There Are 168 Hours in a Week: How Are You Using Yours?

A few weeks ago, Harvard Business Review Online published my latest article, “Relax, You Have 168 Hours This Week.” This is my eighth article for them (click here to see a list of them all), and one I am particularly proud of. In the piece, I use time management techniques to illustrate how we, as busy working parents can find enough time for career, family and life. Please click on the picture below or here to go to the full article, or see below for an excerpt.

Click here to read the full "168 Hours" article at HBR online
Click here to read the full “168 Hours” article at HBR online

An excerpt:

So here’s the real question:  Why are we always so stretched? Why doesn’t 168 hours actually feel like enough time?  I can name three culprits: time sucks, time confetti, and technology. And those suggest three ways to get your life back.

Don’t succumb to time sucks. These are those trivial activities that, once you get into them, are so comfortable that you just keep doing them. It takes real resolve to limit yourself to just a few hours of TV or gaming a week, or just one fantasy sports team, or just 30 minutes a day on Facebook. But try keeping a keeping a diary and adding up the hours you’re spending now, and you might just gain that resolve.

Stop tossing time confetti. In her book Overwhelmed, author Brigid Schulte makes an important distinction between time chunks and time confetti. The best way to use your free time, and make it really feel like free time, is to block it off in chunks. A dedicated hour of play with your kids feels like more time than four quick, distracted 15-minute interactions in between other stuff. The big problem with time confetti, Schulte says, is that it amounts to “contaminated time” which prevents pure enjoyment, relaxation, focus, and mindfulness.

Start being the boss of your technology. Smartphones, email, and other communication technology are great assets in the quest to get the most out of a day, but they can also create the perceived need to be accessible to work 24/7. Set limits such as “no screen hours,” letting everyone at work know the single time you’ll check email each night, and banning devices from the dinner table or family room. Lots of others have written about how unplugging actually leads to higher productivity.

What do you think about your time pressures? Any tips for balancing it all? Let’s discuss in the comments section.

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