Book Review: 168 Hours
Laura Vanderkam is a gifted writer with a long list of professional credentials. In her new book, 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, she challenges the common belief that we are all so busy these days. Ms. Vanderkam understands the demands placed on so many of us. She has two young children and a career that doesn't just tend itself. However, she asks a very important question to us all, "What would you rather be doing with your time?"
The premise of the book is that 168 hours (7 x 24) is more than enough time for what's important each week. If we want to be doing something else, then an evaluation of what we are doing is in order. She's a fan of outsourcing household chores and other responsibilities that don't offer much in the way of personal fulfillment in favor of prioritizing time with the kids and even devoting more meaningful time to paid work. In simple terms, for example, working 60 hours per week and sleeping 8 hours per night still leaves 52 hours per week for family time, etc.. Sure there's still work to be done to keep a home humming along if you don't want to outsource it all but much of this work can be family time as well. Most household chores like cooking, laundry, and cleaning can all be done with the kids once they are beyond the infant stages.
Ms. Vanderkam also highlights the number of hours a working parent spends with the kids compared to a stay-at-home mom from the 1950's and I'm guessing you would be surprised with the findings. There's plenty of new information here and she doesn't just accept the cultural expectation that busy is better. She spends lots of time highlighting our willingness to watch TV as an escape. The implication here is that if we are worn out, physically and emotionally, from living a life we don't really love then it might be easier to "justify" the need for passive entertainment. But when we are juiced about what we are doing and who we are doing it with there is plenty of time to savor life, both outside the home and within.
I prefer to believe that joy and meaning are available in all 168 of our weekly hours whether we are working 20, 30, 40, or more hours per week. Perhaps 168 Hours spends a bit too much time promoting an important Career (with a capital C). I wholeheartedly agree that enjoying the intrinsic values of a career is an important element to a happy life but I don't go so far as embracing the worldly definition of success.
But I found myself agreeing with much of the book and enjoyed the intentionality that Ms. Vanderkam suggests for a fulfilled life. If you want more time with the kids, want to start your own business, or want to reconnect with your spouse, make it happen. There may be obstacles to overcome but time is probably not one of them. Take a close look at where you spend your time and then ask yourself if this is sustainable and in line with your dreams.
If 168 hours isn't enough time to be happy then we are all doomed.