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Feeling Busy?

4 October 2016

Janie read The Busy Person’s Lies, by Laura Vanderkam, and was fascinated to read about the differences between the stories we tell ourselves about time and the reality of how we live our lives. 

Tags: balance, janie read, time management and prioritization

Life moves at a pretty fast pace these days. I often find myself wishing for more hours in the day, or thinking of all the things I need to accomplish, or simply feeling a bit tired or overwhelmed. I know that I’ve lamented to others that I feel like I don’t have enough hours in my day to get everything done, and I imagine we all feel this way from time to time. When I saw Laura Vanderkam’s article, The Busy Person’s Lies, the title grabbed my attention right away, and I was interested to see what she had to say.

Vanderkam set out to research how people spend their time, and she started by tracking every hour of her day for a year. Her results were surprising. She discovered that although there were times when things seemed out of balance and her work schedule was intense, there was also plenty of evidence of calmer times. Rather than the 45-50 hours a week she estimated that she worked, Vanderkam’s data showed that her average was actually closer to 40. She realized that if she subtracted hours spent at work and sleeping, there was still a respectable number of hours left for other things. Things were not as busy and crazy as they appeared.

I have not done a time tracking study on my own life, but I’m pretty sure if I did, I’d find similar differences between my story and the reality. I believe that I would be amazed at the number of hours I spend watching Netflix, or scanning through news articles or social media sites. These are my go-to activities after my boys are in bed when I’m feeling tired. I know this is how I tend to spend my evenings, but reading this article made me think about these activities and whether I am really feeling rested after doing them. If my go-to relaxing activities aren’t making me feel relaxed, perhaps I should re-assess how I’m spending my free time.

According to Vanderkam’s studies, it appears to be universal that everyone who takes the time to do a time-tracking exercise is amazed when they see how they are really spending their time. I realized this could apply to one of the big stories I tell myself. My partner and I work opposite schedules so that one of us is always home with our children, and it sometimes feels like we never get to spend any time with each other. I think if I were to do this study, I would find that there are more intersecting hours than I think, and I should focus on the time we do have instead of lamenting the time we don’t.

I’m interested in trying an experiment with time tracking to see what I find. While I do not want to commit to tracking my time for a year, I do think it would be interesting to see what I uncover if I track my time for 3 days. This article made me think about how I spend my time, and I’d like to see what other surprises or patterns I might uncover by doing this exercise. I will report back in my next blog post what I discover. I have a feeling it will make me more aware of how much time something truly takes, and I’m hopeful that I’ll begin telling myself more constructive stories about how many hours I spend doing this or that. Have you ever tried tracking your time? If so, what did you discover about your own habits? I’d be interested to hear from anyone who has tried this exercise themselves.


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