My life is full. I try not to say that I’m busy because it sounds self-important, but every day has more tasks and appointments than a sane person could tackle. I routinely book appointments at least six weeks out.
And I hate it.
I long for the feeling of having unscheduled stretches of time in which I have nothing planned, and in which I can simply linger and enjoy.
That’s where Laura Vanderkam’s latest book Off the Clock comes in. I’ve always resisted reading Vanderkam’s books because I was afraid she would advocate increasing the pressure on my already pressurized schedule. This is her first book that I couldn’t wait to read. It tackles the question: How can we feel less busy while getting more done? In other words, how can we savor life’s moments without disengaging from life’s demands?
Vanderkam asked 900 people with full-time jobs and families to keep track of their time for a day on an ordinary Monday in March last year. She sorted the results and compared those who had high time perception scores — those who felt that their time was abundant. Her findings form the basis of the book.
I devoured the book, not just because I need it, but because her findings are actionable. Some of her recommendations are common sense: know where your time goes, because time freedom comes from time discipline. As a result, I’m tracking my time, because our estimates of how we use our time aren’t as accurate as we think.
Other recommendations also make sense: keep a to-do list not just for your work, but for relationships and self-care; plan memorable and adventurous days; learn to linger; spend time with people. The most helpful recommendations to me are these: to check my phone less often, a behavior common to those with high time perception scores; and to build in more margin so I’m not worried about arriving late. When we’re stressed about arriving late, we don’t feel like we have excess time.
Has the book helped me? It’s too soon to say, but I think so. I’ve already been working at not checking my phone as much, thanks to another recent book. In the couple of weeks since I’ve read this book, I have noticed feeling like I have more time, and that’s a good thing. Time will tell if I succeed at maintaining these new habits.
I want to redeem the time. I also want time to linger and enjoy, and not to feel like I’m in a perpetual rush. Off the Clock helps me with both of these desires. If you would like to be productive without feeling as rushed, it may help you too.
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