I finished reading Laura Vanderkam’s 168 Hours You Have More Time Than You Think this week. Her premise is that we all have 168 hours, which equals one full week. Much of what we do in those hours is not intentional, not particularly productive and not actually doing anything to advance our dreams and desires.
Turns out 168 hours is a lot of time, and we are notoriously good at both wasting and miscalculating how we spend it.
For example, ask a busy executive how many hours they work, and they’ll likely say 50-60 hours. I’ve heard myself say that many times, particularly pre-COVID. But when those same executives track their actual work time, it clocks in much closer to 30-35 hours. That’s because we spend time, while at our desks or in our offices, scrolling through social media (not work for most of us) or news websites, shopping for this, that or the other, talking to our spouse about dinner plans, looking at photos of a colleague’s recent vacation, etc. All of those things might happen at work, but they aren’t technically work.
The challenge of the book is to track your time (she has downloadable 30- and 60-min spreadsheets) for seven days to see patterns. I’ve tried this two or three times before, and I’m pretty good for the first couple of days and then I fizzle out. This week, I’m doing it differently, and it’s working better for me. I use a paper calendar almost like a journal for my extraordinary and Daily Dose work, so I’m logging my time into the individual days like this: 4:45-6 write blog post | 6-7:30 spin | 7:30-8 get ready…
Even with just a few days logged, I can see the amount of actual time I spend doing any number of things doesn’t align with the amount I’d estimate I spend on them.
She says, “What if we approached time differently? In 168 hours, there is easily time to sleep 8 hours a night (56) and work 50 hours a week, if you desire. That adds up to 106 hours, leaving 62 hours per week for other things” (21).
Sixty-two hours is a lot of time. She goes on to note that if you add in active parenting, exercising, pursuing volunteer work, etc. you still have a number of hours left in the week.
Turns out that, for the great majority of us, a lack of time is not the issue; how we spend it is.
That’s interesting, but it’s not actually the core point of the book. It’s really about realizing that you absolutely have the time you need, in almost all cases, to pursue what you desire. My favorite assignment in the book is to create a list of 100 Dreams. What do you want to do in your life, large or small? Getting to 100 is harder than it seems like it would be. Here are a few from mine, which as of today, is only 62:
- Have a beautiful pollinator garden
- Leave the continental US four times/year for work and/or travel
- Visit the Lake District in England
- Drive a Winnebago to the Grand Canyon with Dr Marry
- Co-create an NA Daily Dose beer with one of our local breweries
- Bike through northern Italy
- Meet Elizabeth Gilbert on a joint speaking tour
- See The Taming of the Shrew at the Globe in London
- Make laminated dough
- Eat dinner on the deck as often as possible
- Celebrate 50+ years with Dr Marry
- Firm up my arms and tummy
- Host more dinner parties
- Give a real TED talk
Some of those I already have in the works, and some are pretty aspirational.
It’s fun to do dreaming like this. It serves a number of purposes: it helps me goal set, it reminds me to be grateful for what I have or am currently actively working toward and it pushes me to think really big because, again, 100 is a lot of things to dream about!
I asked Dr Marry over dinner last night (sitting outside on our deck I might add!) what’s on his list.
He pondered for a bit, and said, “I don’t know. I’m content with what I have.”
I paused, not wanting to say something like, “What does that even mean? You can be content and still want more.”
And then I said that anyway, despite trying not to.
It prompted a conversation about how we each think and move through our lives. I’m constantly looking down my path, yearning to see and strive beyond my visible horizon. Dr Marry likes it here, right where he is.
He sees dreaming of more as being short on gratitude for what he currently has. For Dr Marry, it’s like there’s a finite amount of opportunities, experiences, aspirations, goals and desires floating out in the Universe, and if you grab at too many, something will come along and smack you down for your audacity. Better to sit quietly and not cause a stir in the hopes of going unnoticed by the cosmic police.
Imagine the exact opposite of that; that’s what I believe. I see the Universe as overflowing with abundance, as a joyfully shaken snowglobe of possibility: goodness, opportunity and achievement raining down on us if we just have the good sense to look up and say, “Yes, please and thank you!”
The same way I can’t comprehend that the Universe is literally expanding and contracting simultaneously, I can’t exactly understand this cosmic paradigm either, but I don’t need to understand it to believe it. There’s no end, no finite amount of more, particularly when it’s asked for and accepted in the right spirit: one of gratitude, grace and generosity.
These are my words not his, but I think Dr Marry imagines a giant clipboard with everyone’s name on it and maybe 10 boxes. As something good happens, a box gets ticked: Born to a good family ✔️ Earn a PhD ✔️ Move to America ✔️ Find and marry a red headed lass and bonus son ✔️ Have a dog you love ✔️ Get tenure ✔️ Become a smiling, happy alcoholic enjoying sobriety ✔️ Travel to Hawaii multiple times ✔️ Live an abundant life ✔️
He’s afraid he’s used up most of his ✔️, so he better just sit tight. He perfectly articulated this on an early episode of Daily Dose. I’ll never forget that moment as long as I live. Watch and you can see the shock and sadness come over me (start around minute 11—it only takes 45 seconds for it all to unfold).
I think the Universe, all the energy and our angels are sitting around, waiting to show off what they can do if we simply activate them by putting a dream out into the world. And if we’re willing to actually do some work towards it, too? Hold on to your hats because your dream brigade is gonna double down on this one!
So how about you? Are you on the “More, please and thank you!” or the “I’m good right here, thank you very much.” side of this equation? That sounds like I’m judging Dr Marry, and you if you align that way, too. I’m truly not. I’m just here to say that I believe there are billions of cascading streamers and environmentally-friendly balloons waiting to erupt out of a massive celebratory cannon in the sky for when you identify your heart’s desire, say it out loud and get to work pursuing it. And there’s a whole host of beings, light and energy waiting to show off their mad dream-achieving skills if you simply ask.
Will you achieve every dream you desire? Maybe not. But you’re likely to get a slew of other things you never even knew you wanted in the pursuit, and, in the end, that’s the point of the whole journey, isn’t it?