Everyone has an opinion, anecdote, or horror story about women and work. Now the acclaimed author of What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast shows how real working women with families are actually making the most of their time.
“Having it all” has become the subject of countless books, articles, debates, and social media commentary, with emotions running high in all directions. Many now believe this to be gospel truth: Any woman who wants to advance in a challenging career has to make huge sacrifices. She’s unlikely to have a happy marriage, quality time with her kids (assuming she can have kids at all), a social life, hobbies, or even a decent night’s sleep--but what if balancing work and family is actually not as hard as it’s made out to be? What if all those tragic anecdotes ignore the women who quietly but consistently do just fine with the juggle?
Instead of relying on scattered stories, time management expert Laura Vanderkam set out to add hard data to the debate. She collected hour-by-hour time logs from 1,001 days in the lives of women who make at least $100,000 a year, and she found some surprising patterns in how these women spend the 168 hours that every one of us has each week. Overall, these women worked less and slept more than they assumed they did before they started tracking their time. They went jogging or to the gym, played with their children, scheduled date nights with their significant others, and had lunches with friends. They made time for the things that gave them pleasure and meaning, fitting the pieces together like tiles in a mosaic—without adhering to overly rigid schedules that would eliminate flexibility and spontaneity. With examples from hundreds of real women, I Know How She Does It proves that women don’t have to give up the things they really want.
Laura Vanderkam is the author of several time management and productivity books, including: The New Corner Office Off the Clock I Know How She Does It What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast 168 Hours
Laura is also the author of a time management fable, Juliet’s School of Possibilities and another novel, The Cortlandt Boys, which is available as an ebook.
Her 2016 TED talk, "How to Gain Control of Your Free Time," has been viewed more than 5 million times.
She regularly appears in publications including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, and Fortune.
She is the host of two weekly podcasts, Before Breakfast and The New Corner Office and she is the co-host, with Sarah Hart-Unger, of the weekly podcast Best of Both Worlds.
She lives outside Philadelphia with her husband and five children, and blogs at LauraVanderkam.com.
In reading Vanderkam's I Know How She Does It, I found myself alternately nodding my head and then vigorously shaking it saying, "No, no, no, she's missing the point." There is some interesting info in here, but I felt like this was a somewhat soulless book. For one thing, Vanderkam focused on women who are in white collar jobs making some nice bank (or so it seemed). She also just kept hammering away at the idea that we all DO have spare time to do the things we really want to do...which is true (I mean, really, it's all about priorities, right?). But in my mind, she never quite answered the question of WHY do we all feel so spent and harried, if in fact we have enough spare time to pursue our dreams and desires? To be fair, this was not what she set out to do with the book, but as I continued to read, the question nagged at me with increasing urgency.
Feeling dissatisfied, I next read Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time by Brigid Schulte. And where I Know How She Does It failed for me...Overwhelmed really hit the mark. Not only did Schulte provide ample research and info to answer the question of why we feel so, well, overwhelmed by modern life, but she also provided excellent suggestions and tips on how to manage things better (on an individual basis and as a society).
I still got some useful info & tips from Vanderkam's book on how to manage the demands of modern life, but many of them are way more applicable to women who have far larger incomes (she has a cleaning service come in 2x a week. A WEEK, yo. I can count on one hand how many people I know who have a cleaning service at all).
Overall, I'm glad I read it. But having read Schulte's book, I'd say the latter is far more compelling and useful.
Laura Vanderkam is a journalist, time management expert and author of What The Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast. I Know How She Does It is her latest piece of productivity porn, a cheeky take on Alison Pearson's 2003 comedy of manners, I Don't Know How She Does It, about the gendered notion of 'having it all.'
I Know How She Does It showcases ‘highly successful’ women’s methods for finding time for their careers, their families and themselves, and explains how their lower flying counterparts can adapt them for their own use. However Vanderkam’s definition of success is conventional and incredibly narrow. The inclusion criteria for the women she studied was: they had to have at least one child under 18 living at home, and earn a minimum of $100,000.
Her suggestions for avoiding ‘I Can’t Fit It All In Syndrome’ come from her analysis of 143, 7-day time logs in which her subjects recorded what they did in every half hour slot between waking up and going to sleep. The surprising findings were that they slept more than they thought, spent more time with their kids than they thought and spent less time at work.
According to Vanderkam we constantly tell ourselves that we never have enough time, which isn’t true. She believes that we buy into dominant narratives about the futility of trying to combine ambition with a good quality of life, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. We also dwell on the occasions when everything’s gone spectacularly badly diary-wise. But for her this isn’t the whole story. In reality we make choices about how we use our time and, as well as the stressful, anecdote-worthy moments, there are life-affirming and fun ones too.
