Much has been written and said about the “busy” generation we are in. Being ‘busy’ is the most common and acceptable excuse for skipping important things in life. What’s more, this excuse doesn’t even seem to come with an expiry date- we can go without meeting your friends for decades, watch our own health deteriorate from not giving a mere 20 minutes a day for a walk- and blame it safely on our ‘busy’ lives.
But, are we really that busy?
“Off the clock: Being less busy while getting more done” by Laura Vanderkam puts a hard lens on our stories of busyness. We all have 168 hours a week. Most of us work between 46-50 hours a week, sleep about 56-64 hours a week. That still leaves us with 54-68 hours a week for other things.
The weird thing is, we are all subtly conditioned to believe that being ‘busy’ and constantly pressed for time is seen as a good thing- even a thing of pride! Given this fact, its suddenly not surprising that people are found spending more and more time at the workplace, but less time actually working.
Laura lets some hard data do the talking. After analyzing the time logs( where people track their time for every half hour of their days) of over 900 people from all over the world, from all walks of life- Laura found that estimates about the time spent working were way above the actuals. This was true in her own case when she analyzed her own time logs for over 3 years. Laura brings to light the schedules of some very busy people, and surprisingly, their calendars carry a lot of white spaces, deliberately allowing a lot of time for reflection and interaction.
What makes Off The Clock stand out
While most books on productivity talk about getting things done effectively at work, Laura’s book presents a key difference: it talks about making relationships thrive by investing time in them just as you would for a business to thrive. She advocates setting explicit self and relationship goals as well to go on your weekly and quarterly calendars as well. Relationships- at home as well as at work need an investment of time.
That’s all very well, but how do the schedule of harried parents fit in, especially women? Between school, shunting between classes, juggling not only our own schedules but also those of babysitters – how do we do it? After all, isn’t the “Can women have it all” debate still hot?
It very much is. However, Laura provides the answer to the question through her own example. Having built a thriving career as a writer, speaker, blogger, podcaster, journalist while being the mother of 4 kids( all under the age of 10) Laura book presents simple strategies that can consequently fill a large time deficit.
Her strategies are applicable to a wide range of careers and lifestyles- case in point is the example of a mom, educator and aspiring writer who ends up writing and selling her book after tweaking her schedule just a wee bit – by moving her most put-off task to Monday mornings.
Her book provides instant inspiration to look at our so-called mundane experiences and revitalize our time by “tending to our garden.” Time has the unique quality of expanding when spent intentionally.
“People are a good use of time,” argues Laura, expressing disapproval over what the term “networking” has come to represent. This is especially relevant to moms- because any mom can relate to ample stories of women losing opportunities and promotions to men because the latter can afford to spend long evenings at ‘happy hour’ get-togethers and endless cocktail parties.
Her strategies to expand our days with people who matter to us – despite being responsible for a lot of other things seemed sensible and utterly doable. Her “Mom days” strategy jumped out at me- allocating dedicated days with one child every summer if you have multiple children, providing the much-needed window into the child’s mind as an evolving individual.
But for the fact that the same ideas seem to revolve around multiple themes, the interviews and strategies in the book present deceptively simple strategies to stretch out our time- even though we have the same 24 hours every day!