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168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think

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There are 168 hours in a week. This is your guide to getting the most out of them.

It's an unquestioned truth of modern life: we are starved for time. We tell ourselves we'd like to read more, get to the gym regularly, try new hobbies, and accomplish all kinds of goals. But then we give up because there just aren't enough hours to do it all. Or if we don't make excuses, we make sacrifices- taking time out from other things in order to fit it all in.

There has to be a better way...and Laura Vanderkam has found one. After interviewing dozens of successful, happy people, she realized that they allocate their time differently than most of us. Instead of letting the daily grind crowd out the important stuff, they start by making sure there's time for the important stuff. When plans go wrong and they run out of time, only their lesser priorities suffer.

Vanderkam shows that with a little examination and prioritizing, you'll find it is possible to sleep eight hours a night, exercise five days a week, take piano lessons, and write a novel without giving up quality time for work, family, and other things that really matter.

262 pages, Hardcover

First published May 26, 2010

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About the author

Laura Vanderkam

28 books1,022 followers
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.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,212 reviews
174 reviews43 followers
July 25, 2014
What a waste of several of my precious 168 hours! Like many people, I struggle with motivation and focus so I'm always looking for wisdom or advice on topics like time management, productivity. This has to be one of the worst how-to/self-help books I've ever read.

First, the book takes its basic premise from the Big Rocks philosophy - In a nutshell, the Big Rocks concept is to picture a jar and, next to it, rocks of various sizes from large to small. You put the big rocks in first, then medium ones, then small ones, then pebbles, then sand, then water. At first, it seems like the lesson is "there's always room for more" but the real lesson is that if you didn't put the big rocks in first, they never would have fit once all the small stuff had been put in. Then, you make the leap from physical big rocks to metaphorical ones, thinking about what in your own life is top priority, really important - and you work on putting your time and energy toward those big rocks.

Instead, she goes with the "core competency" metaphor which really only resonates if you've read a zillion business books (I have, so I was OK but I thought the analogy was we weak because people are not corporations and accomplishments are not finished products off a manufacturing line).

I'll save you several of your 168 hours by summing up her advice:

1. You're not really that busy.
-- Yes her observations are astute. Most people do exaggerate the hours they spend and the hours they have available. Still, the book starts out on a shame-y tone: you are a liar, you are not that busy, you're just too lazy because you are not working all the time. What is true is that most people feel busy because they feel overwhelmed. Even if they don't do everything they're supposed to in any given week, the list of things to be done in a week seems insurmountable. Better advice: look at that list hanging over you. What needs to get done this week? What can you plan to do (and, hardest part, stick to the plan) next week or the week after?

2. Start each week by mapping out how you plan to spend each of your 168 hours
-- This was the only real useful tip in the whole book and it was something I was already doing. If you look at your whole week's schedule and slot in all your Big Rocks first you set yourself up to actually work on them. For example, if you schedule in time for exercise or time to read, you are more likely to do those things vs. waiting for some free time to magically appear (it won't).

3. If you aren't good at something, don't bother trying to get better, it's a waste of your time.
-- She advises that you figure out what you're really good at, do only that and "outsource" everything else forgetting that many of us find joy and accomplishment in learning something new. To a certain extent, if you've spent hours trying to learn how to do/understand something and you're not making progress and you lack interest, then yes, it makes sense to give up and focus your efforts elsewhere. No one aspires to by Sisyphus. But to say you should only do what you are good at robs us of the excitement of lifelong learning.

4. Figure out what your dream job is and do that.
-- Well, my dream job is to be an astronaut. It's not going to happen. I am in my mid-30s, have no science education and a 15-year career doing something else. Almost every book in this genre makes a similar recommendation. I find it useless. If everyone were doing his/her dream job, would we have janitors? Port-a-potty maintenance crew, etc. Granted, there are some "undesirable" jobs that appeal to a handful of people (i.e. podiatrists, those people who rescue alligators/venomous snakes from human habitats) but most of us aren't working our actual, honest-and-true dream job. Better advice would be how to find meaning in your work, how to stay motivated and focused when the work gets boring (even dream jobs come with a side of tedious tasks), how to move forward, grow and get new challenges/opportunities in your field. Now, if you h-a-t-e your job, that's something to look at but I feel like many of us are working jobs that are medium-ish -- they are not too hard/too easy, they pay enough to pay the bills, there's an ebb and flow between challenge and overwhelmed -- where's the advice on how to make the most of that kind of job? The kind most of us have?

5. Just pay people to do your work.
-- Of all the advice this was the most jerky. Don't do laundry, pay $35/week to get it done. Don't clean your house, hire a housekeeper. Hire a gardener/ground crew, a nanny, a personal chef. Only do your grocery shopping online. Or buy pre-made meals (and she suggests weight loss companies, of all places, as good sources for a month's worth of food). Pay a personal shopper $400 for the day to help you pick out clothes at a store that sells really expensive clothes. What? How about: invest a bit of time in figuring out what kinds of clothes look good on you and sticking with a few core, classic looks. And, start with clothes that will last a while, then develop a relationship with a local tailor who can alter clothes to fit you perfectly. Basically, she suggests "outsourcing" all of the domestic chores. WHAT A SPLENDID IDEA. I would LOVE a personal chef, someone to run all my errands, a butler and a maid, to never weed or shovel snow again -- wouldn't you? The reality is, most of us can't afford to outsource all that work. It's more realistic to say, "outsource the thing you hate most." For us, we hire someone to clean our house every three weeks. It's a bit of a stretch but worth it because we both really, really, hate cleaning.

