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I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time Hardcover – Jun 9 2015
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“As an entrepreneur and mother, I’m invested in honing time management strategies that enrich my life instead of taking any enjoyment or flexibility out of it—and Laura Vanderkam understands that. In her new book, she shares how busy people build full, productive careers and happy homes as well. You’ll find lot of tools that can help you make time for everything that’s important and cut out what’s not.”
— Angela Jia Kim, founder of Om Aroma & Co. and Savor
“I’m a longtime fan of Laura Vanderkam’s insightful work—her recommendations for getting the most out of every day are often counterintuitive but always realistic and manageable. In her new book, she reveals the time management strategies that highly successful mothers use to build lives that work. Thanks to her findings, I’ll never look at my weekly calendar the same way again.”
—GRETCHEN RUBIN, author of Better Than Before and The Happiness Project
“For many years I’ve wanted to see reflected in our collective conversation what I know to be true in women’s lives: that many of us are happily combining work and motherhood, and loving both. Laura Vanderkam has written the book that’s been sorely missing, and she does so with an impassioned, eloquent voice, important new research, and the warmth of a dear friend.”
—TARA MOHR, author of Playing Big
“An empowering guide for professionals who want to figure out how to become superstars in their fields while building satisfying lives.”
—DORIE CLARK, author of Reinventing You and Stand Out
“This book could have been titled How to Be a Superhero, because that’s how it makes you feel and act after reading it. Vanderkam’s curiosity for high performance and what makes it possible is infectious. Packed with research from real lives and tips for real change, this book is sure to help women around the world discover their own path to success.”
—JON ACUFF, author of Do Over
“In this engrossing and eternally helpful book, Laura Vanderkam shares valuable insights from women who have mastered their most vital resource: time. I Know How She Does It stands apart thanks to Vanderkam’s nuanced understanding of what it takes to become an efficient-yet-balanced individual.”
—TIM SANDERS, author of Love Is the Killer App
“As a busy CEO, I was inspired by the hundreds of people Vanderkam studied who found ample time for career, family, and self in the same 168 hours available to everyone, each week. If my entire team read this book, we would all benefit.”
—RICHARD SHERIDAN, CEO and chief storyteller, Menlo Innovations, and author of Joy, Inc.
About the Author
LAURA VANDERKAM is the bestselling author of What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, All the Money in the World, 168 Hours, and Grindhopping. She is a frequent contributor to Fast Company’s website and a member of USA Today’s board of contributors. Her work has also appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Fortune, and other publications. She lives with her husband and their four children outside Philadelphia.See all Product Description
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There was a great balance between strategies to spend your time at work better to further your career as well as to make time for leisure and fun. It definitely made me think about the things we say/hear about being working parents and consider that they might not ACTUALLY be true with some careful stewardship of our time.
This book is definitely targeted towards an upper middle class audience with money to spend on outsourcing home/errand solutions and babysitting. The author definitely advocates trading money for more time in life to do fun things. She also addresses specific issues like getting enough sleep, finding time to exercise, and time for hobbies and leisure pursuits. Her solutions are "bigger" than just saving a few minutes here and there - they are more about getting you to think differently about your priorities and what you do with your large blocks of time.
Note: the images of the time logs nicely format into landscape view on my old Kindle DX, but the print is small so I'd rather view them online. I appreciate the links provided to see them directly. This may not be an issue with newer Kindles.
Even though the subject of this book is a study on working mothers' time use, I would say the advice is also relevant for working dads. She also interviewed and wrote about single parents extensively, and the tech industry, lawyers, and academia seem to be equally represented. This was a highly useful and enjoyable book.
Ms. Vanderkam herself is self-employed and works primarily from home with in-home childcare, so I imagine that some readers may bristle at some aspects of her time log analysis (for example, she does not count commuting time as work when analyzing time logs). Overall, though, I felt that her insights and the suggested strategies gleaned from analyzing successful moms' time logs were practical and valuable regardless of individual work and family circumstances. While many books on this topic seem to offer innumerable suggestions to "do it better and faster so you can fit more in," Vanderkam's approach is significantly more thoughtful. In a nutshell, I would say that she encourages women to analyze the way that they spend their time similarly to the way one might evaluate monetary spending, to decide whether time is being spent according to one's goals and values, and then to make adjustments accordingly. It is a refreshing mindshift message that is intended to inspire, not admonish, and one that most anyone can benefit from. I highly recommend this book.
Success is qualified by a six figure income, thus defining success more one dimensionally in the area of a woman's career. Defining success on a personal and family life front is admittedly more difficult to measure. The author tries to fit that in, simply by looking at the single component of time. But as we all know, all time is not created equal. There is a difference between quantity and quality.
My hunch, is that the person who is drawn to this book, is looking for more than numbers. When you wonder "How She Does it", we secretly hope that there is a way to not just fit it all into our schedule, but to juggle those responsibilities with happiness and fulfillment. Ironically, I purchased the book because of a review I read from a man, who claimed it was a "refreshingly unemotional" look at the subject. He was right in the unemotional approach. But, it's the emotion that we're wanting, because emotion is what makes life rich. Not just scheduling our days so we can clock our time in a strategized allotment to our different responsibilities.
The book is extremely well researched and data heavy. To me, the enormous amounts of stats and data became laborious to sort through. I am an avid reader of any “How to” type of book, but as such, I was looking for strategies and stories more than statistics and studies. The strategies do emerge if you are patient enough to plow through.
