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  • In this episode of MarieTV, we do have some adult language.

  • So if you have little ones around, grab your headphones now.

  • Hey, it's Marie Forleo and you are watching MarieTV, the place to be to create a business

  • and life you love.

  • Now, if you're anything like me and you love the topic of productivity?

  • Stick around, because my guest today is an expert on how to make the most of those 168

  • hours we each get every week.

  • Laura Vanderkam is the bestselling author of What the Most Successful People Do Before

  • Breakfast, I Know How She Does It, and 168 Hours, among others.

  • Her 2016 TED talk, "How to Gain Control of Your Free Time," has been viewed more than

  • 5 million times.

  • Her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Fortune and other publications.

  • Laura, thank you so much for coming in.

  • Thank you for having me.

  • So I think we share a little bit of a similar DNA.

  • I have been and love talking about productivity and time management.

  • It's just a topic area I can't get enough of.

  • We talk about it a lot on the show.

  • So I'm really curious, where did you develop this love of this topic?

  • How did this start for you?

  • Yeah, well I wish there was a really good story of hitting rock bottom and then, that

  • would make a much better self help book.

  • But I've always been interested in productivity.

  • And it really came to a head when I had my first kid several years ago and I was trying

  • to figure out how I could make the pieces of work and life fit together.

  • And so I started studying people who were making it work.

  • And as I looked at their schedules and ask questions about it, I saw that a lot of the

  • stories we tell ourselves about where the time goes may have some problems with them.

  • And I find that fascinating.

  • So I decided to write about it.

  • Yeah.

  • And so then it just was...

  • Because I know for some authors they could go on to a topic and be like, “okay, I kind

  • of did this,” but there must've been something about it for you that you're like, "I'm going

  • to do it again and look at it from a different point of view."

  • Yeah, well I find the topic fascinating because we all have the same amount of time.

  • Yes.

  • We all have 24 hours in a day, 168 hours in a week.

  • And so when you find people who are doing all these amazing things in their lives, both

  • personally and professionally, it's not because they have any more time than the rest of us.

  • They may have other things going for them, but they don't have that.

  • And so I enjoy studying: what are they doing with their hours?

  • How are they making the pieces of work and life fit together and what can the rest of

  • us learn from that?

  • Yeah.

  • So being Off the Clock, which is the title of your latest book, as you call it, it implies

  • time freedom.

  • Yet time freedom requires discipline.

  • I want to talk about the time paradox meaning that time is both precious and plentiful.

  • I thought this was so fascinating.

  • Why do you feel it's important to really dig into this paradox and like really understanding

  • both where the minutes go and then almost simultaneously not wanting ourselves to be

  • obsessed with where the minutes go?

  • Yeah, there really is this paradox about it.

  • And I mean the whole genesis of Off the Clock came when I was feeling off the clock while

  • on a run this morning in Maine where I was there all by myself.

  • Nobody was expecting me to do anything.

  • I could do whatever I wanted.

  • It was this very sort of liberating sense.

  • And yet I realized in the moment when I was having this wonderful run along the Maine

  • beach that I had to figure out so many logistics to get me to that place.

  • I mean, in terms of making sure I didn't have work at that time, the logistics of getting

  • there, child care, all this other stuff.

  • And so all that time discipline is what had led to time freedom.

  • And as I explored this more with people, I saw that many of the people who do feel the

  • most relaxed about their time are also the people who are most in control of their time.

  • They have figured out where the time is going.

  • They have figured out what needs to happen in their life.

  • They have put the systems in place to make it work.

  • And when you have that going on, well then you can relax.

  • Then you can enjoy time, because you're not vaguely worried that something's not happening

  • that's supposed to, you've got some deadline coming up you're not sure about.

  • So that's when you can really feel off the clock.

  • For me, the more disciplined I am, I do feel that's true.

  • The more freedom I have, and I've seen that in the decades of my career.

  • It's like the more organized I become, then when it's time for me to be truly off the

  • clock, I don't need to check into email.

  • I don't need to pick up the phone.

  • It's like things are taken care of.

  • But so many people, I feel like don't do the first basic steps, which we're going to get

  • into, about figuring out, you know, well where does it all go?

  • So when it comes to things like money or time, for me it's always about, right, you can't

  • measure what you don't manage.

  • And I love the phrasing of Pearson's law: "That which is measured, improves and that

  • which is measured and reported, improves exponentially."

  • So let's talk about time tracking.

  • That's one of your big...

  • I guess so excited about this.

  • And for anyone in the audience, who's like, "No!"

  • Like if they need it, too.

  • Please don't make me.

  • Please don't make me, but it's so exciting.

  • For us, at least.

  • I'm not sure of everyone.

  • But I feel like if we can inspire them to do it because there's so much goodness and

  • benefit and joy that can come from it and the results that can come if you're just willing

  • to dig in there.

  • So first let's talk about you.

  • What inspired you to start tracking your time?

  • Well, I was curious about where my time went.

  • And at the time I started tracking my time continuously, which I did in spring of 2015,

  • so I now know where every half hour block of my time has gone since then, which puts

  • this right out there.

  • Nobody else has to do this.

  • Nobody else has to track their time for three years.

  • Don't worry.

  • But you know, I write about the topic, so I looked at thousands of time logs at that

  • point.

  • I wanted to really see where my time went.

  • And I had kept logs of a week here and there over the years.

  • But I realized when I started tracking my time continuously that I had chosen very specific

  • weeks to track in the past, like weeks that showed me as I wished to see myself.

  • You know, the perfect week.

  • And when you track all your time, of course you can't do that.

  • And so I got a much more holistic perspective on where the time goes.

