I am crazy for productivity. The idea of squeezing every drop out of every second of every day intrigues me. I think it’s my competitive nature. Time is a finite source, and I’ll be hanged if any of it is going to slip away. To me, besting the clock by cramming as much into it as possible is the ultimate contest.
And I do get carried away. I have learned from years of trying to do too much that in order to really win at the time vs. accomplishments game I need to figure out how to balance productivity with quality. Cramming life full of to-dos is stupid if you don’t enjoy any of it.
In my mind, productivity is especially important in military life. Because while the clock may be such a tease with its unrelenting 24 hours in every day and 365 days in every year, my servicemember is only around for some of those. To get the most out of him we either have to do things really, really quickly or be especially scrappy with our time management.
And that’s where my favorite productivity book for our military wife and ManSpouse book club comes in. “168 Hours: You Have More Time Than you Think,” by Laura Vanderkam, takes a new spin on time management by examining happy people and highlighting how it is they have time to do the things they enjoy.
The basic premise is this: start by making sure you have time for the important stuff — whatever that may be — and eliminate, downsize or outsource the rest.
Vanderkam looks at it like this: each week contains 168 hours. We fill that time with work, eating, sleeping, laundry, house cleaning, reading to our kids, exercising, washing the dog, commuting, watching TV and a million other big and little tasks.
But if you consider those hours as a blank slate and then schedule yourself in to only give time to deserving activities, you may find yourself with time you didn’t know you had.
So what is a “deserving” activity? Isn’t every task we do during the day – whether that be toilet scrubbing, nose wiping or working — worthy in some way?
In Vanderkam’s mind worthy things are your “core competencies” — things only you can do (examples: your job, cuddling with your child, talking to your husband) — or things that you find the most fulfilling (examples: playing sports, coffee dates with your friend).
Everything else is up for elimination or outsourcing. If sitting mindlessly in front of the TV leaves you less fulfilled than reading a book — why are you sitting in front of the TV? If you can work a few extra hours at a job you enjoy while you pay a house keeper to do the real dirty work once a month, why wouldn’t you? Most of us cannot afford to outsource every task we dislike or find tedious — but then again, most of us have never even thought about trying.
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