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Book Review: Off The Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done by Laura Vanderkam
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Book Review: Off The Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done by Laura Vanderkam - Executive Leadership Articles

Book Review: Off The Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done by Laura Vanderkam

Executive Leadership Articles

Book Review: Off The Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done by Laura Vanderkam

In the introduction to her latest book Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done (Portfolio/Penguin, 2018), author Laura Vanderkam describes a day when an unexpected pocket of time opened up while she was visiting a town in Maine. With nowhere to be for the rest of the day, she put on her running clothes and explored this town, completely unburdened by the pressure of the clock. She says that up until that day, she could maybe think of one other time in recent years when she’d been so unencumbered.

“Being off the clock implies time freedom,” she says, “yet time freedom stems from time discipline. You must know where the time goes in order to transcend the ceaseless ticking.” Although her day in Maine was a happy accident, Vanderkam insists that moment like these can be planned for, savored, and remembered, and that we can enjoy them without the guilty feeling that comes with stealing time away from important tasks.

The writer surveyed several thousand people who responded to questions about how they spend their time and how they felt about their time, and then she had them track every minute of the same day. Dividing respondents into people who felt especially good about their time and people who felt especially negative about it, she had a basis for comparing attitudes and practice, arriving at the case she makes in this book, among them the acceptance that “Honoring time requires embracing certain truths: that time is precious and time is plentiful.”

Vanderkam breaks her findings down into seven practices for making the most and best of our time, each the subject of one chapter: tend your garden, make life memorable, don’t fill time, linger, invest in your happiness, let it go, and people are a good use of time. Although she bases her advice on findings in her research, it is not a scholarly approach to collecting or analyzing the data, so the presentation is much more anecdotal. This results in very accessible (if not exactly scientific) reading, which results further in the feeling that the author is nudginer her readers toward something they can actually accomplish.

She begins where all the time management books begin: with the argument that we should all track our time so we can compare how we think we spend time with how we actually spend it. Interestingly, her tone is much less about finding places where we waste time, but in discovering that we have more time than we think we do. It’s a fine distinction in some ways, but if the result is ten extra hours per week than we think we have, we have the opportunity to do amazing, glorious, memorable things with them.

“Make Life Memorable” is the title of the second chapter, and it’s some of the best practical advice for altering our feelings about our time. We may only have had one hour this week that we felt belonged totally and exclusively to ourselves, but if we spend that hour doing something memorable, at the end of the week we’ll feel better about how we spent our time overall. That one hour of pleasant memory can make many other hours fulfilling obligations seem much less demanding.

Chapter two is more practical than philosophical. Its advice leans toward parking in a different lot so we can discover interesting new things on our walks to the office, then taking a moment to revisit one of our interesting finds later in the week. Where making life memorable becomes truly interesting is in combination with chapter four, “Linger.” Vanderkam also uses the word “savor” in describing this approach, and it works with her mindfulness approach to the actual management of time. Existing in the moment and appreciating the moment for what it is, we feel even better about the time we spend. “It doesn’t imply that you have nothing to do or that you are avoiding the important stuff. It implies that you have important things to do and you are giving them the time they deserve.

Vanderkam would probably frown on this recommendation, but her book works well whether you want to embrace practical change in how you spend your time, or just become more aware of how you are spending it to so you can fully enjoy the enjoyable stuff. You could probably disregard all the lifestyle changes and still do the attitude adjustments and find something meaningful here. A recommended read for the second tier of your reading stack.

 

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Book Review: Off The Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done by Laura Vanderkam - Executive Leadership Articles

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