There’s some helpful and do-able advice: banish unnecessary, self-imposed expectations, use scraps of time productively, try to achieve balance over the 168 hours there are in a week (instead of over 24 hours), and be careful about saying yes.
But not one of the 3 sections (work, home and self) contain anything transformational. Vanderkam encourages us to fit in exercise wherever we can, make chores fun and develop basic competence in the kitchen. And her high earners decide what’s most important to them and slot everything else in around it. They set boundaries, plan, protect time for their goals, order stuff online, schedule romantic time and minimize the amount of TV they watch. Not exactly mind-blowing stuff.
A lot of Vanderkam’s pointers (don’t be cheap when it comes to childcare, if you’re going to outsource housekeeping, do it to a level that genuinely lightens your load and volunteer at your children’s outings), are based on the assumption that the majority of women have the option to work flexibly, and the resources to pay for high quality childcare and household help.
Vanderkam fails to take many things into account, including: rigid working patterns, the fact that not everyone’s wealthy and that, for huge swathes of women, some of whom are on decent salaries, not only is affordable childcare hard to find, it’s the equivalent of a second mortgage, and can be the difference between being economically active or not.
Although it claims to offer hints and tips for all, I Know How She Does It is largely a guide for well-heeled, professional women. Granted Vanderkam’s main recommendation is a change in mindset when it comes to building a satisfying life, and that costs zilch. But most women simply don’t have the opportunities, or means, to put her ideas into practice.
A few pages into this book, I decided I shouldn't read any more of this author's work. Some of her research is interesting, but her idea of success is narrow and boring, and reading this book made me feel like I got cornered by that person at the cocktail party who won't shut up about her stock portfolio and her house in the Hamptons. We don't have much in common and probably shouldn't get together for coffee sometime.
I was reading Laura Vanderkam’s “I Know How She Does It” when news broke of the racist killing of nine churchgoers in South Carolina. At first, it felt meaningless to be mining the book for time-saving strategies and productivity tips as the nation (or some of it anyway) went into mourning. It felt absurd to read a self-help book when I could be toppling confederate monuments or lobbying for gun control.
Yet I kept turning the pages. And I realized that in the face of senseless violence, I was comforted by Vanderkam’s assertion that we have plenty of time to do the things that matter to us. Even toppling monuments to oppression or lobbying for change.
We have the time — we just don’t recognize or appreciate it, she argues. “The math is straightforward,” she writes to her audience of women juggling careers and families.
“There are 168 hours in a week. If you work 50, and sleep 8 per night (56 hours per week in total), that leaves 62 hours for other things. If you work 60 hours and sleep 8 hours per night, that leaves 52 hours for other things.”
And truly, very few people work more than 60 hours a week, according to Vanderkam’s research, despite the stories they tell.
She conducted a study, The Mosaic Project, that asked participants to: “Write down what you’re doing, as often as you remember, in as much detail as you wish to share.” Participants used spreadsheets broken into 15- or 30-minute increments or apps, like Toggl, to keep track.
Vanderkam’s research lacks the rigor of an academic study. She notes that she’s working with a small, unrepresentative sample of high-earning women with children. The moms recorded their own hours and their behavior likely changed a bit as a result of the scrutiny. Who wouldn’t read to their child a little more than usual when they have to write it all down?
Though time tracking isn’t perfect, it’s a vast improvement over just asking people how they spend their time, which is what much research does. People get this wrong in a variety of ways. Without conscientiously logging hours, they are just guessing. And they are guessing under the influence of systematic bias.
“If everyone in your industry talks about their eighty-hour workweeks, even if logs show they’re probably averaging fifty-five hours, you will talk about your eighty-hour workweeks too,” Vanderkam writes. “In a world where we complain about how busy we are, we’re not going to mention that five out of seven nights per week we sleep just fine. It’s the night that a kid woke up at two a.m. and you had to catch a seven a.m. flight that you talk about at parties or mention in your departure memo.”
Our challenge then is to “arrange the tiles” of our career, family and other interests into mosaics of activity that are uniquely our own, versus trying to wedge ourselves into tired narratives of what life should look like. Happy marriages, quality time with children, a social life and (gasp) sleep are all possible, Vanderkam asserts.
There’s time for reading, reflection and activism, too, I thought.
Each chapter of the book features spreadsheets showing how a real woman accounted for the 168 hours in her week. Often, the women found that they slept more and worked less than they thought. And, notably, they managed their lives not with dramatic sacrifices but with basic choice making.
Can’t make it home for dinner with the family every night? So what, make breakfast your time to bond. Want to make some big moves in your career? Take it easy on the housework. It’s not the decisions themselves so much as the grief we give ourselves about not meeting unrealistic standards in every area of our lives every day that gets us down, Vanderkam suggests.
