Off The Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done by Laura VanderkamOff The Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done by Laura Vanderkam

Off The Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done

byLaura Vanderkam

Hardcover | May 29, 2018

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about

"I well recall a conversation with an executive I hoped to interview about her astonishing productivity. I began our call with an assurance that I would not take much of her time. She laughed. 'Oh, I have all the time in the world,' she said."

Most of us feel constantly behind, unsure how to escape feeling oppressed by busyness. Laura Vanderkam, unlike other time-management gurus, believes that in order to get more done, we must first feel like we have all the time in the world. Think about it: why haven't you trained for that 5K or read War and Peace? Probably because you feel beaten down by all the time you don't seem to have.

In this book, Vanderkam reveals the seven counterintuitive principles the most time-free people have adopted. She teaches mindset shifts to help you feel calm on the busiest days and tools to help you get more done without feeling overwhelmed. You'll meet people such as...

♦ An elementary school principal who figured out how to spend more time mentoring teachers, and less time supervising the cafeteria

♦ An executive who builds lots of meeting-free space into his calendar, despite managing teams across multiple continents

♦ A CEO who does focused work in a Waffle House early in the morning, so he can keep an open door and a relaxed mindset all day

♦ An artist who overcame a creative block, and reached new heights of productivity, by being more gentle with herself, rather than more demanding

The strategies in this book can help if your life feels out of control, but they can also help if you want to take your career, your relationships, and your personal happiness to the next level. Vanderkam has packed this book with insights from busy yet relaxed professionals, including "time makeovers" of people who are learning how to use these tools. Off the Clock can inspire the rest of us to create lives that are not only productive, but enjoyable in the moment.
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 ...
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Title:Off The Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More DoneFormat:HardcoverDimensions:256 pages, 7.26 × 5.24 × 0.91 inPublished:May 29, 2018Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0735219818

ISBN - 13:9780735219816

Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from at times philosophical, but also very practical!! very unique perspective on time!! this is not the ordinary type of time management book. The author helps you conceptualize the theory of time, and along the way offers out-of-the-box coaching, introducing you practical strategies to not only manage time, but also manage your self and your life.
Date published: 2018-07-08

