168 Hours: You have more time than you think (Part I)

Time is our most precious resource. This is what we of the FIRE movement are sacrificing and working hard to obtain: to be in charge of our time, to have more of it. So while it’s all good and everything to talk about money—how to save and invest it—us FIRE bloggers should also be examining the resource we’re striving to have more of: time.

Thinking about time and how I handle it led me to read 168 Hours: You Have More Time Thank You Think by Laura Vanderkam. I liked this book a lot (and would probably reread it sometime in the future) because I felt like I could connect with so many of the ideas because it was written from a working parent’s perspective. Her key message was: there’s time for anything that matters.

1) Distractions make us feel more pressured for time than we really are. So shut down that laptop or put down that phone when you’re talking to your people. Stop watching screens when you exercise—instead, get outside to stretch your legs and lungs, focus on breathing in and out.

2) And on that note, she made some excellent points about what to do while you’re exercising. Literally count your blessings and set long-range goals instead of letting your mind wander when you’re exercising. Though if it’s daylight and I’m running outside, I’m going to listen to a writing podcast. 😉

3) Regularly evaluate where things have gone wrong and strategize how to get back on track. I have decided to add that line to my weekly schedule as a question to assess the previous week’s activities.

4) TV isn’t “relaxing.” She backs it up with science (see page 185 of her book). TV isn’t as pleasurable as you think it is—you’re better off reading a book or whatever.

Spending all weekend surfing the web isn’t helping your recharge your batteries either—see part two of next week’s blog for more details on how to change your weekend to improve your leisure time and hence recharge your batteries.

5) You need two teams: a work team and a home team. I noticed in the acknowledgment section of J.K. Rowling’s latest book LETHAL WHITE (best one yet in that series!) Rowling thanked her “office and home support team.”

A work team supports your career, and a home team helps your focus on your core competencies and saves you time in your personal life.

It’s like I told Miss Bonnie (if you don’t know this awesome female physician blogger, check her out here ) at Fin Con recently: draw a picture of the table of your life. Figure out who’s missing that would help you grow, then go after finding these people so they can have a seat at the table of influencing your one and only precious life. This is how you reach your full potential.

Aggressively working on this “table” aspect of my writer’s life allowed me to have a long list of amazing writers and mentors to thank last Saturday after the Florida Writers Association annual banquet. These people speaking into my life is the only way I won first place for unpublished book-length Fantasy in the Florida Writers’ Royal Palms Literary Awards (I’m still walking on cloud nine!).

Success doesn’t happen in a vacuum y’all.

6) Although I agree with her idea you should spend half an hour each night talking over your day with your spouse, I disagree when she wrote you should go away once a year with your spouse. DH and I took a marriage class shortly before we had our second son. It was eye-opening when we realized we were the only ones (besides the leaders) who hadn’t had affairs. Having kids and working wears on a marriage if the relationship is not properly tended to.

As long as you’re financially stable, you and your partner should be going away for two nights every quarter and a longer time once a year.

7) Being pulled in multiple directions makes you feel like you’re not doing a good job at anything. This makes sense. While I’m writing this blog, DH is in Poland with his dad, checking that trip off his dad’s bucket list. I set aside the entire first weekend he was away to go camping with the boys and focus on them for two days straight. By the third day (when they had a Monday off school), I needed a break, so I scheduled childcare and holed up in the library for an afternoon of writing.

Instead of staying at home, being interrupted every few minutes, feeling like I was doing a lousy job at both parenting and writing, I was able to be present in both time periods to focus solely either on the boys or my art. Having planned this out and executing it made me a happier person overall.

That experience, and reading this book, reinforced to me that I need to get out of the house to write. And that I need to make concentrated blocks of time in my schedule for family and writing—instead of trying to juggle both at the same time.


Next week we’ll look at how to optimize time and live a fuller life while juggling work and family. Until then, have a fantastic week! 

7 thoughts on “168 Hours: You have more time than you think (Part I)”

  1. Great post! Some comments on a couple of your points:

    1. With social media, text messages, emails, etc. it’s like we’re always “on call” in our daily lives. People check these so many times a day thinking it only takes a minute and don’t realise how much time it all adds up to. There is also now this expectation of answering back right away. Not to mention that it is distracting you from something else which makes that task take longer.

    I have noticed that I’m more likely to waste time with these things when I’m tired as I lack the focus or energy to do other things. Making sleep more of a priority makes me more productive. I’m still working that though. 😉

    3. I like this and plan to implement it immediately!

    6. If only that was possible!

    7. Yes! I’ve been struggling with this lately and feeling like I’m not doing anything well. I need to look at how I can restructure my days somehow to make dedicated blocks of time.

    1. Is it possible to somehow make a “child swap” option with a best friend so you can each take a kid for a night at first, then two nights? I have done children swap for a date night before with another couple and the kids loved it. (trying to think out of the box if having family around isn’t an option…I had friends in Germany who farmed out their large family to various kids’ friends for a week so they could get away on a cruise)

  2. Screen time (TV, computer, or smartphone) can certainly be a vacuum of time) and after engaging it you feel like you have accomplished nothing.

    Unfortunately it is a trend that I do not see ending anytime soon. In fact, and I’m guilty of it myself, sometimes we try to multi-task by doing 2 non-productive things at once (checking phone and watching TV at the same time) and you end up really being inefficient as you miss out on what’s said on TV and have to rewind, etc.

    I too feel that the best time for writing is when you carve it out (still easier said than done) and dedicate that time to create.

    1. Yeah, since reading that book I have taken a hard look at my schedule and carved blocks of time out—trying to ignore the guilty feeling that goes with that though…so much going on in our daily lives. Sigh. I need a Walden Pond….

  3. All of these are terrific points, but number four hits a particular nerve today.

    I went to the funeral of a friend’s mother this morning. Multiple family members shared anecdotes and recollections of a life well-lived.

    What struck me most was that the deceased had a tradition where, on the Jewish High Holidays, she would ask each member of her family to write 1) about their hopes and goals for the coming new year, and 2) where they’d fallen short in the past year, and how they intended to course correct.

    It was an exercise in vulnerability, a chance for family members to feel close and supported about things that might not come up in day to day conversation, and ultimately an opportunity to be grateful for the people in your life.

    The time management recommendations do precisely that – they enable presence with those we consider our top priorities.

    Thanks for the insightful post and actionable tips!



    1. CD, I LOVE this idea and just might copy it for us! I read about a woman (I think it was Shauna Niequist. I probably misspelled her name, but she’s a fantastic writer!) who has family members go around the table and say what they are thankful for about the person whose birthday it is when they celebrate birthdays. I loved that and try to do that—though I try to write down what people say and present it in written form after the dinner is done. My family seems to love this tradition now!

Leave a Reply