Wednesday, September 29, 2010

168 Hours

168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam (May 2010)

So, first I need to be honest here, I am a sucker for books like these.  Anything that can help me be more "productive" or allow me to look at how I'm spending my time in life can interest me.  This means, anything from today all the way back to Walden by Henry David Thoreau.  I like books that show us new ways of looking at the world and using our time.

Second, I didn't read this book, but listened to it on audio book while I did house chores.  I must say, I felt as if I was really taking advantage of my time by listening to the book and doing housework.

Here's what I liked in the book -- The idea of "Core Competencies," that there are certain things in your life that only you do well and should focus on - your main priorities in life and your tasks in life should bring you to these goals, whether your goal is spending time with your family and raising a child well or whatever your true dreams are.  To quote her: "there should be almost nothing during your work hours - whatever you choose those to be - that is not advancing you toward your goals for the career and life you want." 

I think when the book is focused on this topic and idea, it's completely on the right path and including most people who are interested in this.  We each need to decide what is most important for us and do the things in our life that help us achieve our most important goals. If you are doing something that isn't moving you toward this, you either drop it or find someone to do it for you.

The one chapter though that really seemed a little out of it, was the chapter on outsourcing.  While I totally agree it's absolutely fine to pay someone else to do something you either dislike to you or a task that eats away at your time so you can use that time for something more important (being with your family, writing, etc.), there's a point where I thought, "Um, this book was not written with me in mind because if I did these things, while I would have X numbers of hours with my family, we'd be eating Ramen every night."  Karen a reviewer on Amazon had that same gripe as she wrote in her review that a better title for the book might be:  168 Hours: How To Buy Yourself Some Free Time On Over $100K A Year.

The other issue is that this book seems to be written to fit a certain type of person-- a female, upper-class, married woman with kids (though that said, I did see some positive reviews from men on Amazon, which was good and went against my assumption.)  A lot of the book is giving women (or men) the okay to allow someone else to do their chores, so if you're someone who feels guilty for asking someone else to do your laundry, this book will allow you to feel okay about that.  Also, if you don't have a supportive partner (or a partner at all), this book doesn't really address that concern.

But I don't just want to point out what some might see as negatives, but there was a lot of good info in this book and I did listen to it twice.  There's the time log, which I think everyone should really do if they want to see exactly where their time is going (though kind of humorously, each person who did their own time log said that "it wasn't really a normal week"), the idea of figuring out your "core competencies" and focusing your time on those (just because you're busy doesn't mean your productive), the reminder that we don't need to do it all and certain things can be done by other people so you can have your time back.

The book has a good flow to it and the author has a good way of sharing information.  I'd love to see her write a book just focusing on our priorities in life without the feeling that one needs to be making X number of dollars to cover all the costs and hiring a home staff.  Her gift is conversational voice and ease of sharing info.  And honestly, she is being true to her lifestyle and what works for her, so it's hard to dismiss her more costly ideas (aka "outsourcing) as they do work for people who have enough money to afford them.

While I can't give this book my highest recommendation, I'd recommend The Circle of Simplicity: Return to the Good Life by Cecile Andrews if you really are serious are getting your time back and changing your views on life, 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think was an enjoyable listen and I appreciate that she doesn't knock moms who work, but instead suggests that work and motherhood can happen together, you just need to work around the chores of life and keep your goals and priorities in your mind as you make choices for your life.  These are the things I like hearing and remembering as I make choices in my own day and my use of time.

Here's a good article with the author, Laura Vanderkam on Happy Mom.


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