The Leadercast Podcast
The Leadercast Podcast

Episode · 4 years ago

2: How To Feel Like You Have More Time In Your Day w/ Laura Vanderkam


Everybody has the exact same amount of time every single day.

Did you know that?  24 hours.

You know that is factually the case, but doesn’t it feel like some people just have way more time than you do?  The good news is that you have control over how you choose to spend your time, so choose wisely!

On this episode of The Leadercast Podcast, we’re joined by Laura Vanderkam, author of the new book Off the Clock.  Laura is an expert in time management and can tell you exactly how to stretch those beautiful moments in your life where you lose track of time in the best way possible.

Laura takes us through the biggest misstep in time management, time discipline, strategic time planning, and what you can do today to get more time back in your life!

This is the leader cast podcast, hoping you'd be a leader worth following. Hello and welcome to another episode of a leader cast podcast. My name is Natalie to pui and I'm on the leader cast team and your host for today's episode. Thanks for tuning in today. I'm so happy and honor to welcome our guest for today's podcast, Laura Vandercam. Laura is a best selling author of several books, including what the most successful people do before breakfast and one hundred and sixty eight hours. You have more time than you think. Her newest book, just released yesterday, is titled off the clock. Feel less busy while getting more done. At leader cast we had the privilege of learning from Laura when she spoke at our inaugural leader cast women event last fall. She was a huge hit and taught the audience so much about time management and productivity, and we're super honored to have her join the leader cast podcast today. Laura, thank you for joining us and a huge congratulations on the new book. Well, thank you so much for having me and thanks for the congratulations to yeah, what an exciting time and such a big release and probably a relief to have your book out into the world again. Yeah, it's always it's always fun. I have written a few books now, but every time it just feels a bit like a birthday and kind of counting down the days, as a kid would do, to the birthday and then celebrating it. So I'm trying to pause and really enjoy this one as well. Yeah, absolutely, I can only imagine. It's such a process to get your head wrapped around, you know, the concept you want to write and then actually doing the hard act of writing it and then, obviously the launch such a big accomplishment for congratulations. Thank you. So, before we dive into these fantastic strategies in your new book off the clock, tell me just a little bit about why time management and productivity became a passion for you. You're a mom off you and your husband both travel for your amazing jobs. So how did this come into your life? What did it just stem kind of naturally from having to manage your own time, from having to manage my own time? Yeah, well, you know, I wish there were some really good story, like a good selfhelped narrative where I hit rock bottom and then had to come up from it, but, you know, nothing that interesting in my life is really more about noticing many years ago, probably around the time I was trying to figure out how I was going to be combining work and family as I became a parent, that you know there we all have the same amount of time, and so when you meet these people who are doing amazing things professionally and then they also turn out to have really cool personal lives to they mean they're raising happy families, are doing awesome things in their community or whatever it is, it's not that they have any more time than anyone else. So maybe they're allocating their hours and interesting ways that the rest of us can learn from. And so I'm fascinated by that topic and I have really enjoyed getting to study people's schedules to learn about where the time really goes and see if I can use that information to help people. Awesome. Yeah, totally, that makes perfect sense, I do you think? And you have a journalism background as well, right, yeah, I've always been a writer of done a lot of newspaper and magazine work, and so it was a natural thing to start writing books coming out of that. Totally that natural curiosity for okay, I found this topic that is just, you know, so fascinating and now digging into all of that and finding not the answers behind it. It's what I try to do. I love it so and your books. Obviously they're best sellers because they're so well written, but they're also so needed and people are really looking for these strategies and tips and answers. Where do you see people regularly making missteps in there in the world of time management? For Them? Well, the thing about time is that it keeps passing whether you think about where it's going or not, and so it is very easy to spend time mindlessly. is sort of in a micro sense, and like you can, you know, fall down an Internet rabbit hole our just go? But in a macro sense, to of mean people can be like hey, where did the last three years go? Like, wasn't...