Read from the Book

ONETend Your GardenMindfulness gives you time. Time gives you choices.Choices, skillfully made, lead to freedom.-Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, Beyond Mindfulness in Plain EnglishRobert Kauffman has been a school principal for twenty-one years. During that time, he's discovered a truth about education and, really, any field involving good intentions and infinite demands. "I think people are often just overwhelmed," he says. Being a principal is an "ambiguous" job, which lends itself to "winging it." A new school leader will feel compelled to focus on the crises right in front of her. The trouble is that, at the end of a crisis-filled day, she'll realize she never did check in with that teacher who wanted advice on reteaching a math concept few pupils understood. The urgent crowds out the important. The important doesn't get done.Thanks to his two decades of experience, Kauffman imagined he was more effective than average, but in 2016, when he became the principal of Hillside Elementary School in Farmington Hills, Michigan, he knew he would be challenged in new ways. The school had an outsized proportion of English-language learners. He wanted to find time to support his best teachers, and mentor those who needed help. He wanted to focus on improving student performance without getting derailed by every late bus and broken pipe.So in late 2016, Kauffman signed on to the National SAM Innovation Project. This fascinating principal professional development program is centered on the belief that principal time is uniquely valuable. A teacher can influence the twenty-five students in his class. A principal can influence a whole school. But for principal time to be invested well, first the principal needs to know where his time goes. Then he can figure out options for redeploying time to the tasks that he does best. After that, he can do the hard work of following up daily to check that these lofty goals are reflected in the reality of how he spends his hours.Kauffman, who calls himself a "data dork," was keen to get this information. After the principal did some initial work with SAM headquarters, a black-clad gentleman appeared at Hillside Elementary School to follow Kauffman around for a Monday-through-Friday school week. Like Kauffman's very own Boswell, the man recorded in five-minute increments absolutely everything Kauffman did. This included snacks and water breaks. He followed him into the lunchroom and into meetings. He made notes as Kauffman dealt with the plethora of discipline issues that of course cropped up during a week when teachers were conscious of creating a good impression. Kauffman had prepared the staff, though he notes that they were still deadly curious about the whole process. Some tried to engage the mysterious scribe in conversation, generally with no result (he was beholden to clean data!).Soon thereafter, Kauffman received his stats. He learned that he was spending 39.2 percent of his time on "instructional leadership"-the teacher and curriculum management that tends to be the highest-value use of a principal's time. That's better than the average principal, who spends about 30 percent of her time on these matters, but less than Kauffman wanted. Time passes whether or not we think about how we spend it, and this is as true in an elementary school as it is anywhere else. Without active tending, Kauffman's time was easily taken over by the equivalent of weeds: dealing with paperwork that could be managed by other people, constantly answering email, and spending too much time supervising the cafeteria.So, like a landscape designer surveying his plot, he sketched ideas of what he would like his time to look like. He brainstormed ways to be in the classrooms more often. He created "Teaching Tuesdays," during which he'd teach lessons to give teachers examples of techniques. Most worked, though some bombed, which was a learning experience for everyone. He designated times during which he would give teachers positive feedback. "I'm not a celebratory feedback guy," he confesses. "The joke is if I say it's okay, it means it's great," but lauding what goes right is curiously motivational.With guidance from SAM headquarters, he aimed to build in thirty minutes a day for personal matters, such as making doctor appointments or calling contractors to get bids on home projects. Without dedicated time, these activities could bleed into the rest of the day and derail other goals. Or else they might not happen, creating work/life stress (more the case for Kauffman; his baseline was a mere 1.4 percent of time spent on anything remotely personal, including time in the bathroom). He also worked on not scheduling every minute. "You want to leave open space in your calendar," he says. That way, "whatever comes up comes up."All this was exciting, but putting twenty minutes on the schedule to give a teacher celebratory feedback is only helpful if you then spend twenty minutes actually doing it. Things come up. Yet here's the reality of those interruptions and setbacks: If the fire alarm goes off during those scheduled twenty minutes, that doesn't change the fact that the feedback was a priority. Using time well means immediately rescheduling that feedback to a time that has been intentionally left open precisely because things like the fire alarm will happen.During the six months after he tracked his time, Kauffman and an employee he designated to be his "school administration manager" (that's the "SAM" part of the program) checked in every day to see if his time was spent as it was supposed to be spent. If the previous day had gone off the rails, they tried to understand why. They analyzed what prevented Kauffman from spending time on the things only he could do. "I think the single greatest thing of SAM is that a principal is held accountable for his time," he says. His SAM kept nudging him to make time on his schedule to work with a teacher who really needed guidance. They had identified this as a priority, so it was given larger swaths of space than Kauffman might have naturally given it. His SAM urged him to stop doing things, such as lunchroom duty, that others could do. They figured out who could be a "first responder" if a parent called about an issue that didn't need to be escalated up the chain of command. "I was everywhere prior to SAM," Kauffman says. "But we can't be everywhere, nor should we be everywhere."The result: a follow-up study at the end of the 2016-2017 school year found that Kauffman was spending 51 percent of his time on instructional leadership. That's like gaining an additional twelve days of high-impact work time during the one hundred days he spent on this calendar awareness. That time had impact as teachers responded to Kauffman's focus on their skills. The proportion of Hillside students demonstrating proficiency on state math tests rose by 4.2 percentage points that year, with similar gains in reading.None of this is easy; constantly minding time is more challenging than letting it slip unnoticed into the past. It is also never done. Habits ("Teaching Tuesdays") help make good decisions automatic, yet there is never a moment when the time thing is figured out. Six veteran teachers might decide to leave, and a principal's time would then need to pivot to mentoring the new ones. The school day might change. School demographics might change. This is why the constant evaluation is necessary.Yet this labor-this discipline-can lead