Hearing the voices (and seeing the schedules) of numerous real women with real children working real jobs is instructive—and often humorous. The time logs contain gems like “Kids in bed w/o bath and only 1 brushed teeth as both were stoned on sugar.” We can see ourselves in each of the women and be reminded to take the good with the stressful and keep it moving.
One quibble with the book is that it wasn’t ambitious enough. It argues that we have time for work and family, but I wish it had gone a step further to describe the kind of impact our work can have when we commit to it. At times “I Know How She Does It” feels like a book about navigating snow days and flexible work schedules, when women are desperate for a book about thriving and making a difference. I found myself craving some anecdotes about the powerful organizations and life-saving technologies moms are developing while their kids sleep and play.
Still, Vanderkam brings a welcome pragmatism and optimism to discussions of work-family conflict. “If you believe, like I do, that the good life can be a full life—a level full life or even a heaping full life—then I invite you to study how you place the tiles of your time, energy, and attention,” she writes. “I invite you to think about the pattern with the goal, over time, of making an even more satisfying picture.”
“I Know How She Does It” arrived at the right time for me. I’ve recently relocated to a new city and, without a full schedule or longstanding commitments, I have great flexibility to shape my days. I’ve spent most of my time on unpacking and household concerns, but a more satisfying picture would show considerable time spent on the literacy and advocacy work I find meaningful.
Laura, thanks for the reminder that I’ve got 168 hours to invest this week. Plenty of time to get to work.
I do not fault Vanderkam at ALL for focusing on women with families who make $100,000+ a year. That is a super easy bench-marker socially for "successful" and the ideal "she has it all" woman. So her explaining all of that in chapter one made some of the obvious privilege things in this book work for me.
That said: holy hell, I LOVED this book. Talk about a productivity guide and look at time management that makes perfect sense, especially for someone who works non-traditional hours and who chooses energy management, rather than strict hour-by-hour management. Vanderkam had successful women fill out half-hour "mosaics" of how they use their time in a week; looking at the picture for 168 hours a week makes so much more sense than trying to micromanage 24 hours a day. I'm going to try this and see what it looks like.
Her results essentially show a lot of what bothers me in life: "busy" is a narrative we love, "tired" is a narrative we love, and both are total lies. Most people work fewer than 40 hours and most people sleep 7+ hours per night over the course of a week. There's no shame in any of that, but rather, it's enlightening knowing that people love to buy into false narratives of management/tips/tricks/hacks/what have yous.
I'm going to go back and read some of Vanderkam's other books. But she's definitely given me food for thought on how to pair up activities in order to get the most out of them (i.e., if there's a TED talk I want to watch, perhaps I can pair it with a 15 minute elliptical workout and do double duty without needing to "find time" -- it's there already, I just need to make it work for me).
I was underwhelmed by this book. While it was fascinating to see how women in high paying jobs juggled their commitments, most of the information wasn't new and most women working with kids will be used to trying to make it work...somehow.
The tone of the book regarding family life and personal growth just seemed a bit soulless. You're getting great family time if you're just managing to sit down to eat with children at the same time, and it's a great thing to be getting up at 5am to cram a cardio session in at the gym before continuing on with a full schedule of work and running around kids. Oh, and it's also great to then carry on working when the kids go to bed and not enjoy such a terrible thing as watching TV (which could be documentaries, period drama, classic film/theatre for example) or just doing something quiet and enjoyable. Where are the lie ins, long breakfasts, time with families and friends just hanging out, quality time with children, individual hobbies? Slowing down at all didn't seem to be a respectable option.
In my mind, there were a few cases when women didn't have it all and Laura Vanderkam's acceptance and promotion of work driven lives and everything else fitting in around it didn't do it for me.
I am a SAHM homeschooling mom of four kids, and therefore far from both the group studied for this book and probably its target audience as well. That said, I enjoyed the many real-life stories from both the women whose logs were analyzed and from the author's own life, and I found many insights that would be valuable to anyone attempting to build and maintain a full life while also raising a family.
Ms. Vanderkam herself is self-employed and has in-home childcare, so I imagine that some readers may bristle at a few aspects of her time log analysis (for example, she does not count commuting time as work when analyzing time logs). Overall, though, I felt that her insights and the suggested strategies gleaned from analyzing successful moms' time logs were practical and valuable regardless of individual work and family circumstances. While many books on this topic seem to offer innumerable suggestions to "do it better and faster so you can fit more in," Vanderkam's approach is significantly more thoughtful. In a nutshell, I would say that she encourages women to analyze the way that they spend their time similarly to the way one might evaluate monetary spending, to decide whether time is being spent according to one's goals and values, and then to make adjustments accordingly. It is a refreshing mind shift message that is intended to inspire, not admonish, and one that most anyone can benefit from. I highly recommend this book.