...that kid just to like now the kid is five or whatever. Yeah, it's time just seems to sort of disappear and slip through our fingers, and I think it's because we don't always think about what what would I like to be doing with by time? How can I make sure that happens? How can I really enjoy these good things while they're going on and savor that experience. And when we do plan for interesting things in our lives and savor those things when they are happening, then we time feels richer and fuller and then we feel like we have more time. Yeah, definitely. I can remember moments of when I've done it well and I live in moments where I don't do well, and then you can really tell the difference. But we all do really, I mean nobody. It's fake, because I have had thousands of people track their time for me over the years of their studied schedules, and it's really not about this game was like Gotcha, like, Oh look, you thought you worked forty hours and in fact you worked thirty seven or something silly like that. It's more about, you know, asking this question of where we want the time to go. And nobody spends time perfectly and nobody ever sort of arrives at this place where all time is spent well and we never waste any time. Like everybody wastes time. I certainly know I waste time, always tons of time, but it's a question of sort of checking in broadly and seeing am I spending my hours on the things that are important to me, or am I not? And if I'm not, what can I do to change that? And by just taking that little bit of a pause to look at this flowing stream of time and try and direct it a little bit, it just changes the experience so much. Yeah, definitely, definitely. So let's dive into off the clock, because there are some super key things that you've discussed, that you're discussing in this book, that the world just needs to know. And so at the beginning of the book, and this is kind of goes back to a little bit of what we're just talking about, you you discuss this time paradox, or many time paradoxes, but one and specifically really resonated with me that in order to feel freedom with our time, we have to have be disciplined with our time. Can you dive into that a little bit and explain that in more detail? Yeah, it really does sound like this paradox that I'm talking about going off the clock and yet I'm telling people to track their time and that seems like the absolute opposite of being off the clock. But I think it comes down to this paradox of that time discipline leads to time freedom, because in order to create these relaxed stretches of time where we are truly enjoying ourselves or sort of lost in what we're doing and not watching the clock, we have to be able to create those times, which means that we have to not have sort of looming deadlines hanging over our heads. We have to have the logistics of our lives mapped out. If you're managing employees, for instance, you got to make sure that you know they're they've got the stuff they need, so they're not coming to you and interrupting this time where you're really trying to pause and think thoughtfully about, you know, big strategic stuff, or if you're managing kids like that, somebody is is playing with them so you can go, you know, lose yourself in a creative writing project or something. I mean, you're really just trying to engineer these moments where you can have this freedom. And if you don't engineer those months there aren't just going to happen. I mean, if you have a busy life, they aren't just going to happen. And so it is by being disciplined about figure out the logistics of our time and our schedules that we can then actually go off the clock. Yeah, absolutely. The one of the things that I love throughout the book where you use some really specific examples of people that you either kind of met by chance or through doing research and studies with all these people and they gave some pretty specific examples of how they achieve that feeling of time freedom. Would you mind sharing maybe one of your favorites that comes to mind? I mean there's lots of different stories. One of my favorites is for the beginning of the book I talked about principle who started tracking his time. If you think about a principle job like leading a school, talk about crises going on all the time. I mean, yeah, some teachers got a problem with this, there's a discipline issue, then there's like a pipe breaking somewhere and...

