Book Review: 168 Hours by Laura Vanderkam

The subtitle to Laura Vanderkam’s “168 Hours” is You Have More Time Than You Think.  Indeed, that is the thesis she carries very convincingly throughout the book.  Vanderkam tracks people’s activities by the half-hour (real time diaries are included) to demonstrate that people fritter away more time than they think.  The upside, therefore, is now that you know this, you can choose your activities more consciously and get this time back.

I loved this book.  Full disclosure: Vanderkam cited one of my coaching exercises in this book.  But I shared the exercise in the first place because when Vanderkam and I connected (thanks to Peter Shankman’s HARO!) I loved the thesis of the book.  I have used time diaries for myself since the 1990′s and have recommended them to my coaching clients for 10 years now.  Like tracking your food intake or spending habits, tracking your time is very powerful in reshaping your self-awareness and priorities.

Vanderkam tackles both work and home activity as she looks at time spent.  She offers a lot of concrete examples and practical suggestions.  If you don’t have a high degree of flexibility and professional autonomy some of the strategies may be hard to implement.  But the intended reader is likely not in that boat so this is a small downside.  The book is inspirational and a great time management and productivity resource.  It is not structured as a how-to like a David Allen or Stephen Covey book, but it delivers a deeper message:  “168 Hours” is about making conscious choices, wise and meaningful choices about what we do with our time.  It’s not about doing more, but about doing what matters.

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