I liked this book, but I didn't love it. I know the author a bit online, we are alumni of the same University, and I really liked her previous book, 168 hours. This one's strengths are similar, but the rest of it is not as compelling.
First, the positives: 1. The idea to think in 168 hours (a week) instead of 24 (a day) is the insight of Vanderkam's that has been the most consistently useful to me. I tend to fare poorly with any kind of program that insists on daily goals: daily word count, daily exercise, daily violin practice, etc. I invariably miss a day and then waste time and energy beating myself up about that. I also tend to get bored and anxious, and procrastinate when I face having to do the same thing every day, especially if it's something relatively complex that takes a long time. Whereas I can get on board with doing something 4 or 5 days a week, maybe in different circumstances or at different times of day. 2. Her Strategy 6 for using bits of time, starting on p. 194 of the Nook version that I read, is IMO worth the price of the book. I don't think everyone will feel that way about it, but this is one area of time management in which I am especially weak. It's similar in some ways to the "List of 100 dreams" that she recommends in 168 hours, but I could never make that list; it was too daunting. This list is already made for me, and I can use it right away. Overall, Chapter 9 of this book, strategies for Mastering the Tiles, is helpful and snappy. It's something you can read in 5-10 minutes and there's probably something in there for most people that will boost your productivity and make you feel better. 3. Her insight about the power of narratives to shape thinking is both obvious and profound. I think most people start out almost unaware of the narratives that shape their lives, and the process of maturing brings this into sharper and sharper focus. I found myself thinking about the narratives that have shaped my life; they are different from the author's, but the book gave me space to do so.
Now the not-so-positives: 1. I found this book's tone to be annoyingly preachy and somewhat repetitive. It was also, in aggregate, kind of boring. The insight that the stories and narratives we tell ourselves have power is wonderful, but the author's only use of that insight is to hammer away at the notion that the dominant cultural narrative, that as a group, mothers who work outside the home are overwhelmed and stressed out by trying to fit in work and family life, is just wrong. I think she overstates both the cultural dominance of this narrative and its wrongness and thereby undermines her otherwise good points. Just because you are paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you. Sometimes. 2. I also found some of the advice to be obnoxious, in particular the notion that it's easier to ask forgiveness than permission. It may be easier to ask forgiveness than permission, but I think that in order to actually obtain said forgiveness, one has to be quite privileged in some way. If you're not so privileged, rather than being forgiven, you may be taught a lesson or made an example of. I've seen that happen, and experienced it myself, more than once. 3. The advice to delegate or just blow off administrative/housekeeping tasks is frustrating as well because the author doesn't seem to understand fundamentally why most people do these tasks in the first place. She says that if you don't do them, "the world will keep spinning on its axis." She also says that if you don't answer email, if it's really important the other person will remind you of it again. And in another chapter, she talks about people who quit working at a consulting firm because they were tired of long hours and travel--but had unused vacation time. Apparently in her view the only factor in their not taking the vacation time was the worker's attitude, the company's or coworkers' needs and expectations were irrelevant. Just take the vacation time, she says. In all these examples, she assumes, without evidence, that any negative consequences to these decisions are all in people's heads. Under that worldview, if you could just get over your inflated sense of self-importance and take the time off, blow off the email, etc. nothing bad would happen to you. I have direct experience that this is not always--or necessarily even often--the case. Blowing off people's emails and delegating administrative scut work to others is inconsiderate and makes people justifiably angry and resentful. Sometimes you don't take vacation time because the work doesn't go away just because you did--you may find, upon getting back, that you are more overwhelmed than before you left, and you have resentful colleagues to deal with on top of it.
Perhaps much of this attitude is a consequence of the fact that, for this book, the author only interviewed women making $100K a year or more. She explains why in the introduction, and the reasons make sense, but that decision does limit the book's utility for the rest of us.
I don't know. I have read a couple of books about time management--specifically about working moms and I think this one isn't my favorite. I walked away feeling like the author was saying, "stop whining, work more, and don't feel bad about it." It seemed very heavily skewed toward work with not as much emphasis on the home/family/self care front, which I think is okay because I'm not sure I would consider her a credible source on those topics anyway.
I could write a lot more about this, but I'll keep in short. I did agree with a few of her points--that busy-ness shouldn't be a badge of honor but rather we should take honest looks at our how time is spent and re-frame that we do likely have more leisure and downtime than we realize. But I don't think she and I have the same philosophies or ideas about how we'd like our family lives and parenting lives to go. And while she is entitled to her ideas and conclusions (and to even write a book about it.) I'm feeling pretty good about what I value, the conclusions that I've come to (so far) and look forward to continuing to write my story about how I spend my time with those values in mind.
