Tuesday, February 22, 2011

168 Hours: You have More Time than You Think

I choose this book on the recommendation of Crystal Payne, over at Money Saving Mom. I know I haven't been managing my time as well as I should, but with all the things I have going on I've struggled with what to cut. There just isn't a whole lot of flex time in my schedule. The only exception is (some) evenings, but having my hubby home automatically blocks out that time.

168 Hours is the perfect book to read when your schedule, like mine, just seems too full to do anything with. In it, Laura Vanderkam encourages us to view our time through the lens of a week (168 hours) rather than a day (24 hours). Her argument is that while it may not always be possible to fit everything important to us in a single day, it IS possible to fit it into a week, provided dedication and creativity are used.

Laura shows how we need to focus our energy into things that are "core competencies" and delegate as many non-core competencies as possible. A core-competency is something that either only you can do, or that you can do better than anyone else. An example of the former is exercise--only you can exercise your body. That cannot be delegated. An example of the latter is while other people could raise your children, you will do it best.  Exercise and child-rearing are both "core-competencies."

Step-by-step Laura encourages us to first find out what we are spending our time on. Second, she encourages us to determine what we WANT to spend our time on, and to be certain that the bulk of our time is spent on our core-competencies (increasing both out enjoyment and our effectiveness). Thirdly she encourages us to radically cut things that aren't core-competencies, to make a schedule, and to stick to it even when it's difficult.

There were several things that I took away from this book.

The first thing that really effected the way I think of life were the chapters on work, and specifically some questions at the end of chapter Three. After the first few pages of section on work I seriously considered skipping it. There is zero mobility in my job field. No matter what I do I won't make "supervisor" as a babysitter or caretaker. There are few pay raises in my field--and little job-security.  Questions like, "does my job tap into intrinsic motivations (things I loved as  a kid or would do for free)?" have absolutely nothing to do with my motivations to work. I started my job before I was married to pay my bills, and while my husband has given me the option to stay home full-time whenever I like I am choosing to maintain them because the income helps tremendously with savings and gives us extra "play money."

But then as I was reading I realized that my job is NOT a caretaker OR a babysitter. My job is a help-meet. I do those other things because I am a help-meet to my husband. When I allowed myself to think of my job as a helper to my husband as being an actual job, those chapters on work suddenly became much more applicable. I realized that even if I could choose another job, "switch fields" as it were, I wouldn't. Being a housewife is exactly what I've always wanted to be. It allows me the freedom to do things I want to do, to creatively meet needs, to artistically decorate my house, to cook delicious and beautiful meals, and to joyfully meet the needs of my husband. Almost everything I've ever enjoyed in life can reasonably fall under the umbrella of being a housewife. And that was a good realization to have.

The second thing I got out of the book is that my love for learning hasn't abated a bit in the last few years. On several different occasions Laura challenged me to consider what I want to do in the time I have, if I were starting with a clean slate of time. There were many different things on my list, but repeatedly I wanted to learn. Laura challenged me to look at my schedule, do a bit of rearranging, and make at least one or two of those items happen each year. I haven't made the final selection, but I have realized that even in this new stage of life it is important for me to continue actively expanding my horizons. We'll see how that shapes up in the coming months.

The final thing I got out of the book is that I need to make every minute count. Everyone has moments in their day that are "odd moments out." They come while you're waiting on someone to pick you up, between jobs, or had something unexpectedly canceled. These moments happen daily, and are often frittered away on things that are neither productive or enjoyable. Laura encouraged me to make a list of both things that bring me joy (more enjoyment than sitting in front of the TV) and a "list of 100 things I'd like to do in my life." With those in mind, I was to write down three things that could be done in 10 minute segments and three things that could be done in 30 minute segments. That way I can redeem the typically wasted time.

Final verdict? An EXCELLENT book. So good, in fact, that this is the only book on my reading list so far that my hubby has decided to read as well.

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