...then there's a fight in the cafeteria and then a bus is late, and you know, you can be completely absorbed by all these crises, and yet none of those crises are necessarily the best use of a principle's time. A principle's time is best used sort of nurtures teachers right to think about how the the principle can train those teachers to do gotter to sort of hold them accountable to their goals and work with them on better delivery of lessons and all that sort of thing. So really, you know, being a good manager in the sense of managing the people who work from as opposed to managing all these other crises. And so this principle tracts time and realize that he was spending less time than he wished on this instructional leadership, and so he figured out various ways, with some help from various other people, to get a lot of that stuff off his plate. You know, somebody else can monitor the cafeteria. Only he can really go in and, you know, celebrate with a teacher who's just had kids. You know, do you better on a math test than they had before? You know. So that's the kind of thing that he should best do. So he figured that out. He made to spend more of his time at and there was just, I mean, great results in the school in terms of, you know, test scores being better, people being happier, all that. Would he focus this time on what he did best. So he achieved that sort of happiness and more relaxed sense like, Oh, I know we're getting good stuff done here. By being very mindful of his time. Yeah, what a difference it must feel like to walk away from Your Day and know, I think a lot of people are hoping for the feeling of wow, I know I worked hard today, but every hour that I spent was well spent, instead of feeling like, Oh, I spent ten hours at my job and like now I'm home. Yeah, and I have no idea what I necessarily did. I mean there was like a fight in the cafeteria and I know that a bus was late, but if you know, who knows what about, like all this time just disappears into this is sort of these crises as opposed to the thoughtful things that are really the best you serial time. So, yeah, it's being you can be relaxed when you know those good things are happening, and it's hard to be relaxed when you don't know those good things are happening. And the only way to make sure those good things happen is to be mindful of your time. Yeah, and I think what I loved was through those studies and these different examples of people that you mentioned throughout the book, you share the distinction between feeling, quote unquote, off the clock and feeling like you have free time. I felt like there was a pretty significant distinction there. How can you, I guess, what's the difference between those two feelings? And then how how can you tell the distinction between the two and from life? Well, I mean free time is certainly a part of being off the clock. Yeah, that we would hope we'd spend our leisure time well and ways that are actually enjoyable to us. I think in many cases people have leisure time but that choose to spend it in ways that aren't particularly meaningful or enjoyable, like, you know, those Internet rabbit holes where we, you know, can't start looking at photos on facebook at people you didn't like in high school anyway, and then it's like, well, that wasn't really necessarily good use of a remaining hour of my life. But I think you know it's there's it's certainly possible to feel off the clock in a work context. To mean talk about a paradox. The whole phrase off the clock is like when you punch out right right, but you know, when you're deeply absorbed in a project, you're you're not watching the clock, like you can look at the clock later and be like, wow, I just two hours disappeared into working on this you know project that I was so deeply absorbed in and enjoying so much. And if you can achieve that, that sense of being off the clock while you're actually at work, I mean wow, how awesome is that? And you know, I'm not saying every minute will be like that, because I don't think there's a job on this planet that has that aspect. But the more, the more minutes where you can feel that way, feel so deeply absorbed, the better. Yeah, totally. Yeah, the idea of feeling, yeah, off off the clock while being paid to work, that sounds like a miracle as much as possible, you know, but the fact that it's not a miracle and you can make the choices to make it happened is the mindfulness that you talk about in the book,...

