Translator: Leslie GauthierReviewer: Camille Martínez When people find outI write about time management, they assume two things.
One is that I'm always on time, and I'm not.
I have four small children, and I would like to blame themfor my occasional tardiness, but sometimes it's just not their fault.
I was once late to my own speechon time management.
(Laughter) We all had to just take a momenttogether and savor that irony.
The second thing they assumeis that I have lots of tips and tricks for saving bits of time here and there.
Sometimes I'll hear from magazinesthat are doing a story along these lines, generally on how to help their readersfind an extra hour in the day.
And the idea is that we'll shavebits of time off everyday activities, add it up, and we'll have time for the good stuff.
I question the entire premiseof this piece, but I'm always interested in hearing what they've comeup with before they call me.
Some of my favorites: doing errands where you onlyhave to make right-hand turns — (Laughter) Being extremely judiciousin microwave usage: it says three to three-and-a-halfminutes on the package, we're totally getting in onthe bottom side of that.
And my personal favorite, which makes sense on some level, is to DVR your favorite shows so you canfast-forward through the commercials.
That way, you saveeight minutes every half hour, so in the course of two hoursof watching TV, you find 32 minutes to exercise.
(Laughter) Which is true.
You know another way to find32 minutes to exercise? Don't watch two hours of TV a day, right? (Laughter) Anyway, the idea is we'll save bitsof time here and there, add it up, we will finally getto everything we want to do.
But after studying how successfulpeople spend their time and looking at theirschedules hour by hour, I think this ideahas it completely backward.
We don't build the liveswe want by saving time.
We build the lives we want, and then time saves itself.
Here's what I mean.
I recently did a time diary project looking at 1, 001 days in the livesof extremely busy women.
They had demanding jobs, sometimes their own businesses, kids to care for, maybe parents to care for, community commitments — busy, busy people.
I had them keep trackof their time for a week so I could add up how muchthey worked and slept, and I interviewed themabout their strategies, for my book.
One of the women whose time log I studied goes out on a Wednesday nightfor something.
She comes home to findthat her water heater has broken, and there is now waterall over her basement.
If you've ever had anythinglike this happen to you, you know it is a hugely damaging, frightening, sopping mess.
So she's dealing with the immediateaftermath that night, next day she's got plumbers coming in, day after that, professional cleaningcrew dealing with the ruined carpet.
All this is being recordedon her time log.
Winds up taking seven hours of her week.
That's like findingan extra hour in the day.
But I'm sure if you had asked herat the start of the week, “Could you find seven hoursto train for a triathlon?” “Could you find seven hoursto mentor seven worthy people?” I'm sure she would've saidwhat most of us would've said, which is, “No — can't you seehow busy I am?” Yet when she had to find seven hours because there is waterall over her basement, she found seven hours.
And what this shows usis that time is highly elastic.
We cannot make more time, but time will stretch to accommodatewhat we choose to put into it.
And so the key to time management is treating our priorities as the equivalentof that broken water heater.
To get at this, I like to use language from oneof the busiest people I ever interviewed.
By busy, I mean she was runninga small business with 12 people on the payroll, she had six children in her spare time.
I was getting in touch with herto set up an interview on how she “had it all” — that phrase.
I remember it was a Thursday morning, and she was not availableto speak with me.
Of course, right? But the reason she wasunavailable to speak with me is that she was out for a hike, because it was a beautiful spring morning, and she wanted to go for a hike.
So of course this makes meeven more intrigued, and when I finally do catch up with her, she explains it like this.
She says, “Listen Laura, everything I do, every minute I spend, is my choice.
” And rather than say, “I don't have time to do x, y or z, ” she'd say, “I don't do x, y or zbecause it's not a priority.
” “I don't have time, ” often means”It's not a priority.
” If you think about it, that's really more accurate language.
I could tell you I don't have timeto dust my blinds, but that's not true.
If you offered to pay me $100, 000to dust my blinds, I would get to it pretty quickly.
(Laughter) Since that is not going to happen, I can acknowledge this is nota matter of lacking time; it's that I don't want to do it.
Using this language reminds usthat time is a choice.
And granted, there may be horrible consequencesfor making different choices, I will give you that.
But we are smart people, and certainly over the long run, we have the power to fill our lives with the things that deserve to be there.
So how do we do that? How do we treat our priorities as the equivalentof that broken water heater? Well, first we needto figure out what they are.
I want to give you two strategiesfor thinking about this.
The first, on the professional side: I'm sure many peoplecoming up to the end of the year are giving or gettingannual performance reviews.