to a surprising mental lightening. J. Thomas Roth, principal of Reddick Elementary School in Hillsborough County, Florida, has also tracked and monitored his time through the National SAM Innovation Project. He notes that this attention "has upgraded my life all the way around. I'm more effective at school," he says, having massively increased the time he spends on instructional leadership of the teachers serving Reddick's mostly low-income population. But "it's rare that I'm there past 4:30 p.m. anymore. I can leave for the day knowing what I've accomplished." Knowing that he has time on tomorrow's schedule to work with a teacher who's concerned about classroom discipline, Roth can relax when he's with his family. He can go to the gym. Asking daily where his time should go and then knowing where his time has gone, he knows for sure that "we really get a lot of stuff done here. It gives you that affirmation that you're doing good things."Where the Time Really GoesEveryone has an obsession. As you have probably guessed a few thousand words into this book, time and how we spend it-including how I spend it-is mine. Here's something I know: to write the introductory story to this chapter, I interviewed Kauffman on Friday, July 14, 2017, from 1:00 to 1:30 p.m. That was a day in which I slept in until 6:45 a.m., spent forty-five minutes dealing with some school paperwork, and devoted thirty minutes in the late afternoon to making sure there were no bills in my giant pile of mail. I interviewed Roth on Friday, July 21, at 9:30 a.m., shortly after devoting thirty minutes to practicing a speech I was giving to interns in Washington, D.C., the next week. That day also featured an afternoon phone call with my editor for this book-albeit about a different project-and a big-kids-only evening excursion from 6:15 to 8:30 p.m., inclusive of travel time, to Benihana.I know these things not because I can remember all the stupid trivia of my life, but because, like Kauffman and Roth, I have tracked my time-in my case, continually, for several years. At first, I simply wanted to know where my time went. I assumed I could write about the numbers for my blog.But as time went on, this experiment in mindfulness became so much more than that. The daily discipline of minding one's hours, I learned, changes the experience of time. It can lead to a savored life. As famed landscape architect Beatrix Farrand once said of a different sort of cultivation, "It is work-hard work, and at the same time it is perpetual pleasure."Time, it turns out, is like Farrand's expertise: gardens-like the garden that I look at daily through my office window, watching the progression from daffodils in March to asters in the fall. Because it is my family's garden, I know the work of which Farrand speaks. I have watched my husband weed, water, and replace plants that pests kill. Any given weekend sees him pruning the rosebushes or planting mums. He likes the work-well, except for that one time when a chain saw tree-trimming accident sent him to the ER-which is why he has never farmed it out. The gardener just has to accept that gardening is not a set-it-and-forget-it activity. You assess, you tweak. You learn that even the hardiest plants have vulnerabilities. In early 2017, a few warm February days sent the buds on our magnolia tree into production. Then a March blizzard thwarted this growth, and those gorgeous cotton candy blossoms never opened. But this vigilance, and the setbacks, can be balanced with moments of enjoyment too. Indeed, it is the vigilance that leads to summer evenings when I sit on the back porch, look out at the crepe myrtles, and think Wow.Likewise, with time, it is the same process. A gardener must know his plot. He must think about what he wants it to look like. Then it is the daily cultivation that leads to beauty, in a landscape and a life too. As the Buddhist monk and meditation teacher Bhante Henepola Gunaratana writes in his book Beyond Mindfulness in Plain English, "Mindfulness gives you time. Time gives you choices. Choices, skillfully made, lead to freedom." Knowing where my time goes, and choosing to tend my schedule as one might tend a garden, has changed my life, just as the same process has changed life for teachers and students at the Hillside and Reddick schools. It has made me feel like I have more time, like my schedule is surprisingly open. I believe it will make your life feel lighter too.This chapter is about how to achieve such freedom. It is about how to attain the sort of skilled and blossoming mindfulness that lets you go off the clock.My 8,784 HoursBut to my story-the tale of how I created a record of my July principal interviews and that Benihana trip. A confluence of events led to my decision, in April 2015, to become my own Boswell, recording my time in half-hour chunks. I had had hundreds of people track their time for me for various projects over the years, and I had tracked my own time for a dozen weeks here and there. As a born skeptic, I had long been fascinated by what these logs showed about the blind spots people have about time. There can be great gaps between how we think we spend our time and reality as recorded. People claim to have no leisure time and then can recount in detail what happened on the most recent Big Bang Theory. Or-I was guilty of this one-we feel like we spend hours unloading the dishwasher, only to learn it takes five minutes each time, the four times per week we do it.I didn't think I'd have many glaring blind spots, but I was curious about my time. I had fallen off the wagon of keeping a journal, and I suspected, that April, that I was about to live through a watershed few years of my life. In mid-May 2014, shortly before Jasper's seventh birthday, I had woken one morning to an unexpected but familiar wave of nausea. A pregnancy test and a doctor visit confirmed that my fourth child was on his way.Alex was born in January 2015. Going from three children to four is less shocking than going from zero to one, but newborns are always challenging, and caring for a newborn along with a seven-year-old, five-year-old, and three-year-old was going to test my organizational skills. Around the same time, my work life was taking some exciting turns. I Know How She Does It, my book on how professional women make the most of their time, was going to be published in June 2015. My speaking calendar for the next year was filling up. As I spoke to audiences about how people made their lives work, I wanted to see in as factual a way as possible how I did it.So, fully back at work three months after the birth of my fourth child, I opened a new spreadsheet on Monday, April 20, 2015. I started filling in the cells, which ran from 5:00 a.m. to 4:30 a.m. on the vertical axis, with the days of the week across the top. There wasn't a big gap before the first waking entry. I was up at 5:30 a.m. to nurse Alex, something I would do five times that day, with a sixth feeding coming from a pumped bottle. I took Jasper to the bus stop. I had a conference call with the publicity team at my publisher. I sat outside enjoying the spring blossoms while the baby napped in the evening. I made it into bed around 10:00 p.m. The next day, I chaperoned Sam's field trip to a local museum, then I took the train to New York City for some professional events. I made it home at 10:30 p.m., and chatted with my husband before pumping and going to bed at 11:30 p.m., to rise at 5:45 a.m. the next day and start again.

