Sunday, 2 February 2014

168 hours

How many hours did you spend at your job, exercising, on Twitter or doing school runs last week? According to Laura Vanderkam, bestselling author of the e-book “What The Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast”, we all have 168 hours each week. Every single one of us. But do we spend these 168 hours well? Do we spend them in a way that satisfies us personally, that is good for our careers – and our families? Say you work about 35 hours per week (which is what I do) and sleep 7 hours per night, that still leaves 84 hours for other things.

Getting a better grip on your time management

Inspired by the suggestions in Laura’s book, I embarked on a time log experiment in the first week back at work this year. First, I listed all my routine daily activities in a spreadsheet and then logged the duration of each of them for a couple of days. For years now I have tracked time spent in the office week in and week out. As a translator I can get really absorbed in what I do, so my work time log gives me a clear indication of when it’s time to stop. Tracking my time meticulously for everything else, too, has revealed some very interesting insights and, hopefully, will help increase my efficiency. (And I love thinking about efficiency!)

Weekdays I am usually up before everyone else in the house. I watch the news in English, Italian or German first. (I have been doing this in Italian a lot recently as I really need to practise my listening and comprehension skills.) This is followed by reading and having breakfast on my own – in absolutely perfect quiet! Reading is one of my favourite pastimes and, like all translators, I have to read a lot. Yet I sometimes find it so hard to make time for it. Translators read anything, from newspaper articles and non-fiction books to blog posts. They do this to learn about terminology, get a feel for good writing, and stay current with industry trends. I’ve always done a bit of reading in the morning, but I’ve now managed to carve out a bit more time for it.

Laura suggests getting up early for things that are not terribly urgent, but overall are important to us. Of course, we all tick differently, and what works for me might not work for you at all. And on some days all my good intentions can go out the window too. In principle, however, I love Laura’s idea of getting a jump on the day. I find it’s particularly suited to any of us who juggle a busy career and family commitments. Especially if it’s a career (like translation!) that tends to fill more than the usual office hours and so often seeps into weekends, too.

If you feel like getting a better grip on your time management, you’ll have to get your hands on “What The Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast”! It also includes great tips in the sections “What the Most Successful People Do On the Weekend” and “What the Most Successful People Do at Work”. Check out Laura’s website here or follow her on Twitter @lvanderkam.