The Wall Street Journal reviewed 168 Hours on Saturday in a piece by Joseph Tartakovsky called “No Time to Lose, But Plenty to Gain.”
I was absolutely thrilled to be reviewed in such a well-read paper, and I appreciate Tartakovsky sharing the major points of the book. If you work 50 hours and sleep 56, that leaves 62 hours for other things. What on earth are we doing with this time? Of course I wish the review had been a bit more positive! You can’t win them all.
But I do want to take this opportunity to address a few of Tartakovsky’s points. One quick one: we don’t have a laundry pick-up service anymore. Despite my admonition of “Don’t Do Your Own Laundry,” as I write, my husband mostly does this for our family these days. I could be called out for hypocrisy on this (outsourcing chores to your spouse is a rather retro approach), but that would involve engaging with the arguments a bit more and not resorting to the knee-jerk criticism of Most-People-Can’t-Afford-A-Cleaning-Service. I’m guessing by the nature of the watches and cars advertised in the WSJ that many of the paper’s readers can.
I am also a little puzzled by Tartakovsky’s assertion that cooking and cleaning are “the work that makes (as the saying goes) a house into a home.” A whole section of Chapter 6 (The New Home Economics) deals with how cooking and cleaning have become, for many people, pleasurable leisure activities that are enjoyable in their own right. But this is largely because moms have stopped spending 35 hours per week on housework. That has opened up hours for women to spend more time playing with their kids, even as they have poured into the workforce over the past four decades. Yep, I stand guilty of believing that playing with your kids makes a house more of a home than ironing one’s electric blankets.
Most fundamentally, though, I am trying to figure out how he decided that I believe that “the solution to our time- management ordeal” should be “a frantic attempt to jam everything in.” I guess you can get that impression by filling a review with 1-3 word quotes. But the whole point of the book is that we shouldn’t try to jam everything in. We should attempt to do as little as possible that is not meaningful or enjoyable to ourselves and those we love. Studying a painting in the few minutes before a conference call is not a frantic way to fill every second — it’s a way to introduce the beauty people often feel they are missing into time that you’d probably just spend checking email.
While 168 Hours is not really about me, by following what I’ve learned from interviewing people who do a lot with their time, I’ve created a pretty relaxed life. Hopefully a few Wall Street Journal readers will visit this blog, read that message, and take a chance on the book.