An Interview with Laura Vanderkam
By Jose Palomino, September 2010
I recently read 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam and I found that it spoke a great and new truth regarding time and life management connected to time. Her book pulls out some seemingly obvious facts about time – and places them into a fresh context. It provides a new framework that is powerfully liberating for anyone (like me) who’s been trying to put 2 gallons of life and work into a 1 gallon jug.
I’ve mentioned this book on other blog posts and tweets over the last few months. It brings a fresh perspective to a topic every “do-er” wrestles with: time. Laura’s book has received some great praise, including:
- “In 168 Hours…Laura Vanderkam, a highly regarded journalist and mother of two young sons, shows that it is possible to take your career to the next level while having a full personal life. “It isn’t easy, but it is doable as long as you actively choose how to spend your time the way you want.” –Cali Williams Yost, Fast Company
- “While 168 Hours certainly gets up in your business for wasting time, it’s not some dull or preachy book about time-management: It’s a compellingly written, logical argument against the emotional complaint “I’m too busy,” presented alongside practical advice and an engaging collection of time-use tricks.” –Christine Whelan, The Huffington Post
All the more reason I was so pleased that I recently connected with Laura and discussed her book and future focus. The Interview is in three parts.
Part 1: It’s a Choice
Laura, our readers are people getting things done and, I think, looking for ways to change the world. So first off, Laura, why did you think to write this particular book at this time in your life?
When my first son was born in 2007, like many new parents, I tried to figure out how to make the pieces of my life fit together. So I set out to write about the “time crunch.” But every time I tried to track down numbers that would prove it, things became slippery.
Eventually, I realized that was because much of the talk about how overworked and sleep deprived Americans are, is misleading, and is based on our worst days, not our average ones. I also started doing the math.
If there are 168 hours in a week, and you work 40 and sleep 56 (8 per night) that leaves 72 hours for other things. Even if you work 50, that leaves 62. This is a lot of time. So why do people claim that there isn’t time to build a career, raise a family and have a life? I set out to explore that question.
- Total Hours per Week: 168
- Work: 50
- Sleep: 56
- Everything Else: 62
As a young mom and a professional writer, was the subject of time and achievement something you have always thought about? Or did something specific prompt you to think about this now?
Certainly motherhood put the topic in my head. But the more I ponder these issues, the more I realize that I’ve never liked the idea of claiming we “can’t” do things because of some nebulous force, like lacking time. Better to realize that much of life is a choice, and if something isn’t working, we can choose to live differently.
Next… Part 2: A New Old Idea
Laura Vanderkam is the author of 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think (Portfolio, 2010) and Grindhopping: Build a Rewarding Career without Paying Your Dues (McGraw-Hill, 2007). She is a member of USA Today’s Board of Contributors, and her work has appeared in Reader’s Digest, Scientific American, Wired, The American, Portfolio and other publications. Laura also blogs at http://www.my168hours.com/blog/