6. Have your personal assistant/executive assistant/secretary make your appointments, manage your schedule, and take care of the little tasks that add up.
OMG. HAHAHA. Seriously? Raise your hand if you have a dedicated assistant? OK, even if you do have an assistant, raise your hand if that assistant is tasked with managing your work schedule/calendar AND your personal schedule/calendar (i.e. haircuts, appointments, etc.). Yeah, didn't think so. Dear Laura Vanderkam: Mad Men is not a show that takes place in the present tense.

7. Friends are a waste of time. So is relaxing.
-- Another gem in this book is that time with friends is time wasted unless you are multi-tasking. Go out to eat with a friend (since you have to eat anyway) or somehow schedule time around something you need to do. Don't knit; she calls that a "cliche" forgetting that perhaps knitting's emerging popularity stems from the fact that people find happiness and a sense of accomplishment in doing it. She recommends watching less TV; I agree with that. She recommends watching no more than one hour of TV per day; I think that's unreasonable. If we are home, we watch Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy! and an episode or two of something on Netflix. If we're out, we're out; no TV. Over the course of a week there's an OK balance. Her point is that TV gets you nowhere toward your goals. That's true. What she neglects to understand is that the human brain needs a certain amount of downtime.

8. Sleep? Pssht. Be a morning person.
-- Sleep for 7 hours, max. 8 if you're a real lazy-ass. You can sleep when you're dead. Don't "sleep in" on weekends. Wake up earlier and go to bed earlier since "nothing meaningful" gets done after 10p anyway. Except. Everyone is different. Some people have their best "brain time" at different times. More useful: adjust your sleep schedule around your best hours of the day -- plan to sleep when you know you're likely to have the hardest time staying focused.

9. Using your 168 hours well means what I say it means.
-- And herein lies the whole problem with this book for me. It's all subtext but it permeates all of her advice -- every time she says "do this, don't do that (doing that is for suckers)" she makes a judgment about what constitutes a good use of an hour. Incidentally, every time she offers a list of suggested activities (i.e. "read to your child, take a walk, etc.) she almost always throws in something related to religion. Examples: going to church, reading a religious text, Bible study, etc. For me, an atheist, those are a total waste of time. She makes time for church every week but calls knitting "cliched." The effect is that reading this book, I felt judged. I felt like getting "the most" out of 168 hours meant going-doing-ticking off to-do lists and for me, that's just not what life is about. It's about balance. It's about finding meaning in each day.

In short, on this topic, there is no magic bullet. I've yet to read any magic technique that will tell you that you are getting the most out of your life. Only you can decide that. The best advice is simply to think about the kind of life you want and work through the ups and downs to stay on track. Me? I want to be happy, I want to be loved and for the ones I love to know that I love them. I want to have fun. I want to be useful and make the world a bit better. I want time to think and learn and to grow and change as I age. I'm using my 168 hours to work on that and I'm OK with doing my own laundry.
Profile Image for Amy Rhoda  Brown.
211 reviews37 followers
March 5, 2015
This is a helpful book if:

- you have bags of money,
- you like processed food, and
- you believe in quality time over quantity time with your kids.

Vanderkam argues that you can have it all, all at the same time. She says it's easy to find the 20-30 hours a week that you absolutely require (she asserts) to develop and maintain a worthwhile career. What you need to do is give up (or outsource) housework and stop watching TV. You'll only have a couple of hours a day to spend with your kids, but that's okay, because you can plan exciting and enriching activities to do in those hours. No just slouching around hanging out with your kids. (Goodness knows, they might start talking to you about their lives if you do that, and what a waste of time that would be.)

A lot of the advice in this book is sound. At it's core, Vanderkam's advice is that you should spend your time mindfully: don't waste work time in pointless meetings or reading endless emails, and don't waste "leisure" time staring at the television. At work, do the things which only you can do. At leisure, do things which are important to you and which fill you up. Wring value out of every minute of your day; spend your time in ways which are congruent with your values.

I think this is fantastic advice. Where Vanderkam goes astray is when she advises you to spend time in ways which are congruent with *her* values, and her lifestyle. She says OF COURSE you can afford to outsource house cleaning and laundry, you know why? Because Americans spend bags of money on air conditioning and cars and coffee and other things which Laura Vanderkam thinks are a waste of money. She doesn't address whether someone with no car and no air conditioning and $50 000 of debt should be spending money on a house cleaner -- she simply brushes the question aside by asserting that you're probably already wasting a bunch of money.

Other things she asserts: Kids are actually underscheduled and have too much spare time. (Citation needed, but not proffered.) You should schedule exciting dinner outings with your kids a couple of days a week. (A terrible idea if your kid has an early bedtime, or is fond of routine.) You can make a "homecooked" dinner in fifteen minutes by opening a few jars and taking advantage of pre-prepared (and more expensive, but that's okay because you can afford it) foods.

Vanderkam's advice directly conflicted with advice from two other books I read recently. I'm fairly sure the authors of Your Money or Your Life would not advise me (specifically) to buy convenience food and pay twenty bucks a load for someone else to do my laundry. And I know Yoni Freedhoff, author of The Diet Fix: Why Diets Fail and How to Make Yours Work, would not approve of Vanderkam's convenience food dinners.

