168 hours. The number of hours in each week. How do I know? Because I know exactly how I spend mine.
A little over a year ago, I was admittedly barely hanging on. I’d returned to work after my second child. I had two kids under two. My job responsibilities had grown and I was managing a team of six. It felt like everybody needed me all the time.
Then, thanks to a post on our Working Parents Group site, I found Laura Vanderkam’s book, 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think.
I certainly can’t do justice to Laura Vanderkam’s entire book, so I won’t try. But I’ll tell you this: Know how you want to spend your time. Then spend it that way.
Simple, right? Why is it then that there are so many things on our wish lists and to-do lists and bucket lists?
At the beginning of this year, I set out to change that. I made a list of all the things that were part of the Whole Me – my family, my career, things I loved to do but somehow got lost in the shuffle of every day life.
There were things like date nights and quality time with my girls, aside from the cooking, cleaning and feeding that seemed to consume our routine. There were things like running, something I’d done a lot of before kids, but moved to the backburner in recent years. There were things like writing and growing my career.
Soon, a clearer picture formed of the things that are important to me.
Next, per Laura Vanderkam’s advice, I tracked my time. It was tedious – and ironically time-consuming. But it gave me another clear picture of how I spend my time.
A few things jumped out immediately: My 70-mile roundtrip commute meant a lot of time in the car. I spent too much mindless scrolling through social media. I was not getting enough “fun” time with my kids. And, “me” time was essentially non-existant.
That had to change. So I moved forward with a plan and with intention.
I scheduled in time to run, which meant some early mornings and partnership from my husband. I completed two half-marathons this year, and somehow made time for 190 runs so far this year.
I repurposed my commute time by downloading audiobooks for personal and professional development.
I even joined Toastmasters, since being a confident speaker will only help in my growing career. Sometimes I practice my speeches alone in my car during my commute.
But my most favorite switch? The little ways I’ve found to infuse fun into my limited time with my young girls as a working mom.
We’ve done family walks at 6 a.m., which I suppose is an upside of having young kids who are early-risers. We’ve gone to breakfast before work and daycare drop-off. We’ve delayed starting dinner for just 20 minutes to we can spend time doing chalk art in the driveway.
This isn’t about being a working mom or a runner. It’s about knowing what it important to you and finding ways to incorporate them into our crazy lives.
Yes, my weeks still have those same 168 hours. No one gave me extra time. I certainly did not feel like I had an extra minute when I started this life project. But adding in these things makes me feel like a weight is lifted.
Make no mistake, there are still days where I feel stretched or as if I’m trying to do too much. There are lots of days that don’t look perfect. I certainly don’t have it all figured out.
But I’ve somehow found what works for me, and if I leave you with anything today, I leave you with this: Know where your time goes and make the most of it.