  • But yeah, I mean if you want to spend your time better, you have to figure out where

  • the time is going now, because if you don't have good data, then your decision will be

  • flawed.

  • I mean, it's the same with any business decision.

  • If you don't know which stores are selling what, how are you going to make right choices

  • of what you're supposed to be doing with that?

  • So that's really what it comes from.

  • And I realized I had plenty of stories I was telling myself.

  • Let's talk about them cause I thought that was fascinating.

  • Like, some of the big lies.

  • And I think that's what's so valuable about being specific and taking the time to track

  • anything, you know, whether it's money or what you're eating.

  • Every time I try kind of a new way of eating and I start to learn something new, I'm like,

  • "Oh my goodness," it shows me so much about how I was kidding myself.

  • I didn't think I ate late at night.

  • It's like, oh my goodness, I snack late night all the time.

  • You start to discover these things.

  • So with your time tracking, what were some of the lies or stories that you were telling

  • yourself?

  • Yes.

  • The equivalent of the six Oreos from the kitchen next to the home office that magically disappear

  • on their own in the course of the day.

  • Yeah, I had thought that I worked about 50 hours a week because the weeks I had tracked

  • in the past, I'd always worked 50 hours a week.

  • And it turned out that I had this story I was telling myself that I'm a serious professional

  • who works long hours.

  • With writing, sometimes people view it as a bit of a dilettante-ish sort of thing to

  • do, so I'm very wedded to this idea of myself as a serious professional.

  • And then when I tracked my time continuously, I realized that the average was a lot closer

  • to 40 than it was to 50.

  • And it's not that I never worked 50 hour weeks because clearly I had.

  • I'd recorded them in the past.

  • I'd worked 60 hours a week.

  • It's just they weren't the norm any more than a week working 20 hours was.

  • And so when I realized, well, the average is 40, not 50, that's 10 hours that even studying

  • this topic very closely, I had no idea where they were going.

  • And what did you discover about those 10 hours?

  • Where did you start to feel like, "Oh, here's where it's sliding off to?"

  • Well, it's interesting.

  • I mean, you know, obviously some of it was going to kid-related stuff.

  • I turned out to spend quite a bit of time in the car, which was just mind boggling for

  • me because I usually work out of my home office, so there's no daily commute and that is where

  • most people's time in the car will appear in their schedule.

  • So, I don't have to worry about that.

  • It turns out I was spending more than an hour a day in the car, listening to really bad

  • music much of the time.

  • And so I realized, I was like, well, I need to be a little bit more intentional about

  • this hour a day.

  • But if I didn't know that, like if I didn't know, I'm spending an hour a day in the car...

  • With crappy music.

  • With crappy music.

  • I mean, I could tell myself all sorts of stories, but it turns out that I'm spending more time

  • in the car, than I am exercising, than I am reading, like all these other things.

  • That was a big one.

  • I loved when you wrote, "Exercise takes a lot of time only in our explanations of why

  • we're not doing it."

  • Pretty much.

  • I was like, "Amen."

  • It was so good.

  • As a woman who likes to go to the gym, when read that, I was like, yup, because the days

  • that I'm quote unquote "too busy," and then I really look, “I'm like, oh, but you know

  • what?

  • You watch the NBC Nightly News didn't you, girl?”

  • Yeah.

  • And I mean it's hard to exercise at night for many people, but that doesn't mean we

  • couldn't have rearranged the schedule in some other ways so that leisure time would appear

  • at a different point in the day.

  • And you know, I've committed to exercising every single day and I've found that's good

  • for me because then it changes the conversation.

  • I'm not like, “am I going to exercise?” which is a whole existential debate.

  • I don't know.

  • Am I gonna exercise?

  • It changes it towhen am I going to exercise?” which is a much more useful question.

  • Yes.

  • So for anyone hearing, okay, I know time tracking is probably the first step, which would you

  • agree, right?

  • Yes.

  • In order to make any significant and substantial changes if we want to.

  • If we want to.

  • If we want to, then a first step is knowing what the hell we're dealing with right now.

  • So for anyone who's resisting this idea, I feel like one of the big ones that you wrote

  • about like, well I don't have the time to track my time, can you address that for them?

  • Yeah.

  • I see all kinds of forms of resistance to this idea and I'm sure some people are like,

  • crossing their hands listening to this.

  • Like, "No, I'm never going to do it."

  • One category of people who resisted is people who have to track their time for work.

  • So lawyers, accountants, or you know, anyone who's punching in and out of something, you

  • may feel like, "I track my time at work.

  • I can't deal with it for the rest of my life."

  • You don't have to do it for three years.

  • Like, that's not expected.

  • Just one week will give you so much insight into your life that I hope you'll find it

  • worth it.

  • As for the argument of being too busy, for me, it takes about three minutes a day.

  • I check in three times a day.

  • Each check in takes about a minute.

  • So, it's the same amount of time I spend brushing my teeth.

  • So if you argue that you're too busy to brush your teeth, then that's fine.

  • But most people find the space in their schedule for it.

  • And they can do it electronically.

  • On your phone.

  • You can do electronically.

  • You can use a time tracking app.

  • Like, there's some that are even intuitive.

  • So like you just go in at the end of the day and correct the record.

  • It doesn't have to take that much time.

  • I think it's more often people don't want to do it because they don't actually want

  • to know.

  • It's the same thing with the food tracking.

  • Like, you don't want to know.

  • The truth hurts.

  • The truth hurts.

  • But then it does set you free.

  • It does set you free.

  • And really, I try to tell people it's not about playing gotcha.

  • Like, I don't actually care if you're on Instagram for two hours every night.