Laura Vanderkam: Time is Elastic

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My guest today is Laura Vanderkam, an expert on time management who's 2016 TED Talk “How to Gain Control of Your Free Time” has been viewed over 5 million times. She is the author of several books on time management, including Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done, which was released in May of this year.

Laura did not go to college to become a time management guru. She admits to a mild interest in productivity, having read The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People at a young age, but it wasn't until she had to balance having a child and building a journalism career that she began to look at how people spent their time.

“[A] lot of the literature that's aimed at new parents is very much like, “Oh, you'll never have time for anything in your life ever again.” There are these certain dire warnings about…you'll never sleep, you'll never see your friends. Like if you attempt to build your career at the same time as you're raising children you will…be this harried mess…and I kind of wondered, well, was that true?”

Laura Vanderkam - You have more time than you think you do.

What Laura found was that much of the narrative surrounding how people spend their time isn't very accurate. While many people believe that they are busy and never have time for anything, the truth is that if something unexpected happened–such as a water heater breaking or a basement flooding–we are all able to “magically” create more time in our schedule to handle the emergency while still accomplishing other tasks that were already on our plate.

“[T]ime is elastic…we can't actually make more time, but time seems to stretch to accommodate whatever we need or want to put into it.”

While many people view being “busy” as a sign of importance, Laura challenges the idea that we need to fill every second of every day, and instead recommends finding “open space” in our schedule to allow us to think and grow in ways we can't anticipate when setting our schedule for the week. I loved hearing her perspective on how to effectively use time, and I believe you'll find your time well spent if you listen to this podcast today.

Takeaways from this episode:

  • You have more time than you think you do. People invest their time into things that are important to them. There are ways to become less “busy” and more productive if we are open to a new narrative.
  • What are your goals, professionally and personally? Keeping important things first and the “big picture” in mind helps ensure the important stuff happens first. Break things down into smaller increments and what seems impossible becomes possible.
  • Make your day intentional. Take note of when you have energy and focus on getting the big things done during that time. If you have the most energy from 8am-10am, don't schedule phone calls or check email during that time since those tasks require less energy. Be sure to proactively build in breaks during your low energy periods as well.
  • The next time someone asks you to make time for something, ask yourself: would I make time in my schedule to do this tomorrow? If the answer is “no,” perhaps it's not a valuable use of your time.

Join us as we discuss the narrative around time management, being busy, and making time for doing amazing things when we schedule “open space.” Listen on iTunes or in the player below, and if you enjoy the show, please make sure you subscribe so you don't miss an episode.

Links in this Episode and Transcript

Laura Vanderkam – Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Steven R. Covey

168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam

Disrupt Yourself Podcast, Episode 39: Daniel Pink

What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast: A Short Guide to Making Over Your Mornings–and Life by Laura Vanderkam

Dare, Dream, Do: Remarkable Things Happen When You Dare to Dream by Whitney Johnson

TED – How to gain control of your free time by Laura Vanderkam

Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done by Laura Vanderkam

Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner

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