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You Have More Time Than You Think

Think of something that you really want to do, but don’t have the time. It could be learning a foreign language, meditating everyday, cooking your own meals rather than getting take outs or maybe joining a gym and getting fit?

If I gave you an hour every day extra, would you then do whatever it is that you currently have no time for, would you allocate that one hour to whatever it is you chose?

My guess is you said yes, when the reality is if you are like most people you probably wouldn’t.

In fact, I’d go as far as to say within a short period of time you’d be complaining “there simply just aren’t enough hours in the day”.

It’s no different than people who think they just need that next pay rise of 20% to ensure everything in their garden will be financially rosy. Indeed it may be for a few weeks or even a few months, but eventually they’ll be looking to the next pay rise that really, really, will make the difference this time.

Change The Way You Think

The only way you can change your financial situation, short of receiving a large windfall, is to change the way you think about money and thus the way you manage it.

If you continue to think as you always have then, it’s doubtful anything will change and your expenditure will creep back up in line with your income and ultimately you’ll be no better off even if you do have a newer car or bigger house.

The same goes for time. The only way you can change your relationship with time is to think differently about it and realize that you have choices.

That is where many productivity and time management books like David Allen’s ‘Getting Things Done’ fall down for lots people, because they focus on the mechanics and actions of productivity which is working at a symptom level rather than getting to the cause.

If you’re a left-brained type that has no problem color coding tickler files into 19 different shades of magenta, arranging your Sharpies in ascending colors of the rainbow and writing a to-do list for preparing an omelette, then that’s a great approach for you.

Ok, ok, so that may be a tad harsh, but the point is a serious one.

Some people only need to be shown the right path to be on before they can take the first step, some people need to understand why that path is the right one for them.

If you are a serial procrastinator I will almost guarantee that ‘Getting Things Done’ didn’t help you overcome that issue. Sure you may have had some initial relief as you set up your work-flow with the best intentions, but it would have seemed like a real struggle and you’d have slipped back into old habits.

Seldom these days does a book on self-development, blow me away. I’m not sure whether that’s a product of reading hundreds of them and little seems new to me any more, or it may just be because I’m a bitter old cynic.

For various reasons, Gretchen Ruben’s ‘The Happiness Project’ and Martha Beck’s ‘Follow Your North Star” have both been recently started with the intention of reviewing here, but then put down before the end because I was either not enjoying them or getting no discernible benefit.

168 Hours, You Have More Time Than You Think

The same cannot be said for Laura Vanderkam’s excellent book ‘168 Hours You Have More Time Than You Think

I love this book because Vanderkam challenges her readers to think differently about time and not to simply be swept along by the erroneous belief that we all have too much to do in too little time.

As Vanderkam points out, research has proven few of us work anything like as long as we think we do.

If you fully absorb and understand it, that knowledge alone can be a catalyst for change . The sad fact is, if you honestly don’t believe you have enough time you’re unlikely to go looking for it.

Vanderkam goes to great pains to help the reader realize that she almost always has time to do whatever it is she wants to do, if that is, she chooses to do it.

This really hit home for me as I have been complaining lately I’ve not had time to meditate. The truth is I’ve given other things priority because each time I didn’t meditate it was because I chose to do something else instead. It really is that simple.

168 Hours is full of brilliant real life stories of people that on the whole you’ll never have heard of. People that are no different to you and I, other than their ability to get things done.

The reasons why stories like this work so well is that we can relate to them more easily. Telling you Winston Churchill managed to win a war whilst earning a doctorate, running a marathon a day, learning to play guitar and raising 9 children would make for a great story. However, I doubt it would inspire you to action as Churchill is not somebody many people can relate to.

On the other hand, if you’re a single mother holding down two jobs and I tell you about somebody in a similar situation to yourself who is doing remarkable things with her time and living a full and exciting life, that might.

Thinking Differently

Common wisdom suggests e-mails should be filed and your in-box be empty as much as possible. It seems to be the Holy Grail of productivity and I regularly see people announce triumphantly to Twitter that their in-box is empty.

But seriously, who cares if your in-box is empty?

I know Laura Vanderkam doesn’t, because she has an in-box with over 30,000 emails in it.

That’s right, a productivity expert that doesn’t file her e-mails Heresy! Call the Productivity Police now and let’s string her up now!

When you get past the initial shock (or in my case, raucous laughter) you realize her logic is fundamentally sound. As she points out, her e-mail program has a search facility and she can find e-mails when she needs them in less time than it would take to set up multiple folders.

Now that is what I call thinking differently. That’s what I call thinking outside the (in) box.

168 Hours isn’t just about getting you to think differently because there are the forms and charts you’d expect from something that is predominantly about time management, but because it gets you to think of your choices in a different light I suspect more people are likely to visit her site and download them.

168 Hours is more than a time management book as you may well have gathered, it’s a self development book that just happens to help people with time. The truth is I’m only about two thirds of the way through the book, but already I’ve had more than enough value and I’m pretty sure you will too. The link above is an Amazon affiliate link. If you’d rather not use that, just click here.

Urgent For Whom?

One of my favorite quotes isn’t an uplifting inspirational quote at all. It’s not devastatingly witty or intellectual and it didn’t come from the mouth of Gandhi, Churchill, Twain or Wilde. It doesn’t particularly roll off the tongue and it’s not one I’ve ever seen Tweeted.