This book is really only going to resonate with a tiny percentage of working moms. I didn't realize when I started reading it that it was geared toward moms who make more than $100,00, have really flexible jobs, work traditional weekday hours, and have a partner who also has a really flexible job. (unicorns?) In this world, people can run personal errands while on the clock, leave the workplace when they are 'done', and arrive to work when it's convenient for them! They don't need a book. I will sum it up : hire out all of the housework and child care that you can! Get that au pair and have your housekeeper come in several times a week and bring other adults into your house to do the grudge work! (just get a 50s housewife already!)
It also insists that we don't spend as much time working as we think we do. It actually says "when you are at work, how much of that time is spent running out to the dentist or doing personal work on the computer?" Ummm 0, 0 minutes !!! ALL of my work time is actually spent working and I don't think this makes me unique. Who are these people who make 6 figures and are facebooking while on the clock and who just leave for random dentist appointments?
And if you can afford an au pair, nanny/housekeeper, or other adult that you move in to be the 'housewife' , do you really need a book to tell you to do that? Have you not already thought of that?
AND where is the running around? I looked at these logs of how they spent their day and I didn't see the "run to grocery store, music store for reeds, oh need to go get toner for printer, what? you need wax for braces...stop at ortho" etc etc that takes up a lot of my time and those of other parents I know. Is someone else doing this running around? A few had a little of this but the majority had none!
Overall, I found it condescending and not relatable. While yes, it's true that I have 'free time', what this book doesn't acknowledge is that it's in snippets. It's not like I have 2-3 hours a day to start and finish a project etc. I have 15 minutes here, 20 minutes there, oh, you have an extra music lesson today, look 30 minutes of reading time ....so I do seize those "free" moments and don't squander them but this whole "you have 168 hours a week" ok but I also have kids 168 hours a week, even when they are in school, they still get sick and have to come home or have snow days etc.
I have it 2 stars instead of 1 because it did have a few organizing tips and snippets about being proactive I found helpful.
This whole book could have been condensed into one chapter (IMHO)
«Якщо хочеш знати, як щось устигнути, запитай у зайнятої людини.»
Такий вислів цитує Лора Вандеркам у розділі своєї книги, присвяченому часу на дозвілля.
Так, якщо твій тиждень розписаний по хвилинах, - ти навчаєшся більше цінувати час, в тому числі той, який вдається викрасти для себе (і лише для себе).
До народження дитини я вважала себе дуже зайнятою людиною, яка нічого не встигає із запланованого. Але все одно в моїх днях знаходилось дуже багато витрачених на марно годин, які можна було використовувати з набагато більшою користю.
Тепер у ролі мами дивлюся на час більш виваженіше. Звичайно, всі ми люди і часто й надалі доводиться себе картати, що ось ці півгодини не варто було гортати фейсбук, краще б попрацювала чи почитала. Але все ж якось у моїй голові дні стали більш структурованими. І, мабуть, щоб до цього дійти, - не обов‘язково власне народжувати дитину, хоча в моєму випадку сталося так.
Тому під час читання «Я знаю, як їй все вдається» я ловила себе на думці, що «о, я ж так і стараюся робити». Відтак, багато стратегій з тайм-менеджменту, описаних у книзі, можуть видатися банальними, але в своєму комплексі матеріал дуже цінний.
Так, золоте правило пані Вандеркам - вирватися із пастки 24 годин. Не обов‘язково усі потрібні та обов‘язкові справи старатися втискати в одну добу, а потім падати духом, що ось, я знову нічого не зробила. Це надзвичайно виснажливо і доводить до крайнощів.
Подивіться краще на 168 годин тижня та викладіть його мозаїку так, як вам найбільш до вподоби, орієнтуючись на блоки «робота», «дім, сім‘я», «я». І так ви зрозумієте, що «мати все» - це не утопія.
Але пам‘ятайте, що будь-що у вашому житті, навіть можливість зайнятися улюбленою справою чи відпочити, залежить тільки від вас і ваших зусиль. Тому замість того, щоб сидіти та нити, краще в цей же момент і почати діяти.
A lot of good insights that I found mostly applied to me, as a father who wants to get lots of time with my family as well as have a successful career and enjoy my free time.