...which I loved. Yeah, no, I mean, it isn't going to just happen. I mean very rarely do we just simply stumble upon the perfect, you know job that has been exactly laid out for us, doing exactly what we love. I mean, any career, you're going to have to craft it in order to spend more time on these things that you love and less on the things you don't. So, you know, it's about broadly paying attention, saying, well, when am I happiest, when do I feel like I'm best using my talents, one of my most contributing and, you know, figuring out ways to work with the people you work with to scale that up over time. And if there's sort of a limit to how much you can do, then you have to make the choices of whether you're going to seek opportunities elsewhere or create them for yourself. Yeah, absolutely. That sentiment about mindfulness and I'm in the book. You say mindfulness gives you time and time gives you choices. Did I quite that right? Yeah, quoting a meditation teach, the mindfulness gives you time, time gives you choices. Choices lead to freedom and and so I think that's getting at this idea of being sort of cognizant of our time, making good choices with it, and that's what allows us to then go off the clock, this whole idea of time discipline leading to time freedom. Right. So when we a lot of people, and I'm guilty of this all the time, I pretend or assume that I am time poor, like because I have this I'm too busy mentality. There's too much going on, I can't do this through that the other. How do we talk ourselves out of that I'm too busy mode? Well, I think one thing is just to challenge yourself to change your language, like what if you didn't use the word busy? Because the thing is, once we start telling ourselves a story, then we begin to look for evidence to support it, sort of this confirmation biased concept. But if my story is that I am harried and crazed and put upon and everyone needs something for me and I never have time for anything, well, I can sure find evidence of that in my life at some point. You know, a look of three phone calls in a row and then I have to go do x, Y and Z and in it. Yes, but then you can find other moments to like, oh well, I actually had sort of twenty minutes off here and I did nothing with it. But I could have you know, read or something like that. And so if you change your story and say I do have time for the things that are important to me, then you can start to look for evidence of that. Right, you can start to look for evidence that supports that theory. And again. You can probably find evidence. You say, oh well, that I have this, you know, couple minutes here and then, instead of checking email yet again, because I know there's nothing in it, I'm going to read a book with this time. And now, wow, look at me, I'm the kind of person who has the time to read. That's a very different statement of identity than this. You know, I'm so busy, crazed, harried, put upon. So it's really about sort of just changing your mindset. And I'm not saying it's not true that you're not har reading, crazy, and maybe, maybe there really are. You know that you have very, very limited time at this phase in your life, but it might improve your life to walk around with the story that you do have time for the things that matter to you, because then you can start to see these bits of time and maybe you can try to yield them up as you move forward. Yeah, totally. I think one of a kind of similar thread to that conversation about getting rid of this busy narrative in our heads is also the flip side of not building white space in or having like thirty minutes between, you know, four meetings in a row and not being able to use those thirty minutes effectively or or, I guess, maybe not use them, quote unquote at all. And you talk a little bit about really building in that white space in the book. How can people make better use of those times? Well, I think it's important to have some white space in your schedule, as we were saying, because for many reasons. I mean one is everything takes longer than you think it will, so building in space means you're not late and rushing. It's also because stuff will come up and when stuff comes up you need a space to put it, and so consciously rand your days so maybe only four of the eight hours you're planning to work are booked. Will that way, when something comes up, you have space to put it in those four hours that aren't booked. Or if that's not possible in your..., maybe you sort of push as many of your meetings as possible to Monday through Thursday and then Friday isn't books. So when something comes up on Tuesday you have to cancel meeting, there's a place where it can go Friday and so you don't get too far behind like it's still going to happen. So that's a really good reason to build that white space in and you know then if it's if it doesn't get filled, I'm in. Great. We've got open space. I've no doubt you can come up with something to do with it. But you know, the quistion about having small bits of time between meetings. It was more sort of like the idea of, you know, trying to create some open blocks of space in our lives for, you know, deeper thinking, for creativity and all that. So if you have meetings through the day, it might be best not to do one at like thirty, one at eleven thirty and one at too, because then they've chopped up the whole day. I mean maybe if you could put them all in the morning, like thirty, eleven thirty, and then have they hole after and not for in my mind it'd be better to put the afternoons in the meetings because most people tend to do better focused creative work in the mornings and you know the meetings are going to happen anyway and you know the back and forth will have some stimulating aspect to you. So better to put those at a lower energy time. But I know not everyone for first to think that way. Yeah, no, that makes perfect sense. There's an a book called the five gears by Jeremy Kuba check and Steve Cochrum, and they talked a lot about putting meetings together like that. So that, because so that you end up working in the right kind of like amount of focus, if that makes sense. Hmm, where you really get into that deeper thinking and there's not there's less disruption and you you have the chance to really dig into it. So I I've see that in a lot of people. We see that in our office to we use that steal lie. But I mean it depends what the meeting is. If you're, you know, partaching your most important project, so the next year to someone like you probably want that morning. It's all about figuring out what works for you. But I think the key thing here is being strategic with your time. And most of the time I think people are just like, Oh, I'm open it too, sure, we'll put it it too, instead of saying, well, is that really the best time for this to happen? Is this going to cut up my entire day in a way that I wouldn't if I put it somewhere else? Yeah, absolutely. Another I'm going to change years a little bit here. Another chapter that I really enjoyed in the book was all about the power of making time for things that are memorable in life and how that a impact your brain and how you remember things, but also be impact how you feel in the present when you have that to look forward to or look back on. Why does this make a difference in time management, this idea of building memorable things into life? Well, when we're when people say things like I don't you know, where did the time go? That's that's kind of like saying I don't remember where the time went. So science seems to accelerate in our memory when there's nothing sort of standing out from that time. The more memories we have of a time, the bigger it seems, and so that's why we want to think about putting memorable things into our time, because it will make time seem fuller and richer, the more memory units we have created of this period of time. I saw this actually, you know, for off the clock. It was based on a time diary study. I did nine hundred busy people tracking their time for a day and then I asked the questions about how they felt about their time so I could compare people who had what I call the highest time perception scores, so they felt most relaxed and like time was abundant, versus people low time perception scores, who felt rushed and harried and all that stuff. And I found that the people with the top time perception scores were highly likely to have done something incredibly interest nesting on the day that they tracked, which is a normal march Monday. Everyone tracked March twenty, two thousand and seventeen, so normal march Monday, nothing really strange going on that day. But these people were doing stuff like going for salsa dancing lessons, salsa dancing lessons on a Monday night, or like taking a spouse out for a movie or taking their family for a walk in the park after dinner, like just something that was not got this work, go home, eat dinner, watch TV, go to bed, like there was something that was standing out on that March Monday that would make that March Monday memorable, and I thought that was really cool that I could see that and...