When an assistant came running up to John Wayne on the set of one his movies informing him he had an urgent phone call, Wayne is supposed to have responded by saying:

“Urgent for who? Me, or the guy on the other end of the phone?”

Think about that next time your boss, friend or spouse tells you something is urgent.

Update

I said at the end of my last post I was starting a 30 day experiment  into gaining more energy. I was going to write a post about it, but after reading 168 Hours I’ve decided that I’d rather just do it and report back with my findings if I think you’ll get something from them.

14 comments to You Have More Time Than You Think

  • I am about 3/4 of the way through this book. I echo what Tim said. It’s worth the read. It changes how you think about time. It will change how you spend your time.

  • @ Alisa – It will do if people take on board the info and allow themselves to think differently. I am seriously thinking of using the time log and I have never done ANYTHING like that in my life!

  • I would write a to-do list to make an omelette…maybe not how to make it, but it would probably be scheduled in the day somehow.

    This book sounds great, am just looking into the time log as I’ve used a log for money and fitness before and it’s always been a real eye opener to your habits when you see them in black and white.

    Thanks Tim!

  • Krisenkindt

    I am a procrastination king, really, and I myself have often noticed that I chose not to do things rather than not having time. It sounds like a very interesting book to read :)

    As little addition I would like to recommend Randy Pauschs talk about Time Management he held at Carnegie Mellon. It is more of a cure for symptoms (and he is asking for empty inboxes), as you described it above, but he has one important hint in it:
    Make a to do list in four categories: Urgent & Important, not urgent but importan, not important but urgent, and finally not urgent, not important (discard what you put in there).

    And my final confession: Me too, I do not sort my inbox and rather go on “all emails” and use the search option. I do get laughed at for my humongous inbox by colleagues, though :D

  • I did the traditional productivity thing – and became efficient. I did the modern productivity thing – and became effective. As a result, I now have loads of time. Personally (and I know this sounds rather pathetic), I struggle to find worthwhile things to fill it with – not that I want to fill it all or am blind to the many worthwhile things I could do (but don’t have any desire to). Maybe this is why so many people never have any time – it’s because they fill it with meaningless tasks because they’re scared of the void they’d have if they ditched them?!

    It’s slightly off topic, but I had a friend who wanted to become more observant (religious) but complained it was too hard. I suggested that if it was as important as he suggested, then he’d prioritise it. He’s now much more observant and much happier. I agree with Tim, there isn’t time to do everything, so you’d better choose what you want to do wisely. You should end up more satisfied if you do.

  • [...] Brownson (according to a post on Alisa Bowman’s Project Happily Ever After blog). Tim wrote a full review on his own site, A Daring Adventure. Among my favorite quotes: Seldom these days does a book on self-development blow me away. I’m [...]

  • @ Amy _ I bet with your copywriting skills those eggs would just be begging to be thrown into the pan ;-)

    @ Krisenkindt – Who cares of you get laughed at if it works?? Good for you!

    @ Mark – Do you know what your values are? Seriously, I never get bored, yet I used to on a regular basis.

  • I think that it’s all about time management. Time Management is one of the important and most powerful tool that a successful man always carries. Effective time management involves patience and practical thinking. It’s really difficult to manage time. But once you know the secret it will be much easier. When you decide and get right down to it, it becomes much easier. Time management is really about managing your actions. We all want to maintain the process of time management to allow us to perform more actions in the day, getting everything done that needs to be done and giving us time to do the things we enjoy doing. But time management may be called a magical remedy for getting the actions done that you need to do.

    Ben Tien

  • Christian

    As a coincidence, the latest issue of ChangeThis just landed in my inbox yesterday and includes a manifesto about the “168 hours” from the author of the book.

    For people that want a short preview of the ideas of the book:

    http://changethis.com/manifesto/show/71.06.BlankSlate (click on the “Download” link)

  • @ Ben – It sure has been something that I have been poor at in the past, but I’m getting there with the help of Laura’s book.

  • This triggered a bell for me “The truth is I’ve given other things priority”.

    This week I’ve been noticing that I wanted to spend more time on my japanese learning than doing the regular tasks for my business. Today I was tempted to feel bad about this desire but truly more important is to look inside and at the big picture to decide which I do truly want. Then re-align my values to construct my behaviors how I want them.

    Anyway, I can have them both :)

  • @ Jarrod – Definitely you can have both! Good for you for realizing that, we should never feel bad about doing stuff we’re passionate about, unless maybe if it’s going on an axe-wielding rampage.

  • I’ve been telling people for a long while that it isn’t that they can’t afford something, its that their money is allocated to other purposes at the moment. It’s been very enlightening for a number of individuals. This is a great take on the same principle.

  • Rob

    How true is it how we spend our resources (time, money) is what we conciously or sub-conciously prioritise/value.

    “I don’t have to time/money to do abcd”

    = (actually means)

    “abcd is not really a priority to me I value vs….”

    Also, I read somewhere once that finding only one extra hour per day is the equivalent to finding 9 extra full weeks at 40 hours per week (per year.) Crazy.

    If you could find that in 15 min segments x4 a day – it suddenly becomes quite achievable (for me anyway)

    or as my Grandad once said if it takes a man to work a week per fortnight…