Why being ‘crazy organised’ about your time could help you relax – RN
Author Laura Vanderkam says ‘time-auditing’ has enabled her to spend more time doing what she loves — like reading. (Getty: Irina Dobrolyubova)
If you often find yourself wishing you had more hours in a day, there’s an experiment you could try: a time audit.
For a week, or even just a few days, track your time and record how many hours you work, drive, take public transport, sleep, interact with family or do chores.
Then, says Laura Vanderkam, who has authored several books on time management, “ask yourself how you feel about it”.
The audit will probably reveal things you’re happy about, she says — but there’ll be other things you want to change.
Then, Vanderkam says, the next step is to ask yourself the following question:
“Is there a way that I could do one hour more on the stuff that I really like and … one hour less on the things that I’m not so happy about?”
Change an hour in each direction, she says, and you’ll gain an extra couple of hours in the week that will make you happier.
She says the process has allowed her to “move the needle” on how she spends her time.
“Being aware of where all my hours go has helped make these years that people say go so quickly feel more like this rich tapestry and less like this slick linoleum floor that I’m skidding past,” she says.
Thinking time shouldn’t just be in the shower
Vanderkam has logged her time in 15-minute intervals for the last three years (though doesn’t suggest you need to go to such extremes).
She says being “crazy organised” has given her a fresh perspective on life.
“It keeps me from telling stories about my time that aren’t true,” she says.
“It also helps me see what time’s available for the things I want to do.”
One of those things is simply thinking.
Vanderkam advocates carving out in your schedule some ‘open space’ — empty time to consider ideas.
“When you pack your schedule you don’t have the time for any [thoughts or ideas] to come to you,” she says.
“If you’re on different phone calls every 15 minutes and racing from one thing to the other, and constantly answering emails, you don’t have that blank space for your mind to come up with stuff.
“This is why people come up with their best ideas in the shower.”
Do you do your best thinking in the shower? There may be a good reason for that. (Getty: Olaser)
Open space might feel like an unattainable luxury, but Vanderkam says it doesn’t need to be.
“You can build that space into your life, even if you’re not in the shower — just carve out an hour to think,” she says.
“For many people it ends up being best in the morning, because that’s when fewer people are trying to distract you.”
But finding space is also about getting rid of our own distractions.
“I always find that people may have free time or open time for deep thinking, but we have a tendency to chop it up by picking up our phones and checking social media and things like that, and time disappears,” Vanderkam says.
‘I could have read War and Peace 10 times’
Another thing that’s a high priority in Vanderkam’s free time is reading.
The author, who has four children, first started to track her time when her youngest child was three months old.
“So you could forgive me for thinking I did not have any time to read,” she says.
After time-tracking for a year, she realised she’d read for 326 hours — almost an hour a day.
But she struggled to name any good books she’d read.
“I was just sort of spending that time mindlessly, reading whatever magazines happened to be in front of me, just paging through stuff,” she says.
“I could have read War and Peace 10 times in 326 hours [so] I started becoming much more mindful about that time. As a result, I’ve had a much more satisfying reading life.”
Reading and thinking are up there, but number one on Vanderkam’s time priorities list is family time.
She says time-auditing has enabled her to ensure she gets it.
“Even within the context of needing to earn a living and all the stuff that goes with that, I try to carve out space within the time I have — within the 8,760 hours of each year — for doing fun things,” she says.
Vanderkam argues that time-auditing keeps her priorities in check — and she says it’s a process that anyone can use to change their lives, even just a little.
“The cool thing about time is that we all have the same amount,” she says.
“When you find people who are doing amazing things professionally and then you learn that they’re also doing amazing things personally, it’s not because they have any more time than the rest of us.
“I find that very inspiring.”