day, that’s all you need. If you could somehow cram that extra 30 minutes into your already overscheduled day, you might have a chance to get everything done. But alas, that’s not possible so you’re crazy-busy with never enough time. Isn’t everybody?

No, says author Laura Vanderkam. As a matter of fact, there are people busier than you are, and they find plenty of time to volunteer, start businesses and run marathons. In the new book “168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think,” she explains how savvy people use the amount of time we’re all given.

Without a doubt, you work long hours. If someone asks you how long, you might guesstimate that you put in a 60-hour workweek. Nice try, but Vanderkam says people tend to overinflate their work time. In actuality, most of us spend 30 to 50 hours a week working.

So let’s do the math: Studies show that the average person sleeps seven to eight hours a night. Add that to your hours worked, fudge a little time for commuting, and you still have a big block of hours left over. Nice!

The way to use that time wisely, Vanderkam says, is to use every little bite of time (listen to audiobooks while exercising, read while commuting), and consider your core competencies. What do you do best? What’s important enough to warrant putting on your schedule every week? Is there something you can ignore, minimize, or outsource? Why do your own laundry, for instance, when you can “buy back” your Saturdays for a small service fee?

But let’s say you didn’t have to work at all. What is your heart’s desire? To know that is to know why you want to seize your calendar. Start by making a “List of 100 Dreams” to help figure out what’s really most important to you. Keep a log for a couple of weeks so you know where your time is spent. Take a job you enjoy, so that time flies — and if you can’t find that job, create it. Strive to do only what you love.

So overall, was this book worth the two nights I spent with it?

Yes, but like every other business-and-lifestyle book, there are some caveats.

“168 Hours” does, indeed, contain a lot of food for thought. There are ideas in here that can truly make an immediate difference in your life and various statistics that will put your mind to rest. And once you read it, you’ll no longer have to struggle to find an excuse for avoiding things: as author Vanderkam says, if you don’t like to do something, own the truth.

Conversely, this book is not the panacea that overworked people might wish it was. Vanderkam advocates scheduling pleasurable activities instead of “unimportant” ones and walking away “if you don’t get what you want.” If only life were that easy.

Still, if you’re overloaded, “168 Hours” is a good idea-sparker. It may actually help take some of the “busi” out of “business.”

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Terri has been reading since she was 3 years old, and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 12,000 books.

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