Laura is the author of several time management and productivity books, including I Know How She Does It, What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, and 168 Hours. Her work has appeared in publications including Fast Company, Fortune, USA Today, and the Wall Street Journal.
When she's not writing or blogging, Laura enjoys running and singing, and serves as the president of the board of trustees for the Young New Yorkers’ Chorus. She lives outside Philadelphia with her husband and four children, and blogs at lauravanderkam.com.
So, without further ado, please welcome Laura.
Hi Laura, thank you so much for stopping by the Activia blog. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Thanks for having me! I write books about productivity, including I Know How She Does It, What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, and 168 Hours. I live outside Philadelphia with my husband and four kids.
Your book, 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think has been described as “an eye-opener for every one of us who leads a busy, hectic life”. Could you tell us a little bit about it?
I truly believe that when you look at the big picture, there is enough time for everything that matters. The title comes from this fact: There are 168 hours in a week (24 x 7). I think this is a better way to look at our time for two reasons. First, a week is the cycle of life as we actually live it. Second, it shows us how much time we have. If you work 40 hours a week, and sleep 8 hours per night (56 per week), that leaves 72 hours for other things. That is a lot of time!
How did you originally become interested in the topic of time management?
Everyone seems to talk about how busy we all are, but when I looked into the data, I found that people are not increasingly overworked, or increasingly sleep-deprived. Moms spend more time with their kids now than in the 1960s. I’m always drawn to topics where people are walking around with false ideas - especially if these ideas serve to limit our lives in unfortunate ways. I also think time is fascinating because we all have the exact same amount. Some people may have more money, but no one can make more time.
What is one time management tip that you would tell your younger self?
If anyone wants to use his or her time better, I think the best strategy is to figure out where exactly the time is going now. Try tracking your time for a few days, or ideally a week. Add up the categories and see how it looks. We all tell ourselves stories about our time, and many of these stories aren’t true. I am sure my younger self was doing this as much as anyone. I still do it now. That’s why it’s important to check in frequently.
How has technology changed your perspective on productivity? Do you have any favourite tools or apps you’d recommend to become more productive?
Some people swear by various apps, but the honest truth is this: the more apps you have, the more interesting your phone becomes. That means you spend more time on your phone. In general, the cause of time management is not served by spending even more time with our noses in our phones, instead of looking up into the world at large.
Do you think it’s actually possible to achieve that perfect work / life balance that everyone strives for?
The funny thing about the phrase “work / life balance” is that most people assume they are working too much. Very few of us are. With 168 hours in a week, if you are sleeping 8 per night (56 per week) that leaves 112 for work and life. You would have to be working 56 hours to be evenly balanced between work and not-work. Most people work far fewer hours than that.
What do you think is the biggest obstacle for overcoming procrastination?
All of us can get distracted. I find it’s wise to work on our most important projects toward the beginning of the day, when we have the most energy. Set a timer for an hour, power through, then reward yourself. That said, if you truly do not want to do something, try to figure out why. There might be an important insight there that can help guide your career and life in the future.
Are you working on any new projects at the moment that you can share with us?
I recently tracked my time for an entire year, which was eye-opening. I hope to write more about that in the future.
And we're looking forward to reading it! Thanks for joining us, Laura.
Laura's book, 168 Hours: You Have More TimeThan You Think is out now, and is available on Amazon, as well as other online retailers. If you'd like to connect with her, make sure to say hello on Twitter at @lvanderkam.