Have you ever heard the saying, largely attributed to Gloria Steinham: “The truth will set you free; but first, it will piss you off”? That is exactly how I feel about Laura Vanderkam’s I Know How She Does It. The book was very freeing, after I got over my initial anger.
Laura is a time management expert (that’s a thing?). For her two books 168 Hours and What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, she researched and studied hundreds of time logs to find out how people actually spent their time. After those two books, she realized that she was attracted to stories of how women who were simultaneously building careers and families spent their time. The Mosaic Project was born and she obtained time logs from about one hundred successful women.
Who Is This Book For?
Which brought me to my first moment of consternation: Her “successful” woman is making 6 figures. I understand that for the purposes of the study, she had to set the bar somewhere but by that standard, I would not be considered a successful woman. Would this book apply to me? As I kept in mind her purpose for writing the book: “… celebrating abundance rather than lamenting choices or claiming that no one can have it all,” I concluded that the book can apply to every woman who wants more time.
Later she says, “The time is there to have what matters. We have to choose to see this, and many people choose not to.” Not wanting to be one of those ignorant and misguided souls, I read on.
I Know How She Does It is divided into three main sections: Work, Home, and Self. In each section, she analyzes several logs (the logs are there for you to review) and tells the stories of those women who participated. She also provides tips and strategies to make better use of time in that area.
The one that I found most useful here was that we tend to think that “balance” requires us to fit everything that we want to do into 24 hours. Her strategy is to think 168 hours, not 24. For the sake of this argument, if I start the week on a Monday, “Monday through midday Thursday is exactly half the week.” This means I have the equivalent of almost an entire half of a week to spend with my family and pursuing the things I want. That was eye-opening for me.
What grabbed me from this section was this statement: “We make choices in our lives, sometimes without thinking about them, and some of these play out in ways that have profound effects on our day-to-day existence.”
Of course, a woman earning over $100,000 a year, assumingly as half of a household income, could afford such luxuries as a cleaning service, a nanny, and have the groceries delivered, per Laura’s recommendation. But could I? My initial ire and my assumption said that I couldn’t but I decided to investigate to see if it were actually true.
I called several cleaning services and asked for quotes on my less than 1500-square-foot home. Prices ranged from $75 to $125 dollars. I then decided to see how long it took me to focus and clean my home, not allowing the task to “fill up the available space.” The answer: 2.5 hours max, and this included deep cleaning: dusting, mopping, etc. For right now, two hours of my time is not worth $125 but there may come a time when it might be.
I, also, despise running to the store for things like toothpaste, toilet tissue, paper towels, napkins, and razors. Ugh! Enter Amazon’s Subscribe and Save. Since I am already a Prime member I decided to take full advantage and have those necessities delivered to me for free. The difference in cost, if any, is negated after my time and peace of mind come into play.
This one got me! Laura concludes that in order to have the life you love, you probably need to stop watching so much TV and spending so much time on social media. She’s right. I didn’t do a time log for my entire week but I did track my hours of television and social media which often go hand-in-hand. I discovered I was viewing an astounding 20+ hours a week. Yes, during some of it I was “multi-tasking like watching dishes, cleaning my house, but all that was doing was allowing those activities to fill up the available time. So instead the 2 hours of focus cleaning, it took six or more to clean my house from top to bottom while mindlessly watching television shows I didn’t really care about. And how about scrolling through social media for an hour or two before finally going to sleep? I could have been reading books, which I claim I don’t have as much time to do as I’d like.
The bottom line, making the most of our time “requires a conscious choice.” A freeing choice. After you get over the initial ire, that is.
I could go on and on about this book but I’ll make do by responding to your thoughts in the Comments below and/or during the Rocket City Mom Virtual Book Club on March 9. See you there.
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Shannan Moore Malone squeezes in the time to write while taking care of the Buddy Man. As you already know, she loves books but she also loves great movies, running, and is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, a foodie. Though generally more on the quiet side, you can get her talking by mentioning living authentically, the importance of clarity and organization, and enjoying life, which she occasionally writes about on her blog her blog and posts about on Instagram.