If you haven't done any reading on mindful time management, then I suppose this book is a decent place to start, as long as you remember that Vanderkam wrote it for people *exactly like her*, and take her advice with a pinch of salt. But you'd be better off reading Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity or The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change and working those systems into a lifestyle that's meaningful for *you*.

One last note: a crucial part of time management, for me, is actually energy management. I have times of day when I am bright, alert and focused. Those times are great for writing or editing or budgeting. I have times when I'm logey and tired. Those times are fine for doing laundry, cooking, baking, or just hanging out with the kids playing Minecraft or watching Downton Abbey. Vanderkam doesn't address energy at all -- she seems to assume that any time of day or night is eligible for productive work -- but pay attention to it. I've discovered it's absolutely pointless for me to try and work after 8:00 pm because everything takes twice as long, and I make mistakes that I waste time fixing the next morning. Better to properly rest, or do less-intensive jobs to free up mornings for brain work. Your mileage may vary, so pay attention to your own rhythms.
Profile Image for Gabrielle.
104 reviews1 follower
August 28, 2012
As the title suggests, Vanderkam argues that each of us has 168 hours each week and how we use those hours is a personal choice. By using both research, examples of people who've accomplished an incredible amount of success in several major life areas, and her own, personal examples, this book is full of reasons why they excuse "I'm too busy" is really just a cop-out for not making tough, personal choices on how and where and on whom we spend our time.

The best part of the book was Vanderkam's argument that we will be more successful and happy if we focus on our 'core competencies' and outsource the rest of our lives. She does a fantastic job of explaining how certain things in our lives can and should only be done by us and encourages people to hire others to do the things that most of us do, but that aren't part of our core competency skill set (ie: housework, laundry, making huge dinners every night, etc.).

Vanderkam provides time-tracking software on her website for this book. Her argument is that many of us 'waste' time on things that do not enrich our lives. Her statistics on how many hours Americans watch tv and spend online (and don't read to or play with their children) was pretty eye-opening.

When I tracked my own life for a week, I was really shocked at the results. I already don't watch tv to save time and consider myself a professional multi-tasker. My time charts, however, showed that I spent the majority of my days doing housework (so what if I can manage to do 3 chores at once? It's still housework) and returning unimportant emails, which was pretty disappointing to realize as I've decided to limit my working hours during the day so I could spend more time with my infant son. I shared these results with my husband who, too, agreed that we weren't maximizing our core competency areas.

After taking a long, hard look at how we spend our time, my husband and I decided to outsource more of our work to other people, spend more time as a family and give up the desire for a spotless house. This book gets four stars for inspiring me and my family to utilize our time-the most precious resource we have-much, much better.

There are a couple of major flaws with Vanderkam's arguments, however. First of all, this book seemed to be geared towards upper-middle class professionals who can easily afford to outsource their laundry, dishes, housework, etc. For us, it makes sense to pay someone $50 an hour to clean our home, because we both charge our clients almost double this for our hourly rates. Doing less housework means we can use that time to see clients. But for someone who makes less than that, or is just surviving paycheck to paycheck, some of Vanderkam's 'solutions' would be impractical.

Vanderkam also really glorifies multi-tasking. She 'brags' about how she does yogic poses while the microwave heats up her food and how she works out on the treadmill, reads and returns phone calls simultaneously to save time. I tried doing this for about three days and felt completely wiped out by the amount of mental stress it took to try to crunch everything into the least amount of time possible. There's quite a bit of research that shows that multi-tasking is actually inefficient but Vanderkam conveniently glosses over that.

Also, a lot of the studies in her book showcase women who "have it all." The woman who runs a multi-million dollar business, is raising 5 kids and hikes every week was one of the people she used as an example of someone who uses her 168 hours very wisely. The whole concept of being a woman who can 'have it all' is actually incredibly destructive and creates an enormous amount of psychological stress. Using time better IS essential to a happy and productive life. But trying to convince women that they should be able to do everything isn't healthy.

All in all, this book inspired me to take a long, hard look at how I spend my time and encouraged me to use my 168 hours wisely. But there are some major flaws in logic that Vanderkam commits to 'prove' her theories about time management that reduce the author's credibility as an expert in this field.
Profile Image for Sarah.
28 reviews2 followers
January 13, 2014
I truly hate to stop reading a book halfway through, but by the time I got to the chapter about "new household economies", I couldn't shake the feeling that the author has no comprehension of the realities of an average American life. I am a "housewife" myself, with some modest dreams of having a freelance creative career but no clue how to fit that in with my responsibilities as a wife and mother. Sorry, I can't outsource childcare just because it's not a core competency (really, it's not!). Good for you if you can or if your preschool age kids aren't endlessly distracting and needy, but my kids just don't respect my meticulously curated calender like Vanderkam's kids obviously do. As for her suggestions that perhaps it's kosher to make your own work schedule or ditch work meetings that don't benefit your own personal agenda- I'm speechless! Before I became a homemaker, I did work 50 hours a week for a Fortune 500 corporation. In my line of work, I came to work when my boss said, stayed as long as I was scheduled to work, went to whatever meetings I was required to attend and thanked the Good Lord that I was employed. I gave an extra star just because I did get some useful ideas from the first 150 pages, but I'm going to save the other 2 hours from my 168 to bake a loaf of from-scratch bread with my four year old. And it'll be infinitely more enriching (and delicious) than finishing this elitist time-micromanaging manifesto.
Profile Image for Missy.
316 reviews15 followers
October 19, 2015
I went up and down on this one: yes, helpful in pointing out that priorities matter and just flailing around without thinking about them means you feel like you never have enough time; but, no, admitting that you're incredibly privileged and wealthy doesn't give you brownie points for when you *completely* ignore the effects of that privilege and wealth for the rest of your premise and then insist that *everybody* else is just misguided. It's awesome that you work at home and have a flexible schedule and don't have to factor commute-time in, but HI, THE REST OF THE WORLD MAY NOT WORK THAT WAY. And I say that as someone who enjoys many of those same privileges. (And if reading/listening to music is not one of your priorities, listening to books/music while spending 2 hours each day in the car isn't going to help with that feeling that there's not enough time.)

