168 Hours

168 Hours is a time management strategy designed and proposed by Laura Vanderkam, the author of the book 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think.

This time-specific model encourages you to think and plan for an entire week rather than one day at a time.

What is it?

There are 168 hours in a week. If we think of a week as 168 hours, we can plan for each hour more efficiently and clearly.

This approach is about planning for a bigger span of time to accomplish a list of things rather than focusing on smaller chunks of time in a day.

Since it is a big-picture strategy, you have more hours at your disposal to accomplish more without sacrificing the necessary activities like getting enough sleep and spending time with your family.

Why does it work?

  • Helps track and analyze how you spend time in a week
  • Identifies the most-consuming tasks in a week
  • Brings a schedule to your weekly work routine
  • Helps reorganize and prioritize important tasks
  • Allows more time to plan things, so you do not have to sacrifice important things
  • Boosts productivity
  • Gives the flexibility to use other management strategies alongside

How does it work?

  1. Track Your Time: The first step is to track how you spend your time in a week. Use a diary, paper, or mobile phone to track what you do every hour of the day for two weeks.
  2. Analyze Your Time: Analyze your data. Look for the most time-consuming tasks. Find the time you spend sleeping, eating, with family or workout, and other important things that you do not want to miss in life, e.g., praying and meditation. Also, find the time wasted on unproductive activities that need to be eliminated or minimized.
  3. Subtract: Now, subtract all these important hours from 168 and find the number of hours you are left with. Now carefully plan your goals for the week in the leftover hours.
  4. Time-blocking and re-engineering your schedule: Assign blocks of time to each task you wish to accomplish during this week. This requires you to carefully estimate the time it will take to complete each task. Eliminate unproductive activities and re-engineer your weekly schedule to fit those blocks of time in each day.
  5. Plan ahead for the week: It is imperative to plan earlier, like on the weekend, so that you start following your schedule from Monday.
  6. Taking life as a whole: If you think of life as an integrated whole, you will be able to accomplish more tasks without letting go of the important elements in life like family, friends, and leisure.

168 Hours in action

Dean is a businessman. He usually has a crunched workday, and he wished he had more than 24 hours to finish his pending list of tasks.

He decided to apply the 168 hours model to his work-life routine and see if it could help him. So, he started to log his activities every day. His two-week logs looked somewhat like this:

  • Sleep: 28 hours a week
  • Work: 77+ hours a week
  • Commuting: 0 hours a week
  • Meals: 7 hours a week
  • Family time: 2 hours a week
  • Mobile and devices time: 5 hours a week

He analyzed that he was sleeping too little and working too much, yet he was not getting enough done. Also, his family life was a mess, and his meals were only a necessary hour without any enjoyment.

So, for the next week, he planned to sleep 8 hours a day, spend 2 hours with his family every day and spend 1 hour on exercise or leisure. He then summed up his essential activities hours and subtracted from 168.

It gave him 73 hours in a week. He then assigned different blocks of time to each task at work and accommodated them in each workday.

By following this new schedule, he felt that he came to work more fresh and energetic, enjoyed his family life, and was still able to accomplish his planned tasks for the week in the lesser working hours than he was spending earlier.

This method was a productivity booster for him.

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