168 Hours


We don't build the lives we want by saving time. We build the lives we want, and then time saves itself. 2 Mins

Set priorities, eliminate the non-essentials, and focus on what truly matters.

True time management is about filling our lives with things (and people) that deserve to be there.

Instead of saying "I don't have time for that," you say "It's not a priority for me."

"Sometimes we grow into our own advice."

When have I ever given the task of 'writing' equal value to client work (or direct income-generating task)? By letting client work take priority, you clearly are not putting the tasks related to 'writing' on equal ground with your 'work priorities.' The answer is never.

"While we think of our life in grand abstractions, a life is actually lived in hours (or 60 minutes per hour)"

As we start our week of writing on 12/9, you must make it as high a priority as client work. Sure, there are things you'll need to attend to for your 'job,' but you need to give the task of writing equal value.

32 Hours per week

After accounting for 8 hours of sleep and everything else you can't easily avoid (including meals, obligations, work, commute, etc..), you most likely only have 30-40 hours per week remaining for everything else.

So when I break down the 168 hours of time we have each week, here's what I get:

Per week
Sleep: 56 hrs.
Meals/Bathroom: 21 hrs.
Work/Commute: 45 hrs.
Other Obligations: 14 hrs.
Total (claimed): 136 hrs.
Available: 168 hrs.
Remaining (unclaimed): 32 hrs.

Per month: 128 hours
Per year: 1,664 hours

Consider that you have just discovered 1,664 hours of 'free time!'

By free, I mean you get to spend it, for the most part, how you choose.

That's the equivalent of almost 70 days. Over 2 months!

If you are like me (self-employed), you actually have far more freedom (and not) on how you spend your workday. And while I don't have any vacation time, this exercise made me realize I actually have over 2 months of vacation time spread over the 365 days!

Imagine discovering that you are earning a 20% dividend every month in your bank account. When it comes to time, this exercise will likley reveal that you have 20% (or more) of unclaimed time sitting in your 'time' account.

Still think you don't have time to volunteer?

What could you do if you reclaimed this time?

While I think tracking the 168 hours is still a useful exercise, consider how you are 'spending' the 30-40 hours (in my case 32 hours) of unclaimed time.

What are the events that typically fall in the 'available' time blocks?

The 'free time' that is available to me, where I can truly allocate the time how I choose might look like this:

5AM-6AM M-F (5 hrs/week)
[7AM-8AM] Booked
7AM-8AM M-F (5 hrs/week)
[8AM-7PM] Booked
7PM-9PM M-F (10 hrs/week)
6AM-10AM Sat & Sun (8 hrs/week)
7PM-9PM Sat & Sun (4 hrs/week)


There are 168 hours in a week. This book is about where the time really goes, and how we can all use it better. It's an unquestioned truth of modern life: we are starved for time. We tell ourselves we'd like to read more, get to the gym regularly, try new hobbies, and accomplish all kinds of goals. But then we give up because there just aren't enough hours to do it all. Or else, if we don't make excuses, we make sacrifices. To get ahead at work we spend less time with our spouses. To carve out more family time, we put off getting in shape. To train for a marathon, we cut back on sleep. There has to be a better way-and Laura Vanderkam has found one.

Based on interviews with dozens of successful, happy people, she discovered they allocate their time differently than most of us. Instead of letting the daily grind crowd out the important stuff, they start by making sure there's time for the important stuff. They focus on what they do best and what only they can do.

Vanderkam shows that it really is possible to sleep eight hours a night, exercise five days a week, take piano lessons, and write a novel without giving up quality time for work, family, and other things that really matter.

The key is to start with a blank slate and to fill up your 168 hours only with things that deserve your time. This is another take on the big rocks analogy by Stephen Covey. Of course, you probably won't read to your children at 2:00 am, or skip a Wednesday morning meeting to go hiking, but you can cut back on how much you watch TV, do laundry, or spend time on other less fulfilling activities. Vanderkam shares creative ways to rearrange your schedule to make room for the things that matter most. 168 Hours is a fun, inspiring, practical guide that will help men and women of any age, lifestyle, or career get the most out of their time and their lives.

Book Summary

Further Reading & Resources