So, yes, I'm trying to remember to fill up the little bits of time with things that will make my life richer, but I'm not buying the whole "I really do get enough sleep, I just think I don't" point.
Profile Image for cat.
1,011 reviews27 followers
June 3, 2011
2011 Book 61/100

I picked this book up because I never feel like I have enough time for all of the things that I want to do - or sometimes even for the things that I *need* to do. I expected some discussion of time management and definitely expected help re-arrranging my thinking about time. What I did not expect was the complete dismissal of differing income levels and life factors into the author's approach. In the VERY FIRST chapter she admits her class privilege (flippantly I might add) and then totally disregards it for the next 200 some pages. She suggests that we all approach our lives by thinking of them in 168 hour blocks, which conveniently, is a week. Her strategies - start with core competencies, do the important stuff first, use bits of time for bits of joy (I just threw up in my mouth a little as I typed that)are neither new, nor particularly well-written, and most definitely are geared primarily toward the middle-to-high income creative class. I wish I'd skipped this 7 Habits of Highly Effective People-type pablum and gotten a few of my 168 hours back this week to do something worthwhile.
Profile Image for Leftbanker.
782 reviews290 followers
September 20, 2018
A few things you will learn from this book:

• Every menial task in your life should be farmed out to flunkies.
• If you aren’t a creative genius perhaps you could be a professional flunky. See if www.flunkies-are-us.com is available.
• Put down the Twinkie, turn off the professional wrestling program on TV, pick your big ass up off the sofa, and start training for a marathon. Why aren't you training for a marathon already? All the cool people are running marathons every 2-3 days.
• Your friends are mostly losers so ditch them.
• Your children need to be treated as commodities so that you can rank yourself alongside other hyper-successful people. If your offspring disappoint you, drop them off at the adoption agency and start over.

I would usually give a book like this one star as it could be boiled down to fit on a 3X5 index card, but instead was bulked out into book-length form by adding dozens of examples of perfect people who “have it all.” I’ve never met anyone remotely like that. And, yes, I get it that we have 168 hours in a week and that I could do more with my time. On the other hand a lot of the really “successful” people I know bore the shit out of me and have nothing to say that I want to hear. Someone talking to me about their training for a marathon or other work-out routine stuff is at the bottom rung of conversation; it's on the same level as talking about bodily functions.

I never believe people when they say that they are too busy, that they don't have the time to do this or that. I would never tell anyone that I would LOVE to practice piano more, but I don't have the time. You would have every right to tell me to my face that I'm completely full of shit. If you tell me that you aren't studying French because it isn't all that important to you, I will accept this answer. So stop lying to yourself and go back to watching your fishing program.
Profile Image for Marilee.
1,239 reviews
January 7, 2019
Good gravy, this lady is out of touch with reality. I went into this thinking it would be good for me. I, like many people that I know, am often over scheduled, scraping together free time, and could use some spare minutes here and there. This book was not helpful. At all. The idea of the book is that you have 168 hours in a week, so surely you have time to do the things that you want. That sounds reasonable, but here are some of the ideas she presented to help free up some time:

Pay someone to do your laundry for you and/or rewear your workout clothes.

Pay someone $400 to be your personal shopper for an afternoon to buy you a new spring wardrobe.

Work extra hours in the evenings after the kids are in bed.

Have the kids stay a few extra hours in day care or hire a babysitter for more free time after work - if you spend too much time with your kids it won't be quality time.

Don't spend time cooking in the kitchen. You can still have a home cooked meal by opening a can of lobster bisque or microwaving a frozen burrito. (My kids thought this one was particularly hilarious.)

I could go on and on. She also shared that she ran a lot during both of her pregnancies and could fit into her pre-pregnancy jeans just a couple weeks after having her babies. So helpful. If you can't tell, this book got under my skin a bit. Most people don't have money to spend on a personal chef, and I think it's really shallow to think that the only way to live a successful, happy life is to have an amazing career that gets you lots of money. I kept having to put the book down because I was just too miffed to continue; the only reason I finished it was because it was for my book club.

At one point she said that knitting was cliche which I found rude and judgmental. I knit because it relaxes me, I can serve others by giving them gifts, and studies show that it's good for your health. But beyond that, why would you mock something just because it's not a hobby of yours? I'm not sure if the author was trying to be funny or if she is just mean. It sounded like she was pretty young when she wrote the book, so I'm hopeful that she has grown up some since then and become more understanding of others.
Profile Image for Rachel (TheShadesofOrange).
2,026 reviews2,805 followers
January 21, 2020
4.0 Stars
Despite the imperfections of this book, I have re-read (or re-listened to it multiple times) so clearly it hits a chord with me.