1. After sleep and work, we still have 60-70 hours a week for everything else. 2. Worrying about what we're supposed to be doing and how things should be leads to doing work that turns out to be useless when it's immediately canceled out (picking up toys every night, Inbox Zero). Do things that have the best chance of having the results you want. 3. Find unconventional ways to meet your goals (exercise during lunch, have family breakfast instead of family dinner). 4. You don't have to be able to do something every day or at the same time every day to make it happen regularly (go for a run Monday, take a walk at lunch time Tuesday, get exercise by taking the kids to the zoo on Saturday, go running while everyone else is napping on Sunday to get four days of exercise instead of zero because you couldn't wake up at 5:30 AM every morning). 5. When estimating tasks, don't leave out essential parts of the task (unloading groceries from the car, getting called back to the kids' room 2 or 3 times before they go to sleep). 6. Don't skimp on things that will pay off (cleaning service, child care). 7. There's no such thing as martyr points. 8. Work with bad habits instead of fighting against them (instead of having your first alarm go off 30 minutes before you want to get up, move it up 20-25 minutes and get that much extra snooze-free sleep).
The author doesn't have a lot of sympathy for the complaint that there isn't enough time, but she has data to back it up.
I have a confession to make. I am slightly obsessed with productivity and time management content. So I am always on the lookout for influencers, blogs and books on these topics. And that's how I came across this author and her books, as she is well known in the genre, and has several books to choose from. Though I picked this one first, because well..title. Totally fell for it.
I Know How She Does It revolves around the study & results of the author's 'Mosaic Project', which is her large-scale time diary study of high earning women who seem to have it all, which the author - for the purpose of this study, defined as - women who have a home, family, at-least one child, and $100,000/per year pay check.
Now I understand that every kind of study needs a focus group, and is limited to that extent. But here's my biggest grouse with this book - the author not only limited her study to the focus group, but the solutions to them too.
Essentially she solved many 'first world problems of time management', so to speak. Because most of the solutions in this book assumed that women had significant control on their scheduled working hours, and lots of cash to throw at outsourcing things that were not critical or high priority.
Which meant even though the author might know 'How She Does It' (she = rich women with flexible work schedules), she doesn't shed much light on 'How You Can Do It Too' (you = most of the female populace).
So then that kind of defeats the purpose of a self-help book like this one, right? Interesting info, but not much in the form of actionable advice.
That being said, it wasn't a completely pointless read for me. Because this book did inspire me to look at my time in a new way: 168 hours vs 24 hours. And when I started looking at my life in a block of a week versus a day, I realized I have more work life balance than I believed I did. Which made me feel better about my current time and task management strategies, and life in general. So there's that.
Quotes/Ideas from this book that stayed with me-
There are no points for Martyrdom. No one wins in the Misery Olympics -- This cannot be reinforced enough number of times!
Especially when it comes to Time Management - The perfect can be the enemy of the good. - Yes it can! And it's my number one struggle when it comes to Time Management. So I personally need this posted somewhere I can see every day!
This book made me mad. On the one hand, the author's research on time diaries is interesting, and there are some good data. But the conclusions reached by the author are really annoying. For example, she says something like, if people say they work 60-hour weeks, they don't really -- they aren't counting when they took off for a doctor's appointment or took a lunch break. She factors in vacation time taken, sick time taken, etc., and claims we work less than we think. WTF?! Of course people take vacation time, that doesn't mean they don't work 60 hour weeks! 60 isn't meant to be the numerical average hours they work. She also suggests looking at your time not by day, but by week, and concludes that you probably spend plenty of time with your kids if you hang out with them Saturday and put them to bed Tuesday and Thursday, while working on Sunday and the other weekday evenings. She also seems to believe that you can't be successful without working long hours. Since all moms experience mommy guilt, this may be a good book for women who work long hours, like working long hours, and feel guilty about working long hours because they have kids. But instead of using her data to convince women that long hours aren't really long and that it's fine, I wish she used her data to help lobby for better worker protections, since all positions exempt from the law (Fair Labor Standards Act) have no protections of hours, and employers take advantage of people (and why wouldn't they, if it helps them make money?).
I do like Laura Vanderkam but this book took me awhile to push through and some of her suggestions as to how to make the most of your time just don't work for me. Her idea of just letting dishes pile up so that you do them all at once is something I just can't handle - it's not how I work. In response she would say, "let it go" and in response to her I would say, "but I don't like living with ants." Also her suggestion of "if you are going to pay for housekeeping really pay for it" - I am happy that she and her husband seem to have an inexhaustible budget - we have someone who comes in and does the big jobs (for which I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE) and in all honesty, I would love to have this woman come in everyday and take care of everything but in reality - I also like having money to spend on other things besides paying someone else to do my laundry (which continues to be one of my most hated tasks).
I really do like the idea of doing weekly planning on Fridays and I also really love the idea of being much more thoughtful about using work time and home time wisely. There were some good things in here but also some things that were hard to stomach.