You look back overyour successes over the year, your “opportunities for growth.
” And this serves its purpose, but I find it's more effectiveto do this looking forward.
So I want you to pretendit's the end of next year.
You're giving yourselfa performance review, and it has been an absolutelyamazing year for you professionally.
What three to five things did you dothat made it so amazing? So you can write nextyear's performance review now.
And you can do thisfor your personal life, too.
I'm sure many of you, like me, come December, get cards that contain these folded upsheets of colored paper, on which is written what is knownas the family holiday letter.
(Laughter) Bit of a wretched genreof literature, really, going on about how amazingeveryone in the household is, or even more scintillating, how busy everyone in the household is.
But these letters serve a purpose, which is that they tellyour friends and family what you did in your personal lifethat mattered to you over the year.
So this year's kind of done, but I want you to pretendit's the end of next year, and it has been an absolutely amazing year for you and the people you care about.
What three to five things did you dothat made it so amazing? So you can write nextyear's family holiday letter now.
Don't send it.
(Laughter) Please, don't send it.
But you can write it.
And now, between the performancereview and the family holiday letter, we have a list of six to ten goalswe can work on in the next year.
And now we need to breakthese down into doable steps.
So maybe you wantto write a family history.
First, you can readsome other family histories, get a sense for the style.
Then maybe think about the questionsyou want to ask your relatives, set up appointments to interview them.
Or maybe you want to run a 5K.
So you need to find a race and sign up, figure out a training plan, and dig those shoesout of the back of the closet.
And then — this is key — we treat our priorities as the equivalentof that broken water heater, by putting them into our schedules first.
We do this by thinking through our weeksbefore we are in them.
I find a really good time to do thisis Friday afternoons.
Friday afternoon is whatan economist might call a “low opportunity cost” time.
Most of us are not sitting thereon Friday afternoons saying, “I am excited to make progress toward my personaland professional priorities right now.
” (Laughter) But we are willing to thinkabout what those should be.
So take a little bitof time Friday afternoon, make yourself a three-category prioritylist: career, relationships, self.
Making a three-category list reminds us that there should be somethingin all three categories.
Career, we think about; relationships, self — not so much.
But anyway, just a short list, two to three items in each.
Then look out over the wholeof the next week, and see where you can plan them in.
Where you plan them in is up to you.
I know this is going to be morecomplicated for some people than others.
I mean, some people's livesare just harder than others.
It is not going to be easyto find time to take that poetry class if you are caring for multiplechildren on your own.
I get that.
And I don't want to minimizeanyone's struggle.
But I do think that the numbersI am about to tell you are empowering.
There are 168 hours in a week.
Twenty-four times seven is 168 hours.
That is a lot of time.
If you are working a full-timejob, so 40 hours a week, sleeping eight hours a night, so 56 hours a week — that leaves 72 hours for other things.
That is a lot of time.
You say you're working 50 hours a week, maybe a main job and a side hustle.
Well, that leaves 62 hoursfor other things.
You say you're working 60 hours.
Well, that leaves 52 hoursfor other things.
You say you're working more than 60 hours.
Well, are you sure? (Laughter) There was once a study comparingpeople's estimated work weeks with time diaries.
They found that people claiming75-plus-hour work weeks were off by about 25 hours.
(Laughter) You can guess in which direction, right? Anyway, in 168 hours a week, I think we can find timefor what matters to you.
If you want to spendmore time with your kids, you want to study morefor a test you're taking, you want to exercise for three hoursand volunteer for two, you can.
And that's even if you're workingway more than full-time hours.
So we have plenty of time, which is great, because guess what? We don't even need that muchtime to do amazing things.
But when most of us havebits of time, what do we do? Pull out the phone, right? Start deleting emails.
Otherwise, we're putteringaround the house or watching TV.
But small moments can have great power.
You can use your bits of time for bits of joy.
Maybe it's choosing to readsomething wonderful on the bus on the way to work.
I know when I had a jobthat required two bus rides and a subway ride every morning, I used to go to the libraryon weekends to get stuff to read.
It made the whole experiencealmost, almost, enjoyable.
Breaks at work can be usedfor meditating or praying.
If family dinner is outbecause of your crazy work schedule, maybe family breakfastcould be a good substitute.
It's about looking atthe whole of one's time and seeing where the good stuff can go.
I truly believe this.
There is time.
Even if we are busy, we have time for what matters.
And when we focus on what matters, we can build the lives we want in the time we've got.