The book is primarily targeted at wealthy mothers that are either self-employed or have significant flexibility over their working hours. Since I am none of the above, I couldn't relate to a good portion of this book. Given the nature of my work, I cannot rearrange my work hours or delegate my tasks away. Also, the author's advice of outsourcing household chores, like cooking and cleaning, isn't feasible.

However, I liked the concept of this book enough to reread it as an audiobook. As a data nerd, I love the idea of tracking and analyzing my time. There is some great advice in this book that anyone can use, regardless of their personal situation. I particularly liked the sections that focused on identifying areas of leisure & fitness. I want to be more purposeful in choosing activities that invigorate and recharge me.

Best Advice:
- Instead of saying "I don't have time for that", say "that's not a priority"
- make a list of activities you can do in 10 & 30 minutes
- align seeing friends with other activities, such as eating meals or exercising
- set aside blocks of time for activities that are important to you
- make time some form of exercise (2.5+ hours a week)
Profile Image for Jerecho.
384 reviews48 followers
April 15, 2020
All I did is to flip the pages of the book in order for me to end up in the last page. Maybe its not a waste of time, but I guess I should spend my time in the 168 hours of the week that will help me make my life more fruitful. Have a nice day!!! 💤💤💤
Profile Image for Ann.
187 reviews9 followers
April 3, 2013
Wow, do I have mixed feelings about this book.
The first couple of chapters were insightful and interesting and useful. Many other parts of the book had great ideas and fascinating case studies.

But there were huge sections where her suggestions and reasoning were based on underlying assumptions that I just don't agree with at all. If she doesn't come right out and say it, she strongly implies that a woman who doesn't have a career aside from mothering and home-making is wasting her time and life. I don't agree. Several other things she writes about here just rubbed me the wrong way. For example, I'm not sure how bragging about fitting into your pre-pregnancy jeans one week after your baby was born fits into this book. And I suspect that once the author actually has school-age children, she might not be so gung ho about feeding them school lunches to save time. She claims the hot lunch offering in school are now "healthy." Hmm.

More importantly, though, I just have to say something about the value of unstructured, unplanned time where mom is not focused on the children but is physically present. Ms. Vanderkam would have us believe that if we aren't engaging with our children then we might as well not be with them. This is so false. It's also false to say that we should outsource all our housework so that we can spend quality time with our kids. I'm not terribly good at it, but what about having your work time BE the quality time? How about showing your kids that grown-ups and families have work and that work--whatever honest work it happens to be--is worthwhile. I'm not saying it's wrong to outsource any and all work. Sure, hire the neighbor boy to mow your lawn. Whatever. I'm just saying that you'll actually be doing your kids a disservice if you structure your time so that all time you spend with them is recreational or even educational. All play and no work makes Jack a very lazy boy, as I see it.

And this is all not to mention that I think she just emphasizes career too much. For anyone. Of course, that reflects her audience, I suppose.

Now, having said all that, I am still thinking about this book, and I finished it a few weeks ago. I am thinking about how I use my time and why. I am thinking about things on my "dream list" that I want to make time for. I am thinking about whether I spend any quality time with my children at all or whether it's just quantity. So I suppose her book, despite many irritating elements, is successful.
Profile Image for Janssen.
1,550 reviews3,498 followers
January 31, 2020
Really interesting. There are suggestions that just aren't for everyone and I think she could have more examples that don't all include outsourcing every possible part of your life, but overall, useful and insightful. Full review here: https://everyday-reading.com/168-hour...
Profile Image for Anne Bogel.
Author 6 books52k followers
April 4, 2012
This was my second time through 168 Hours, so I clearly thought it was good enough for a re-read.

I think Laura Vanderkam has a great take on modern life, especially for women. Since reading 168 Hours for the first time, I've returned to her thoughts on managing my time with a "portfolio mindset" again and again. Vanderkam somehow manages to combine the revolutionary with the completely practical, and the result is a fresh take on time management.

I have made actual changes to the way I manage my calendar because of this book: I think that itself is high praise.
Profile Image for Ana Avila.
Author 1 book989 followers
November 3, 2020
Laura me cae bien. Nos saca de nuestra mentalidad de víctimas y nos ayuda a ver que sí tenemos tiempo para hacer las cosas que más nos importan.

Aunque estoy segura de que muchos no estarán de acuerdo con algunos de sus consejos, creo que es útil escuchar su perspectiva y dejar de lamentarnos por todo lo que tenemos que hacer.

Tener vidas llenas es algo bueno. Solo asegurémonos de estar usando bien nuestras 168 horas.
January 16, 2019
This is what happens when you treat your 168 hours as a blank slate. This is what happens when you fill them up only with things that deserve to be there. You build a life where you really can have it all.

I am obsessed with Vanderkam’s What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, so I was thrilled to find this audiobook at my library and it did not disappoint. In this edition of time management advice, Vanderkam stresses the importance of efficiency and prioritization so you can make time for *everything* that matters to you during your 168-hour week. I found that after following her prescribed steps and objectively assessing my data, I had a shocking amount of cumulative time available from which I could squeeze more productivity. The basic principles of this book are applicable to anyone who wants to feel more in control and achieve all their life goals, big and small.