I really enjoyed this audiobook, read by the author. It made me think differently about my time, and how I use it. Lots of great suggestions for restructuring your work day, thinking differently about the time available to you throughout the week, taking advantage of unexpected time, and more. Some of my favorite suggestions were to schedule meetings early in the day so you don't spend your day thinking about and anticipating them, to not start your work day with email and instead give yourself time to really dive into something that takes an hour or two - then get to email and other things, and to schedule somewhere between 3 and 5 things for your weekend so you don't just let it waste away. These could be as simple as a movie night with a spouse. I've noticed lately that when we get out and do a few things during the weekend, the days feel so much longer and more fulfilling. I'm also looking forward to listening to more audiobooks while doing the dishes, squeezing in journal writing during unexpected time, and thinking of other fun hobbies I can squeeze in spare time.
My aha moment came after reading page 228, "don't set the alarm for 5 am daily. Yes, daily rituals are nice, but they're not the only strategy for building a productive life." She said this in regards to making time to exercise and it made a light bulb go off over my head, as I have been working on my morning routines since I started a new job in May. This book could have have come at a more perfect time for me. I enjoy the various anecdotes mixed with practical advice. I did not spend much time looking at the logs, although they are interesting. I love how the author combats the common narratives with real data and anecdotes from successful women. I probably need to buy this so I'm reminded of the strategies she suggests when I'm feeling stuck.
I am probabably NOT the right demographic for this book. Yes I am a women but I do not make over 100,000/year nor do I have children under the age of 18 as all the women in this book did. However this book was intriguing and interesting to me and I found some of its data I could replicate in my own life which I liked. I really like her 168 hour week stance, instead of 24 hour days or trying to get everything done Monday to Friday she talks about the whole seven days that make up a week and when you think of it like that, you do have time to get things done. And different things are important to different people so you should do what works best for you and your family and ignore any nay-seyers.
The good: I found a couple of helpful or insightful suggestions of ways that I can further streamline my week in order to get more out of the allotted hours in my life.
The "meh": I honestly don't know how or why this is a completely separate book from Vanderkam's "168 Hours" as there are very few new pieces of information. It's just repackaged. The biggest difference is that she used a data set from 143 women who have a) at least one child under the age of 18 and b) make $100,000 dollars or more per year. I feel like Vanderkam and this group of women can always work more hours, and I felt that the measure of success was primarily surrounding work. Here's what: I am on salary, I don't get more money for working more hours. Also? Working 10 extra hours per week is not going to lead me to a promotion. Perhaps I'm in the wrong job (totally a possibility), but "work" is a means to an end, not a measure of success for me. I had to keep substituting Vanderkam's "work" terms for "projects that I find satisfaction doing and which bring me joy." Sure, I'd love to arrange my life so I can easily spend an additional 10 hours doing that. (Vanderkam is an author and freelance writer, she has a very different relationship to working hours than I do. The more she works, the more money she earns. Not the case for me.)
I am still baffled at Vanderkam's lack of real insight into so many average American families, I think she should try the "$2 a day" challenge, or try to live a month on a $35,000/annual salary, see how it changes her perspective of what most of us face everyday. I don't think I can read another book by her until then. Ditto Gretchen Rubin. (Also? I would like to see Vanderkam, Rubin, and Marie Kondo duke it out in a battle of wills to see which extreme lifestyle wins out! Pro tip: it's somewhere inbetween those three extremes.)
How to make the best use of time is something that fascinates me and eludes me. I hoped to find some helpful advice in this book. Instead, this book only centered around women making at least $100,000 independently (because those are the only hardworking, successful women according to the author...?). The problem is that wealthy women can afford to outsource a lot of their more menial tasks (laundry, cooking, cleaning, etc). Also, the writing style was incredibly dry. I didn't just want a bunch of time sheets and quantitative data. I wanted real-life, rich stories about how women beat the clock everyday. I'm still waiting for that book. My only takeaway from this book was skimming the last half to avoid wasting my time. So I guess I did learn something?
This book disappointed me. The first few chapters depicted how I could have it easier as a working mom if I tried to negotiate flexibility. Um not all moms can do that. I was also put off by her decision to focus only on moms earning at least. $100K annually. Don't all moms deserve to know how they could make their lives easier? Subsequent chapters were technically helpful but not at all related to my life - I do travel but won't be hiring a supplemental nanny any time soon.
This could have been a useful book but I feel its focus on women making at least $100K and focus on those women's reality make it not very useful.
I should stop hate-reading Laura "I like to drink red wine and eat a few pieces of dark chocolate as an indulgence" Vanderkamp. This is a book about how women who make over 100k per year manage their time. Spoiler: the succesful ones outsource a lot of labour (esp meal prep, which is more effective to outsource than cleaning), are lax about cleaning routines, and work from 8-5, then 7-8. That's the secret!
It is slightly helpful only if you have fallen down a Youtube Rabbit Hole of cleaning routines.
