168 Hours by Laura Vanderkam: Summary and Notes

168 Hours

“…if you want to get the most out of your 168 hours, you need a work team and a home team, all focused on their core competencies, so you can focus on yours.”

Rating: 7/10

Related Books: Off the ClockWhat the Most Successful People Do For Breakfast, I Know How She Does It, Personal Kanban, Make Time, Extreme Productivity

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168 Hours: Short Summary

Want to maximize your availability every week? In 168 Hours, Laura Vanderkam shares strategies on how to get the most out of your week. Some of the tips she offers include recognizing your key competencies, finding a job you love, logging your hours, and outsourcing some tasks. A book full of stories about relatable people who have managed to make the most of their time.

The Myth of The Time Crunch

Work rarely consumes 100% of anyone’s time. Even the people who say that they work 80 hour weeks rarely work that hard. There is always room for improvement.

To better manage your time, create a spreadsheet and log all 168 hours of the week. That way, you will have a clear understanding of where your hours are going.

“When you focus on what you do best, on what brings you the most satisfaction, there is plenty of space for everything”

Creating the Right Job

Build your career as if you are responsible for creating your own job.

Take a few minutes a day and reflect on what you want your life and career to look like.

To find out if you are in the right job, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Does my job tap into my intrinsic motivations?
  2. Does my job give me a reasonable amount of autonomy?
  3. Do my work environment, organization, and co-workers encourage my best work?

If you answer “no” to these questions, look for what you can change this week and this year.

Controlling Your Calendar

There are 4-steps to controlling your calendar:

  1. Seize control of your schedule. Determine what you want to do with your life and set a schedule to get there
  2. Do not mistake things that look like work for actual work. Work is an activity that advances your career and the life that you want.  Minimize activities in your “work-life” that don’t count as real work an example is constantly checking emails
  3. Get rid of non-core-competency tasks by ignoring, minimizing, or outsourcing them. Always seek work that improves your core competencies, and minimize the rest.
  4. Be more efficient in your tasks. Reduce your work by cutting out time spent on each task.

Know What the Next Level Looks Like

Picturing an outcome makes it easier to focus your energy on getting there.

“Feel free to aim big. Few calculated risks end in disaster, and any investment made in a project you care deeply about is likely to generate some return.”

After visualizing the next level. Know the gatekeepers. For the next level, you will need someone who knows their way around or who will open doors for you.

“If you’re serious about your career, it should not be hard to find two or three senior people in your organization or industry who honestly like you. But it is your responsibility to seek these people out.”

Have a story that will take your career to the next level. The best personal stories not only reach earlier events but also include the present.

The New Home Economics

New home economics has changed how we juggle time among children, work, and housework.  The change began when women started getting into the workforce and their time became billable.

“168 hours is enough time to work 50 hours a week, sleep 8 hours a night, and still spend massive amounts of time with your children. But since all hours aren’t created equally, making this come out right involves moving around chunks of hours like puzzle pieces. Split shifts are a good way to use the fact that young children sleep more than adults do to still get your work hours in.”

One way to make time with your spouse is to schedule a spouse conference of 30 minutes before bedtime. At that point, you can discuss different aspects of your life.

“The truth is, money, like time, is a choice—and often a related choice. Just as you need a “work team” to support your career, you need a “home team” to help you focus on your core competencies and save time in your personal life. If you’re rolling in cash, this may literally be a team.”

Everything has an opportunity cost. Instead of cooking, doing the laundry, and cleaning by yourself, see if it is better to outsource those tasks to someone else.

A Full Life

Rules for leveraging your leisure time to create a full life.

  • Choose a small number of activities that bring you the most happiness. Make sure that one of the activities involves breaking a sweat given that your health is non-negotiable
  • Create blocks of time for these activities. Don’t leave your leisure activities to chance. Find times that you can block out for your activities
  • Commit enough time, energy, and resources to make them meaningful. When you commit to something, you get used to the rewards and it will become apart of your life
  • Use the principle of alignment to build in more time with family and friends. Commit to activities that utilize different parts of your brain, particularly the ones that don’t require active mental engagement
  • Use bits of time for bits of joy. Plan on how to use your time when you are idle or when the unexpected happens.

The Hard Work of Having it All

“Getting the most out of your 168 hours is a process of evaluating where you are and where you want to be. Maybe these are the same, but maybe they’re not. If they aren’t, then you have to look at what stands in the way, and what can be changed.”