The author centers the bulk of the book off her pool of time logs submitted from 100+ successful women. As mentioned, to fit that criteria, women needed to have a personal six figure income and balance that thriving career with motherhood. The author points out that the common belief is that you can’t have both. It’s either one or the other. Her aim in this book and in her research, is to prove that you can indeed have both and accurately show evidence of people who are spending time in both.
Admittedly, I was surprised at the slant the book seemed to favor. There is an obvious bias for putting career first. If you want to be literal in the term “balance”, she points out that most women in the study work 44-55+ hrs. a week, and the time spent with kids and family ends up being almost comparable thanks to weekends. Some study participants admitted that they previously thought they didn’t spend enough time with their kids (an hour in the morning helping them get ready for the day and then making it home for bedtime routines at night during the week seems minuscule), but afterwards they no longer felt guilt when they saw the actual numbers. But if you’re simply clocking hours that you spend in the house together, it can most certainly artificially inflate your perception of time. There is indeed a difference between quantity and quality, a point that Vanderkam admits, but doesn’t spend much time exploring. The book certainly focuses more on time quotients and not as much on depth of experience.
What surprised me most about this favoritism to career time, was that it was never mentioned how one could make their work hours more useful. These profiled women certainly do work A LOT. But I might ask whether or not they actually needed to work that much. Are all of those hours really high productivity? As an entrepreneur myself, I fall into the Tim Ferris camp of striving for a “4 Hour Workweek”. Not literally four hours ;) but the entire concept of designing your work to include the things that only you can do, is a wonderful way to avoid burnout and have more time for personal pursuits and of course that lovely family that is supposed to be part of this equation too.
Speaking of family, this is a great book, if you are looking for strategies to maximize your work time and feel justified and guilt free about spending the bulk of your days away from them. Extensive advice is given on how to find nannies for your children, au pairs, day cares, and how to intentionally use some of that full time child care for your own personal pursuits. One study participant admitted that she came to the conclusion that she should work more hours after she realized that her mothering time at home was largely just spent running errands and managing things at home—a poor use of her talents, and something that a nanny could just as easily do. When motherhood is viewed as simply a home/kid management position, this could very well be true. However, if a mother can see beyond the managing and instead look for opportunities for connection, that time suddenly is viewed very differently. There are plenty of Stay at Home moms who spend the day managing and miss connecting moments. And I’m sure there are plenty of professional career mothers who really do make those few hours a day filled with wonderful connections, but unfortunately you won’t find any advice on that in this book.
I am most certainly a champion of women working. I own two businesses and work from home and fit the six figure criteria of successful women profiled, but manage to work closer to 20 hrs/week. I have had a nanny for my 5 and 1 year olds for 2-3 hrs a day during the week. For me, this ends up to be the perfect amount of time away. Just enough that we all get a break from one another and I get to feel like I’m making a difference in the world. I love my job. I'm not naive enough to think that my balance is right for everyone, and I'll happily readjust to working more when my kids are in school full time. But for now, much of the exciting challenge of balancing both has come from figuring out how to make fewer work hours go further. Work will take as much time as you're willing to give it. I give myself those limitations because I know it keeps me focused and productive, but also because it and gives me opportunity of being a part of my kids daytime adventures—which you must admit, is where the bulk of life learning comes. There are certainly times that I wish I was working more, but usually those feelings stem from wanting an escape from mothering. It's not all roses and walks in the park. But doing hard things is what builds character, and finding ways to make those mothering moments be a quality experience for me and the kids is a great skill that will make me better at my professional career too.
The great part of profiling 100+ women is that you do get to see a variety of styles. Not everyone works straight through the day. There are plenty of women who do split shifts and make a point to be part of their kids daytime experiences too. For me however, I was disappointed that 99% of the book was dedicated to a working lifestyle that included full time hours with no exploration or support for cutting back on the work hours. Cutting back was mentioned, but with an emphasis that the cut in income that might accompany such a move would not be worth the trade off of simply having a few more hours with your kids (which could be made up somewhere else in your week, since this is all about clock time, remember…) An unfortunate perspective.
Overall, this book is a great read if you are conflicted with juggling your full time career with the responsibility of parenting and feeling a bit of guilt. You will have your guilt swept away, feel more confident that you really can let someone else raise your kids and give your best hours to your important career.
If however, you find yourself with the nagging nudge that work/life balance is more about quality of time, consider skipping this book and follow your hunch. As they say, no one gets to their deathbed and wishes they would have worked more. I fear many women will have regrets later on. The author is correct, this isn’t an either/ or choice. You really can have a fulfilling career and delightful family life, but be thoughtful and careful about how you choose to proportion each with emphasis on giving quality, not quantity. That is the book that I wish had been written. But how can you gather that from a time log?
**UPDATE**I originally gave this book a 2 star review (having read every single word of 250/271 pages.) I have now read the rest of the book. The last chapter, in my opinion, was the saving grace. But that's a lot of reading to push through to get to the heart. And that, is exactly what I appreciated about the final chapter. Some heart. The final three pages p. 269-271 I felt like Laura was "refreshingly emotional". It felt real, she talked about joy, slowing down, her language was descriptive and she actually ends the book highlighting a woman who manages to do it all in fewer hours and live a quality experience in both work and family life. Had there been a similar spirit through the rest of the book, this book would have been a real winner.