...people's time Lugs, that people who had, you know, had a reason for why today is different from other days had a bigger sense of time because they hadn't simply let that days disappear into this wash of the past. Yeah, I can totally relate to that, because they are you know, there are days where you don't have that memorable thing and it's again you're like, Oh, I got home at six and now it's ten PM and again, what happened to the last four hour? So what I also love about these examples is that they're regular things that you can do in your daily life. I think with like social media and feeling like you're kind of on display, if that's your world, that you feel like something memorable has to be like this grand trip or meeting someone amazing or going to this crazy concert or things like that. I love that these examples are so normal. Yeah, I mean it doesn't have to be much. I mean maybe, if it's a nice day, grab some colleagues and you go have a picnic lunch, or maybe you, you know, are normally rushing to your car after work, you know, actually stop by that little store you always are running past and you've been curious about, like you never run in. Yeah, it's just it just something that would make the day more interesting. It's not difficult to plan adventures into your life. It just requires thinking about your time and then we're coming back to that concept again and again. But it does require thinking about your time and taking it seriously and deciding that you're not just going to repeat the same thing day in and day out, that you will actually put something in that you will remember and therefore you create more memories. Definitely, Yep, I can. Yeah, I totally see it and I know that our audience will be able to. What I love about this whole conversation is they'll be able to pull these moments where they're like, oh, that is me, because I'm doing it and I'm just normal, you know. So it's good. So do you find it when we talk about this concept of really thinking about your time and being very reflective about what makes me happy and what would make me happier if I did it differently? Do you find it more impactful, when people are looking at their own time, to look backward and reflect, or to design an ideal day or week and try to live up to that? You can really do both. I think it's a good exercise to try and figure out a realistic ideal day or realistic ideal week. Sort of as you think about how happy you, let's picture you like a year from now or two years from now and your because that gives you enough time to really make a lot of changes if you wanted to. But you know, what would you be doing with your time? Like if you were really happy a lot of the time with how you were spending your time and you felt relaxed and empowered by it, like what would you be doing? And and by doing a whole week, then we get both the personal and the professional. I think that's really important for for figuring out what we want life to look like. Poles it holistically, but it's really all about reflecting on life. So you know, you can look forward and decide a realistic ideal day and week, but you can also look backward. You track your time, for instance, say well, looking back at this past week, what did I like about how I spent my time? What did I not like? What do I want to change like? What do I do want to do more of? What I want to do less of? Or you can just looking back at an individual day and say, well, what went right today? Well, this, Yeay, let's celebrate that. What went wrong? Okay. Well, what can I do to make sure that doesn't happen again or happens less off then, and so just by having those conversations with yourself, you can get yourself to a place where you're spending your time in better ways. Yeah, absolutely. I know in the book you kick it off by kind of telling this personal story of your own experience. I'm having an off the clock moment and feeling like there's nothing actually next in my schedule, and what are some of the practical ways that you apply all of these strategies in your own life? We mentioned at the beginning of the podcast that you're a great mom and have a busy travel schedule. So how do you employ these tools and how could our audience do the same? Well,...