Vanderkam proposes the concept that you have 168 hours available to you in a week; if it were a blank slate, how would you fill it? After a thorough assessment of current time usage, Vanderkam provides advice on how to both design and implement your “ideal” 168-hour plan. Even 10- to 30-min pieces of time can be utilized as micro-steps towards achieving larger life goals if you are prepared and managing your time accordingly. With this approach, she insists you can accomplish everything you’ve ever wanted to do.

“There is time for anything that matters”

I found her discussion of outsourcing household tasks (and the associated stigmatism) fascinating, particularly the opportunity costs of hiring someone and the concept of specialization (disguised as “core competencies”) in the assignment of household tasks or in choosing to support local task-specific businesses. While certainly hiring someone to do those loathed cleaning chores may be financially challenging, she offers a few ideas when considering your budget. From her outlook, prioritization is key, and her theme that “you can make what you want most work” rings strong throughout the book (and she certainly admits “no one said having it all would be easy”).

Her insistence that everyone has enough time to do anything they want if they manage their time better may grate some people wrong, and her emphatic crusade against time spent watching television became a bit lecture-y at times. However, I respond well to blunt facts and her point that “everything you choose to do is a choice” forced me to consider how exactly I’m using each of the minutes in my 168 hours.

It sounds a bit cliché to say I feel like I could accomplish anything after reading this book, but her arguments and methodology struck a chord for me and I was all for her positive insistence on the need to “plan for what will happen after your breakthrough success”. If anything, this book forced me to realize how much time I really have and how inefficiently I use my hours. If you’ve ever needed a kick in the butt or want to figure out how people seem to get so much done in a day, this is a great book to reassess your time usage and build a plan to better utilize and prioritize your time.

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Profile Image for Nicole.
84 reviews5 followers
December 6, 2018
Confession: I only read 25% of this book. I got to the part about how if you don’t love your job it’s basically wasting your time so find your bliss, and decided to flip through to see if the rest of the book was that privileged and blind to how many people actually live. Spoiler alert, it is. Read Amy’s review for an excellent summary and more thorough explanation.

I’ll save you time: best advice in the book is
- quit dicking around on the internet
- actually log your time for a week, like you would a budget, and be truthful about what you do with it. Use that to help you decide if you’re spending your time the way you’d like and make adjustments if not.

Read this if you need lots of inspirational stories from people that manage their time well by having personal assistants and plenty of money.

Profile Image for Sarah.
217 reviews89 followers
November 28, 2016
This book was just okay for me. While I was very interested in the idea of the book and the concept of thinking of time in weekly 168-hour blocks, a lot of Vanderkam's ideas were completely unrealistic. As a freelance graphic designer, I understand that working from home is not always a piece of cake like some people may think. But I also realize that working from home gives one a more flexible schedule. As a freelance writer who works from a home office, the author seems to think it's absolutely possible for those who work in corporate environments to simply take time off from work for personal reasons. Perhaps some people have that luxury, and that's great. But most people cannot take time off from work to exercise, spend more time with children, or invest themselves in extracurricular activities unless they are willing to give up a day without pay. At one point, the author even suggests outsourcing anything in your professional and personal life you don't want to do. Again, I'm not sure the average person can afford to hire someone to do the family's laundry simply because it's not an enjoyable task. She even suggests not doing anything at work that is not enjoyable or productive. "First, 'My boss said I had to' or 'My client said I had to' is no more a reason to do something than "I don't have time" is an excuse not to do something else. Everything in life is a choice of whether to accept certain consequences." I'm not sure about Vanderkam, but my boss and my clients are the ones who've always signed my paychecks, and the consequences of not doing what they ask me is unemployment, which would certainly free up for more time for exercise and relaxation, but would not go over so well when I couldn't pay my bills. In addition, her main argument seems to be that 168 hours is plenty of time in a week to get all you need and want to get done, done. However, when she considers 8-hour work days multiplied by five as only taking up 40 hours of a 168-hour work week, she fails to consider the five or more hour commute some people have weekly, the 9-hour workday most people have (whether or not they are able to take a lunch break is a different matter), and the fact that most people take between one and two hours preparing for work in the morning, during which most people don't have time to go on hikes or do fun activities with kids as the author suggests. In reality, the average person, after work, commuting, preparing and eating dinner, and doing housework, really only has around three hours of leisure time a day (weekday.) That adds up to around 15 hours for exercise, leisure, book clubs, and other extracurricular activities, but let's be honest, on paper that might seem like a lot, but in real life, it feels like seconds.
Profile Image for Ciara.
Author 3 books343 followers
August 26, 2012
this book was published before vanderkam's book about personal finance, all the money in the world, but i only heard about it while i was reading the money book. i enjoyed the writing style & some of the concepts in all the money in the world, & living on a fixed income, the topic of time management is probably more relevant to me, so i decided to check this one out too.

vanderkam says that she was inspired to write this book after reading a feature in "real simple" magazine in which readers were asked what they would do with an extra 15 minutes a day. the answers were things like, "relax in my hammock," "do the dishes," "read fiction," etc. vanderkam got to thinking about how unlikely it is that people would actually use a bonus 15 minutes any more wisely than they use the 24 hours they already have, & she decided to look into how people actually do spend their time, versus how they think they spend their time, & offer advice for how people can make the time to lie in their hammocks, wash the dishes, & read fiction.

this inspired a conversation between me & my partner. i asked him what he would do with an extra 15 minutes a day & he said, "tidy the house." we decided that we would each spend 15 minutes a day tidying up. as a result, our house is almost always pristine, like something from a magazine. it was eye-opening to realize how little time it really takes to do something that seems so insufferable but ought to get done anyway.