Editorial Reviews

"Laura Vanderkam is one of the world's leading experts in time management and productivity. If you're feeling too busy, stressed out, or overworked, reading her insights in Off the Clock can change your life." —Dorie Clark, author of Stand Out and adjunct professor, Duke University's Fuqua School of Business    "For every minute you spend inside this book, you’ll get back ten. Off the Clock will show you how to spend your hours more meaningfully, reclaim vast amounts of wasted time, and live a better life. Picking up this book will be one of the most valuable investments you make in yourself." —Chris Bailey, author of The Productivity Project     “Laura Vanderkam delivers a compelling and evidence-based argument that busyness is overrated in our current culture. Living a full life, at work and at home, is about doing the right things well, and confidently missing out on everything else.” —Cal Newport, author of Deep Work   “Short of discovering an additional 25th hour what makes time so different for those rare productive, unstressed people? Laura Vanderkam knows--and can teach you. If you want to do more without losing your sense of peace along the way, make time for Off the Clock."—Jon Acuff, author of Finish and Do Over"I recognized myself in almost every word of Laura's excellent book. And tracking my hours was an eye-opener for me, as it appears I'm one of the people who's been unrealistic about how I spend my days. This book is liberating, useful, and so important in this era in which everyone seems to feel overwhelmed."—Celeste Headlee, author of We Need to Talk