- Posted by Nigel Edelshain
- On February 20, 2015
“I just didn’t have time to do [that]”.
[That] is typically exercise or an activity you want to do with your family or friends. Have you said this recently? Or maybe “I’m just so busy all the time.”
If you have, you are not alone, many professionals feel this way. But do our feelings match the reality?
The survey says
Here’s some data from the American Time Use Survey as reported by Laura Vanderkam in her book 168 hours. The researchers had thousands of people keep a detailed log of how they actually used their time throughout the week.
The average working parent works 35-43 hours per week
Americans sleep an average of 8 hours per night (just as we did 40 years ago and much more than people I speak to seem to report.)
Married women spent 37 hours per week on house chores if they did not work and 15 if they worked. Married men spent about 7 hours per week on house chores.
Stay-at-home moms play with their children for 6 hours per week and working moms between 1 hour and 2.5 hours per week
And…Americans spend an average of 30 hours per week watching TV
168 hours is a lot, isn’t it?
As the title of Laura Vanderkam’s book suggests, a 7-day week consists of 168 hours. If you spend 8 hours per night sleeping that is 56 hours of sleep per week. 8 hours per day for work 5 days per week is 40 hours. Adding these together gives us 96 hours. So allowing time for work and sleep leaves us with 72 hours per week for other activities!
You probably have more time than you think to do the things you really want to do. Here’s a framework from Laura Vanderkam’s book on how to go about reclaiming your time. I’ve added a couple of my other favorite tools into this framework as well.
1. Log it and analyze it
Knowing how the “average American” spends their time is one thing but knowing how you spend your time is way more useful. If you want to find out, you can log your own time.
Laura Vandrekam provides a nifty little calendar/time log template if you sign up to her email list here. To find out how you really use your time simply jot down what you are doing during the day for at least a week (much like a lawyer or consultant logging their billing time). After a week sort your time into categories. You may be surprised at what you find.
2. Consider your goals
We’re going to talk about defining your goals in future blog posts but in the book 168 hours Laura Vanderkam suggests an exercise called “100 Dreams”. Simply take a blank sheet and brainstorm 100 things you’d like to do in your lifetime.
3. Consider your strengths
What are you good at? What is it that you do well that others don’t?
One way to get a feel for this is to notice what others say about you. And observe what others come to you for. You can also specifically ask a few people you trust to tell you.
Another approach is taking an assessment, try picking up the book Strengthsfinder (now 2.0). It comes complete with a code to take an online strengths finder survey for free. (Again we’ll cover this subject more in future posts.)
4. Take control of your calendar
To spend your time well you need to plan your time. You need to put the items that are important to you in your calendar.
In his book First Things First Stephen Covey uses the analogy of putting rocks in a container first, then sand, then water. This is the way to get the most into a container. When it comes to your calendar the “rocks” are your most important tasks/projects (the ones that will help you get to your goals). The little stuff that comes up all the time is the “water”. You won’t need to schedule that in. It will arrive everyday in your email.
5. Less is more
If you want to spend more time on the things that matter and maximize your strengths, then you need to get rid of all the other stuff.
Last week I wrote a post here about the man who I think is the expert at getting rid of things you should not do, Tim Ferriss. In his book The 4 hour workweek Tim describes 3 approaches to losing work you should not be doing: eliminate, automate and delegate.
Eliminate: get rid of all work that is just not worth doing. Does the work take you towards your goals? If not, get rid of the task altogether if you can.
Automate: we live in a world of technology. There are a myriad of web based platforms and mobile apps out there. If we face a task that must be done but is repititive in nature, can we automate it? Computers don’t mind doing tedious work.
Delegate: the world is flat! There are millions of smart workers in the world chomping at the bit to do tasks for a low cost that may not be your strength but may need to be done. Check out online platforms like eLance to find freelancers a plenty.
6. Tweak it
Start planning your time. Live the plan and then every now and then log your time. Are you spending more time on activities that lead you to your goals? Do you feel happier? More fulfilled? Adjust your calendar for the next week accordingly and repeat.
You may feel like you have more time.