probably my favorite part of this book was where vanderkam contrasts the reports of how people think they spend their time versus how they actually spend it. i used to have a friend who claimed that, between her actual outside-the-house job & a small side business that she ran to help make ends meet, she worked an average of 80 hours a week. & yet, she didn't come close to keeping traditional 9-5 hours (more like 11-3), & she spent enormous chunks of time sitting on her porch smoking weed & watching TV. i kind of wanted to buy a copy of this book & leave it on her doorstep. i'm sure she felt as stressed out as someone who really did work 80 hours a week, but that was probably a function of guilt over having such terrible time management skills.

there are little exercises sprinkled throughout the book so that the reader can track their own time management skills & identify areas where they might like to make changes (such as watching less TV to make more time for reading fiction). my main criticism is that vanderkam occasionally goes off on bizarre tangents that didn't really make a lick of sense. i'm thinking specifically of where she wrote about maintaining her running routine throughout her pregnancy & how she was back in her pre-pregnancy jeans a week after giving birth. good for her & everything, but it read more as bragging than as helpful info that was relevant to the book. there's kind of a lot of that kind of thing in the book, like, "i had such a good day today! i took my kid to the museum & went to choir practice, but still had time to query three new editors about freelance work & write for five hours!" cool? maybe save it for your diary.
Profile Image for Lacie.
56 reviews
February 3, 2014
This author had a few good ideas, but I was very disappointed in most of it. This book is hardly worth it unless you already earn six figures, as her biggest advice was to outsource all the things you don't want to waste your time with such as laundry, cooking and cleaning. I can see where this might make sense to her as she has very small children, but what is she teaching them? Nothing! She talks about spending all her free "kid time" playing, how about doing the chores together? This will not only save her money, but she will be spending time with her boys AND teaching them something valuable and worthwhile to their future. Even a 2 year old can help do chores. As a busy mom of 4 who home schools and works at night after they are in bed, her advice offered me nothing towards time management.
I guess I am just the wrong audience for this book, but I think the title or book jacket should of at least narrowed down whom this book was targeting. The author makes a big deal about time being worth money--I feel that my time and money were wasted with this book.
Profile Image for Kari.
38 reviews
March 17, 2013
This author impressed me with her ability to pose questions that made me ask questions in her book "All the Money in the World." I had high hopes for this book, too.

But the book's title is misleading. It's less about thinking creatively about your limited time and more about self-fulfillment. Some may argue that those are the same thing, but I think there's a subtle difference. Trying to make the best use of your time might include doing some things you don't really want to do. Self fulfillment is trying to only do things that fulfill you - which is what the author advocates. She argues that you "outsource, minimize, or ignore" anything you don't like doing, and that you focus your time exclusively on things that you do better than anyone else. I felt this left little wiggle room for exploration or growing underdeveloped skills.

Without meaning to, the author created an ideal person through the people she chose to describe (at length) as having used their time well. I never appreciate one-size-fits-all approaches to anything, but I think the author inadvertently spent 230 pages advocating her own lifestyle by describing people who had achieved her lifestyle. She didn't seem to leave room for the idea that not everyone wanted her life, or that they might have genuine limitations to achieving that even if they wanted it.

There were also several insulting references to families that chose to have the wife/mom stay at home, which admittedly made continuing to read more difficult for me (I'm a stay-at-home mom). I also felt that, while she's clearly devoted to nurturing her children and advocated that strongly, the references made to nurturing one's spouse/partner were a nod-and-wave at best.

It was hard to see myself and my priorities in this book when her's were so different and her opinions on what was best so strong. In "All the Money in the World" I felt she was truly non-judgmental and merely asked questions that got you thinking - I highly recommend that book. Here, she seemed almost arrogant in her assertions of what was best.
14 reviews
April 23, 2013
I admit that my review might not be the best as I stopped reading this book. It's a book about how to be more responsible about your time and use it wisely however I couldn't help feeling like I was wasting my time reading it. I can figure out how to use my time wisely on my own. I also felt the author pushed her own opinions way too much; to the point where anyone who said they didn't have time to do certain things was a complete idiot. As a mom, who actually spends time with her child, the first few pages turned me off from the book. Sure, any mom can have all the time that they want to do things if they can afford to have their child in daycare for 8 hours each day and then jet off somewhere in the evening leaving your child with yet another babysitter. I liked some of her ideas and it's true, if we use our time wisely then we do have a lot of time, however, taking the time to read this book is wasting your 168 hours/week!
Profile Image for Ericka Clou.
2,051 reviews157 followers
November 28, 2018
Meh. Some good ideas, but it's extremely frustrating to read this account of a working mother who has 1) a flexible work schedule, 2) assistants at work, 3) many home helpers including a nanny.

