For those of us caught up in the whirlwind of a new school year, the beginning of September offers more “new” than the actual New Year itself. This is a time for new teachers, new clothes, new friends, new sports & clubs, new fun, new fears, new lessons, new schedules…
So perhaps it’s not surprising that I chose this month to pick up I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time by Laura Vanderkam. If you feel like there’s never enough hours in the day, then maybe you want to check this book out after me (630.1108 Vande). To be honest (though also not surprisingly), at this writing, I haven’t gotten further than Chapter 3 “Take Charge of Your Time,” but I can already tell that Vanderkam knows a bit about schedules and how people make the most of not just the 24 hours in a day, but the 168 hours in week (she’s also penned 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think). Vanderkam makes her living studying the ways people use their time (for this book, she researched time diaries representing 1,001 days of professional women and their families). Plus, she’s married with four children so she personally knows something about having to juggle schedules!
While I appreciate the message in this book that there’s actually more hours in a week than we think there is, I’m still fighting the idea that for those of us with a lot on our plate, even unscheduled time or “free” time needs to be scheduled. Is my life really so full with work and kids and other responsibilities that there’s no chance I’ll have a day when I just wake up and think “I just realized there’s nothing on my schedule today. What do I/we want to do?” As we see the long, lazy days of summer coming to an end (Are the lazy days of summer a real thing anymore?), I think of my childhood and my kids’ childhoods and long for the days of sheer boredom that ultimately required us to find activities to fill the time. Now the time just runs away from us.
On the other hand, we’re at the 2nd week of school and I’ve noticed that my mornings feel less rushed (and no arguments!) getting my three boys out the door and me to work. I’m getting more sleep at night (like 7-8 hours instead of 6). Combined with regular exercise and eating reasonably well, I find myself with more energy in the evenings to talk and play with my kids, complete a few tasks, and even catch a few chapters in a book (like Vanderkam’s) before bed. Hmmm…I think this book is inspiring me more than I thought it would. Perhaps it’s not a question of time itself, only the quality over quantity.
Laura Vanderkam is the bestselling author of What Successful People Do Before Breakfast, All the Money in the World and Grindhopping. She is a frequent contributor to Fast Company’s website, and her work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and Fortune, among other publications. Mark your calendar to see Laura Vanderkam speak at the Upper Dublin Public Library on the evening of February 23, 2017. More to come.