too busy

A new baby in January, making it four under the age of 8. A book published in June and a livelihood of traveling, giving lectures, and a working husband also traveling regularly. Even with a nanny and family pitching in to help, a busy, busy life. Laura Vanderkam was (and and I suspect still is) one hard working mom yet she was also an author on the subject of time management who decided to make a study of her own life by recording every half hour for a year in a time tracking log which incidentally took 3 minutes per day, a total of 3 hours for the year along with 232.75 hours exercising (slightly less than 5 hours per week), 327 hours of reading (mainly fashion and gossip magazines, could’ve been “War and Peace” as she pointed out but it wasn’t). In spite of 146 interrupted night’s sleep (newborn remember!), she managed just under 7 and half hours sleep along with 7.84 hours a week driving and 9.09 hours on housework and errands.

Vanderkam encourages giving time tracking a try: “A life is lived in hours. What we do with our lives is a function of how we spend those hours and we only get so many.”

In researching her time management books, Vanderkam found out that most professionals overestimate work hours, recalling our busiest weeks as typical, “partly because negative experiences stand out in the mind more than positive ones and partly because we all like to see ourselves as hard working.” Indeed, the Monthly Labor Review (June 2011) reported that people who estimated 75+ hour work weeks were off by an average of 25 hours (33%!). Vanderkam was no exception, overestimating her work week to 10 to 15 hours.

The take home for Vanderkam was changed narrative, an antidote to the message that “professional success requires harsh sacrifices at home.” After work and sleep, she still had 78.79 hours a week for other things, a “lot of space” in her words. She found that she was spending more time with her husband and children than she realized and that she had been telling herself “false stories” which presumably in and of itself created increased stress. Her time tracking allowed her to step back and be objective and with that came a sense of gratitude and appreciation for the blessings in her life. Yes, there were hectic moments, chaotic times, tension, strain, and anxiety. Yet there were also wonderful moments of peace, companionship, bonding, and time with friends and loved ones. 

In Vanderkam’s own words: “Life is full and life has space. There is no contradiction here.” 

Acknowledgement: This blog draws liberally from New York Times Sunday Review (p.1) article of the same name, May 15, 2016.

As always, I share what I most want/need to learn. – Nathan S. Collier