9 min read ⌚
How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time
It is possible to have it all – even if you are a woman.
At least Laura Vanderkam says it is.
To quote her:
Who Should Read “I Know How She Does It”? And Why?
If the title and the subtitle weren’t already giveaways, the target audience of I Know How She Does It are working mothers.
It’s not that others won’t be able to find a piece of advice or two, but there are better books than this one on time management if you are not a working mom.
If you are – then you should certainly take a look!
About Laura Vanderkam
Laura Vanderkam is a bestselling author and the co-host, with Sarah Hart-Unger, of the podcast Best of Both Worlds.
She has authored four productivity and time management books. In addition to this one, these include 168 Hours (2010), What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast (2013) and Off the Clock (2018).
Vanderkam’s TED Talk “How to Gain Control of Your Free Time” has been viewed more than 7 million times so far.
Find out more at LauraVanderkam.com.
“I Know How She Does It PDF Summary”
Mastering the work/life balance is not merely tricky – it is almost impossible.
And, according to surveys, that sentence seems true even to men, most of whom don’t even bother with the children or the groceries (unfortunately, Betty, that’s still somewhat true even today).
And what should women say to that?
How should a working mom of three balance between her career in advertising, the constant nagging of her superiors, and the ballet lessons of her daughter – and still buy clothes for her husband and prepare a lunch for everybody?
We don’t blame you if you have been looking for a manual of this type on the SF shelf for the past few years.
It’s time for a change: Laura Vanderkam says that there are such things as successful working moms.
And she knows how they do it.
Interruptions Aren’t Breaks
Here’s one of the most interesting statistics you’ll ever read!
According to the American Time Use Survey, in 2013, the average working mother works 35 hours a week; add a few hours if she earns over $100,000 a year.
But that’s… well, normal!
It amounts to no more than 8 hours per day – which is basically how long the workday is ever since socialist Robert Owen formulated the slogan “Eight hours’ labor, Eight hours’ recreation, Eight hours’ rest” back in 1817.
So, if stats say you’re working 8 hours a day, provided that you also sleep as much, what’s stopping you from recreating and being with your family during the 8 hours in-between?
Because of them – those minor, unimportant, trivial disruptions – the 8 hours you spend working actually last about 14!
Just think about it this way:
If you check your Facebook profile just 5 times a day, and you spend no more than 10-15 minutes each time, you’ve already lost an hour!
And what about your mail? What about the phone calls? Or, to look at the big picture, what about the time the kindergarten was closed or your cousins came to town?
The worst thing is that interruptions are not breaks; they merely tire you more because they are not planned, and because they constantly leave you behind schedule.
But is there a way out?
Read on to find out!
The Power of Split Shifts
Whether you want to admit it or not, you have plenty of time.
The problem is, you’re not managing it well; or, better yet, you’re not flexible enough to use it to the max!
“Averaged over the entire American population,” writes Vanderkam, “people watch almost as much television as they work. If people don’t exercise, it’s because they don’t want to exercise. Time becomes the scapegoat.”
The good news?
“Time is elastic. It stretches to accommodate what we need or want to do with it.”
Or, to quote Vanderkam for the third time:
You don’t build the life you want by saving time. You build the life you want, and then time saves itself. Recognizing that is what makes success possible.
Here’s how it works in practice!
You want to spend more time with your kids and family, but you’re at work between 12PM and 5PM?
Well, why should you be?
Split your shift!
Work while your kids are in kindergarten and while they’re sleeping, both in the morning and at night. Go to work before noon and after lunch.
The latter time, you don’t even have to go to work: ask your boss if you can work from home. He’ll probably say yes because it’s the 21st century and many people work from home.
Your goal is to pinpoint during which periods of the day most of the interruptions happen.
And once you discover that, just tell your boss that it’s better for both you and him/her that you don’t work during that period.
It’s that easy.
And that’s merely the beginning!
Make the Most of Your Time
Playing around with your schedule doesn’t end with split shifts.
Vanderkam has many more tips and tricks which can help you hack your workday and make the most of your time.
Here are just a few:
#1. Start Your Day with the Toughest Task
Or, to quote Brian Tracy, eat that frog!
Now, Tracy suggests this inspired by Mark Twain, according to whom “if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long.”
Vanderkam has an even better reason: according to a study by Johnson & Johnson, your energy levels peak around 8AM.
It’d be stupid to waste them on drinking coffee and gossiping.
#2. Manage Your Meetings
There’s a good chance that you are not needed for many of the meetings you’ll probably go to during any given week.
Start each week by crossing out all of the meetings where your presence is not required; as for the rest – try to shorten them by ten or fifteen minutes.
If during a week you have four 60-minute meetings and you shorten each of them by 15 – there you have it: you’ve just saved yourself an hour!
And you can save even more time when it comes to meetings – just ask Patrick Lencioni!
#3. Make Commitments with Your Free Time
How many times you’ve worked overtime because you realized you had some time and the best idea you had was to do some of tomorrow’s work?
Well, news flash: no matter how much work you do today, there will always be a lot left for tomorrow as well!
So, why don’t you consciously prevent yourself from spending your free time working?
Make commitments with your free time!