I loved this book - I think it is so applicable to anyone, no matter their life circumstances, to help you think through your priorities, how to streamline your schedule, and how to make room for what matters in life to you (and what you can let go of).
This was a book that has some useful yet common sense principles, but is written through the lens of privilege and disconnectedness. The book is meant for working moms who are sick of hearing “you can’t have it all.” I am not a mother, but I still thought it might be an interesting read because that statement drives me nuts. It starts off with the author discussing berry picking with her family and a sign that says “the berry season is short.” The analogy to life is a good one. I’m a person for example that feels the need to be very active because you never know when something could shorten that window. This phrase then leads the author into talking about how to make the most of your time. The idea of logging your entire week (and not just a day) and how you spent the entire 168 hours as a whole is a good one. I’m sure she is correct that most people think they have less free time than they really do and it’s about multi-tasking, priorities, and being flexible in order to try to fit all the important things in. However, her view of success is narrow. It’s only working mothers (sorry stay at home moms) of high powered jobs making over $100,000 who can still make it to all their kids games and plan fun family activities. The bulk of the book is the women in this category she surveyed. It totally misses the majority of working moms and the amount of privilege the women have is never highlighted. They have flexible well-paying jobs with sick and vacation time. Not every mom can skip out of work early or choose to work from home one day a week. She touches briefly on a mom who has a child with cystic fibrosis and I think there might be one mention of single moms, but it really doesn’t encompass all the types of moms and what they have to manage. She has some practical advice and I am actually logging my 168 hour week now, but she seems clueless as to the majority of the population and most of the advice will make you say, “no shit.” Telling moms how to fit in French lessons and yoga classes for themselves is far outside the majority’s priority of trying to survive while having some fun.
There were some great takeaways from this book. One: look at your time over the span of a week vs a day. I.e.: you may not be able to exercise every morning at 5 am because life happens, but perhaps you can squeeze in a walk one day, or wake up in the morning just a couple of days a week. Also, it can be depressing if you just look at what little you accomplish on any given day, but more encouraging to see what you can do in the span of a week.
I also loved this idea of looking at your life as a series of mosaics. It is so common for us as humans to focus on the challenging aspects of a day, etc. However, if we view our days/weeks/experiences as mosaics we can choose to focus on those brighter spots: the great conversations we had with kids, those brief meaningful moments and not just at the darker parts like when we yelled or had no patience.
The book just helped me think outside of the box--to be a bit more creative and also intentional with the use of time, etc. As a SAHM, it is easy to dismiss family time/weekend time etc as it is plentiful. But it also means that I don't use it wisely. I like how this book gave me ideas of how I could be more intentional with how I spend my time both with my family and also for myself.
Although I'm not its target audience (moms who work and make lots of $), I still found this book incredibly inspiring. Vanderkam imparts many useful nuggets of information, which I'm already using to make my life more efficient, meaningful and, just, better. I absolutely recommend this book if you're looking to improve your time management, regardless if you have kids or not. I took notes and intend to revisit them. What this book taught me is worth 5 stars.
But, if I could, I'd give it 4.5 stars.....
Why? Vanderkam only reviewed the time logs of mothers who make more than $100,000 per year. There are lots (most, in fact) of mothers who make far less yet work just as many hours. The women profiled in this book have powerful jobs and make lots of money. As such, most have the luxury of working flexible hours and hiring housekeepers/nannies/au pairs/errand runners/etc. This isn't real life. This doesn't apply to most. Vanderkam herself said that only 4 percent of women make more than $100K per year.
I get it though - The point of this book is to study how successful women do it all. And Vanderkam achieved this. I hope she considers writing a complement to this book in the future -- how do women who lack big money jobs, husbands/support, etc., make it all work as well? That would be a far more relevant, compelling read.
3.5 stars. Some of this book is spent laying out strategies women use to piece together work, family, and personal time to create an overall mosaic that is fulfilling and achievable: flexibility in work place and hours, being intentional with time and tasks in work and at home, etc. Those parts read like a Women's Studies course textbook (definitely skimmable), not presenting anything new, but documenting the current landscape (mine included).
For me, the useful parts of this book provided perspective and encouragement to support women in the midst of this landscape, arming us to be successful. I appreciate the recognition of the important part work plays in a person's life, particularly in a woman's life, which doesn't disappear when she becomes a parent.
Three quotes from this book that I will take with me: 1. Life is stressful and life is wonderful; there is no contradiction here. These facts exist side by side. 2. The laundry can wait. Contentment shouldn't. 3. What is a deeply-held value, and what is merely a script memorized long ago? Sometimes life is hard for a good reason. Sometimes, narratives serve no purpose beyond keeping you from the life you want.