My first time management book, 168 Hours, came out in 2010. I meant to write a ten year anniversary post at the beginning of summer but time — ironically — got away from me.
In any case, here we are. I rarely read through my books after they’re published. I’ve been so deeply involved with them up to the point of publishing them that revisiting them tends not to rise up the priority list. So looking through 168 Hours over the past few weeks has felt a little strange — like conversations with an old friend where more comes back the more you talk.
I had forgotten writing some of the stories. But I still use a few key points in much of my writing and speaking now. I really do think that these three messages can change how we see time:
1. We live life in 168 hours. A day has 24 hours. A week has 24 x 7 hours, which is 168. People say “24-7” all the time, yet no one multiplies it through! We often think of our lives in days, but we live our lives in weeks, and looking at the whole of the week gives us a more holistic perspective on time. For one, it shows that a full time job doesn’t actually take the full amount of one’s time. If you work 40 hours a week, and sleep 8 hours per night (56 per week) that leaves 72 hours for other things. This is good to know for those of us who want full lives outside of work. But beyond that, thinking “168” not “24” reminds us that things don’t have to happen daily in order to count in our lives. Three to five times a week is often plenty, and that removes a lot of pressure.
2. “I don’t have time” often means “it’s not a priority.” The world has plenty of difficulties, but for many of the people who pick up a time management book, much of time is about choices. Things we are not doing may just not be important to us right now. If they became important (for instance, if someone handed out gobs of money contingent on learning French, writing that novel, practicing the piano four times a week…) we would probably do them. This mindset can be challenging, especially when the larger world keeps insisting that certain things should be priorities, but ultimately this mindset is liberating. It puts us in charge of our time, and our lives.
3. To spend time better, figure out where the time goes. In 168 Hours, I suggested that people track their time for a week. I continue to believe that this exercise is life-changing. That’s why I’ve tracked my time for 5.5 years now! No one else needs to do that (not everyone finds joy in hundreds of spreadsheets…) but doing a week once or twice a year keeps us honest. It’s easy to tell stories about where the time goes, but these stories are shaped by feelings, energy, and larger cultural narratives. When we know where the time goes we can make rational choices, rather than assuming that time is scarce, or that no one can have it all.
If you’ve never read 168 Hours, I would be honored if you’d pick up a copy. I like all my books, but since this was the first time management title, the material all felt very new and exciting. Plus I found it fun to read about my now teenaged son’s 2-year-old antics!