Sign up for Spanish or ukulele lessons, or simply make arrangements (a nice restaurant, the movies, a concert) with your family or friends!
That way, you won’t be able to work overtime!
And that’s the best thing a mom can force herself into not doing!
#4. Plan Your Week Ahead
There’s a reason why people don’t like Mondays: they are not only the start of the workweek, but they are also the slow start of the workweek!
In fact, a survey done by Accountemps in 2013, discovered that Mondays are less productive by staggering 75% than Tuesdays – which are, by the way, the most productive days of the week!
Why is that?
For many reasons, of course, the main one being that you don’t have a plan for the week on Monday and you just go with the flow.
So, make one on Friday, during the last ten minutes of the previous week!
Studies have shown that these ten minutes can significantly boost your productivity.
And, we don’t need to tell you that being more productive means being less stressful once the workday is over!
#5. Find Your Drive
We started this list with a quote by Mark Twain, let’s end with another one: “Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
If you don’t have the drive and the motivation to go to work, no matter what you do, you’ll feel unfulfilled after you leave the office.
So, don’t allow yourself to lose another minute in your life doing something you don’t want to.
Find a job you’ll like, and life will suddenly start looking much better than before.
Being Mindful of Family Time
Look back on the past year of your life.
Which are the things you remember most fondly?
We suppose they are not the meetings and the deadlines and the overtime hours. It’s most probably the moments you managed to spend with your husband and your kids.
Then why not spend more of the time with them – and less at work?
Fortunately, being mindful of family time—making a commitment to be there physically and mentally and enjoy life while doing so—makes memories possible. We control a lot less about our children’s outcomes in life than we think. They are their own people. But one thing parents do shape is whether kids remember their childhoods as happy. Creating a happy home is a conscious choice, as is creating a happy marriage.
There’s a big difference between being around your family and spending time with your family. Only the latter one counts.
So, make it count!
Instead of watching TV together with your kids, take them to the playground in summer or to the library – yes, the library – in winter!
Share at least one meal a day with your family.
We know that it’s difficult to make that meal your lunch and that dinner is also not easily manageable (apparently, only 17% of American families dine together regularly).
But what about breakfast?
Also: what about your partner?
Most of the working moms Laura asked didn’t miss their kids as much as they missed their husbands; or, to be more precise, the adults-time spent with them.
So why don’t you take your husband on a date once again?
Your kids are probably going to bed early, and watching TV is not exactly the most romantic way to spend your free hour with your husband.
Just plan it better.
And you’ll do it.
Key Lessons from “I Know How She Does It”
1. The Benefits of Split Shifts and Flexible Worktime
2. There Is Enough Time: You Just Need to Change Your Daily Schedule
3. Nobody’s Perfect – Nor Should One Dream of Being
The Benefits of Split Shifts and Flexible Worktime
Who says that you should be working from 9 to 5?
It’s the 21st century, and there are at least two ways to circumvent this: split shifts and working from home.
Very few people use them, and they are great solutions to your problems.
If you want to have lunch with your family, then go to work before lunch and work the remaining hours after it from home.
Workdays are nowadays more flexible than ever.
Customize your workday to suit your needs.
Your boss won’t mind – because then you’ll be much more productive.
There Is Enough Time: You Just Need to Change Your Daily Schedule
How is it that you’ve binge-watched about ten seasons of TV shows during the last year, and you’re always moaning about how little time you have for yourself or your family?
Somehow, when you need to watch your favorite TV show on Netflix or Amazon Prime, free time magically appears out of nowhere.
These hours are readily available to you. And if you don’t spend all of them watching TV, you’ll be able to spend them on something else!
Make commitments with your free time!
Take up Spanish or ukulele lessons, go at least once a week to a restaurant with your family or just your husband.
Make these things part of your schedule and be sure that you’ll never be able to get out of them.
A year later, you’ll be richer by quite a few memories, and you’ll probably know another language as well!
Nobody’s Perfect – Nor Should One Dream of Being
Perfectionism leads to anxiety and depression, says Brené Brown.
Because it’s an unattainable goal. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
There’s a better way to deal with your daily struggles: just let some things go and start accepting help from others.
Like this summary? We’d like to invite you to download our free 12 min app for more amazing summaries and audiobooks.
“I Know How She Does It Quotes”In life, you can be unhappy, or you can change things. And even if there are things you can't change, you can often change your mindset and question assumptions that are making life less goof than it could be. Click To Tweet Getting adequate sleep is a sign that the world doesn't need your attention for seven to nine hours each day. It keeps spinning as usual in its orbit. Who wants to admit that? Click To Tweet In 168 hours, there is plenty of space to nurture yourself alongside your career and your relationships. Click To Tweet You don't become a better parent or employee by not enjoying your life. Click To Tweet You don’t build the life you want by saving time. You build the life you want, and then time saves itself. Click To Tweet
Our Critical Review
“I’m a longtime fan of Laura Vanderkam’s insightful work,” writes Gretchen Rubin in a review of this book, because even though “her recommendations for getting the most out of every day are often counterintuitive [they are] always realistic and manageable.”
“Thanks to her findings,” she adds, “I’ll never look at my weekly calendar the same way again.”
And if you are a working mom, there’s a good chance that you’ll say the very same after reading this book as well.