Let's break down the title a second though: 168 hours is how many hours you have if you don't sleep and don't go to work. So let's say you sleep 7-8 hours a night (because you really should), then you actually have 112-119 hours a week. Do you shower most days? Eat 3 meals? Prepare dinner? 100-112. If you have set working hours, say 9-5 or 9-6, you just lost another 40-45, assuming you telework (or teleport there) and have no commute. 55-72. If you have some small commute: 50-67. Okay, now we're talking. What are you going to do with your precious 50-67 hours a week? That's still a lot. Of course, if you're a parent of young children without a lot of caregiver help, I'm still thinking the answer is not too much.
Profile Image for Mhgoblue.
106 reviews10 followers
March 7, 2018
Well, now I know how to structure my time so I can prioritize the things that are most important to me. She advises:

1. Pay someone to do my laundry
2. Hire a maid service to clean my house
3. Have my groceries delivered
4. Hire a personal chef so I don’t have to cook anymore
5. Hire a nanny
6. Hire a lawn service
7. Hire a personal assistant to handle all my appointments
8. Figure out my dream job and then do that and make a lot of money at it
9. Exercise 10 hours a week
10. Don’t see friends unless I’m multitasking during the visit, otherwise I’m wasting time
11. Join the boards of a few nonprofits
12. Always be conscious of my personal brand
13. Hire a stylist to choose my clothes

Who is this lady kidding?
Profile Image for Noelle.
26 reviews
March 21, 2019
Hire a personal chef! A professional organizer! A personal shopper! A pick-up service for your laundry! Just outsource every home management task and you'll have sooooo much extra time. It's so easy, you guys!

Every time you want to do something unproductive, just do something productive instead. If you just exercise every time you want to watch tv, you'll be a competitive athlete in a couple years! Super simple.

(Side note: contains an oddly large amount of Bel Canto references - what are they, related?)
Profile Image for Joe Cassada.
79 reviews3 followers
May 23, 2012
I am, admittedly, a productivity addict - which means I like to read anything and everything on productivity and time management that I can get my hands on (though this hasn't necessarily made me more productive). Vanderkam's book was enjoyable, but I felt it was geared more towards the working mother. Quite a bit of effort is spent in assuaging guilty feelings about untidy homes and take-out food. Her solutions are impractical for those on limited budgets, though she makes a good try at justifying them, e.g. get rid of cable so you can afford to pay someone to do your laundry (what about those who can't afford even cable?), but I admit you can't write a book for everybody.

Nevertheless, she has good principles everyone can benefit from, and the overall message of the book is that we have more time than we think we do. This is true, and a lesson that all income brackets need to heed.

So, even if you're not an upper middle-class journalist and mother, you would probably benefit by reading this book. To that end, I recommend it for all.
Profile Image for Leigh Collazo.
647 reviews214 followers
October 15, 2018
Abandoning this audiobook. I was turned off right from the beginning, where the author says she had her 2-year old in daycare all day, then came home and left the child with a babysitter. She says it so flippantly, as though it's a given that a two-year old should be in day care all day and with a babysitter at night. No wonder the author can get more done than I can. I'm actually with my children at night, even if we are just sitting around watching TV.

I continued to listen, but I stopped after about an hour. This author and I just don't live the same life.
Profile Image for Darrin Davis.
31 reviews2 followers
October 19, 2017
Weakly written, poorly researched and an annoying narrative voice to boot! There are hundreds of better productivity books out there. And her attempt to put down many of the icons of the field? Comes across as foolishness. My #1 time saving productivity tip? Don’t waste time reading this book.
Profile Image for Bianca A..
217 reviews150 followers
December 7, 2020
Laura Vanderkam is the author of several time management and productivity books and has her own TED talk "How to Gain Control of Your Free Time" which reflects some of the strategies in this book.
I don't think people should read an excessive amount of self-help materials - at some point you just gotta start implementing what you read instead of being caught in the perpetual, never-ending reading cycle, yes? I've become very strict about what I choose to read in this department, but the structure of the book did okay and was fast to read and catch the useful ideas.
You can tell that she put both the leg work and desk work into this book, and for some reason her strategies and point sounds very sound and pragmatic, unlike other productivity books that I've read in the past. Easy to write down bullet points with her advice and start implementing it straight away in your life. There is no need to spend too much of your time reading it in depth - catch the useful parts and implement them RIGHT NOW. I plan to do so with two: make the 100 item list and monitor what you do in each hour of your day for 3 weeks. Of course she offers much more advice about how you could adjust your perspective to make room for more and if you're new to productivity and organization you'll benefit a lot from that type of input.
Profile Image for Erica.
345 reviews4 followers
January 17, 2022
This book ended up being different than I was expecting. Although there were a few things I took away a lot of what she says came across as very dogmatic. The whole "core competencies"thing was overdone and didn't seem completely feasible.
Profile Image for Megan.
19 reviews32 followers
March 13, 2023
This book presents a new way of viewing and organizing time: 168 hours in a week (instead of 24 hours in a day, 8 hours at work and the other hours commuting or at home, 16 hours awake and 8 hours asleep, etc.)

Vanderkam shows how most of us have enough time to do everything that is really important to us. The most successful people manage their time by prioritizing the things that matter most to them and letting other things (e.g., perfectionism, what other people think they should be doing in their stage of life with their time, the things they aren’t that good at) go. She encourages you to list your 100 dreams and core competencies and then arrange your schedule to reflect your aspirations, values, and strengths.

I’m planning to try logging my time for a week soon so I can better see how I’m actually spending my time and decide what changes I want to make.

I feel like this book would be most applicable for people who are in the same life stage as the author (that is, a mom of young children who works full time outside of her home), and some of the ideas she gives wouldn’t work for a family with one income or a tight budget, but I still got quite a bit out of it. One aspect of the book (i.e., technology references) hasn’t aged well since this was written in 2010, but the principles related to that topic still apply.
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