I certainly do try to plan little adventures into my life when I can that if I'm, for instance, traveling somewhere for work, I always love to try to see something if I've got enough time in the city, and that's always been some of my fun travel memories. For doing that, you know, I also really trying to pause and savor some good moments, like noticing when I'm enjoying myself and I'm relaxed and saying, AH, let me try and really enjoy this, like not just no enjoy it, but notice that I'm enjoying it and that can stretch the experience of time. You know, we've having nicer weather now as we get to May, and I been sitting out in my back porch in the evening sometimes and just enjoying the night sounds or the sun going down, the birds and not thinking anything in particular, trying not to look at my phone or read anything necessarily, but just enjoying the that space and so I don't have to rush to anything else. Let me just sit for a minute and notice that I'm sitting, and so I think that's savoring is something I'm really working on doing. Yes, I think our cultures tend to not allow us to savor very effectively and it definitely has to be an active choice. It does. So I'm trying to make that choice. So that's probably one of the biggest things I'm doing. Yeah, that's great. So much of what we've talked about in our conversation is that, and a main theme is that all these strategies kind of parking back to self reflection and self awareness. And for leaders, and that's our audience here, they self awareness is a huge core tenet of leadership as well, and we've talked about kind of the role self awareness plays in productivity. But for leader specifically, who are managing a team or leading a whole company, or maybe they're like somewhere in the middle where they have a boss who doesn't do well with time management but they're really trying to do really well with it. What's like the practical first step for them to just get on this train? Well, I think the first step to spending time better is always figuring out where the time is going. Now, I mean I certainly suggest that anyone who wants to spend his or her time better try tracking their time and and figuring out where it goes, because once you've got a good grasp on it, then you can start to make choices, but choices informed by good data as opposed to choices informed by some random idea or story. I have that who knows if it's true or if it's not. So so keep track your time, see where it's going and then you can sort of analyze, well, what you like and what you don't. What am I under investing? And maybe you really need to have sort of more one on one conversations with people figure out, you know, how they're how they're doing? What can you do to support them? What can you know? What is their workload like? Are they happy, are they unhappy, and what skills are they trying to develop and how can you help them develop those skills? On that tense off and be the best use of a manager time or leater's time. But you know, those are the sorts of things really have to plan to do, because it doesn't just magically happen. So I think it took tracking your time is definitely one of the first things you know, partly because it also helps you calm down, that when we know where the time goes, we could feel more relaxed about it. And people really take their own people feed off whatever their leaders are doing. Like if you're calm and in controling. So we've got a lot going on, but we're good, we're going to make it happen, then that's what everyone else will take from the situation as well, whereas if you seem frantic and crazed and busy and harried and unhappy, well, that's what everyone else is going to feel like as well, and that's probably not going to create a good working environment. Definitely that makes perfect sense. I one of the things I loved most about the story, about the principle that you shared, is that by his choice to manage his time differently and, in his eyes, more effectively, his school saw more success, his team saw more success. I love that the result of one person making those choices can impact a whole community well, certainly when you...

...are a leader, that's multiplies your impact. So you investing your time well means that other people can get results that they wouldn't necessarily otherwise. So it's not just a question of like. It's why it's time management is important and it's not just about, like, how much TV did you watch, like, Oh, is that good or bad? It's because when your time is invested well, then it's spreads out to everyone else who who is in your sphere of impact, and so that's why we really need to think about these things. Definitely. I love it, Laura. Thank you so much for writing this book. I know people are really going to be impacted by off the clock and change for the better, for the better by it. So thank you so much for the energy invested in helping people this way. Thank you so much. Thanks for sharing it with your listeners. I really appreciate it. Of course, thank you for being here. To our audience. You can find Laura's new book off the clock, feel less busy while getting more done at all major book Rea Tailors, and you can find her on her blog at Laura Vandercamcom. A huge thanks to all of our listeners for tuning in today. Feel free to share this episode and go ahead and subscribe so you don't miss a moment. We'll see you back here soon for another episode of leader cast podcast. Thanks everyone. Leader cast women is an inspirational one day leadership event featuring renowned female leaders. Male and female audience members alike leave leader cast women with the tools they need to be leaders worth following. Attend the event live in Atlanta or at a host site near you. To learn more, visit women DOT leader castcom. Thanks for tuning in to the leader cast podcast. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player.

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