The Wrong Book at the Wrong Time

I'm not going to sugarcoat anything- the last two weeks have been some of the most exhausting I've faced in a long time, both due to the circumstances of life and because of pressures I've put on myself. Last week Sawyer and I were pretty sick, and neither of us are at 100%. Compounding this is his beyond horrible nighttime sleeping lately (I've probably gotten less than 15 hours of sleep in the last three nights, all of which has been broken), a result of teething, being sick, and bad habits that are undoubtedly my fault. My husband has also been working extremely long, late hours, which is of course not his fault but still hard. My own job has been more stressful than normal and I'm tired of feeling like I'm half-assing taking care of the house, participating in relationships, and exercising. I know. All in a day's work for a working mom, right? Or not. As Station Eleven reminded us, "Survival is insufficient." [edited to add: the complaining must have worked, because my kid slept 8.5 hours in his own room with just one brief 5-minute wake up]

So, there is where I've been. Nothing life-threatening or that unique, just temporarily stressful. Desperate for something to make life run a little more smoothly and not to feel quite so rushed lately. In search of some balance. Or a miracle. I remembered reading about 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam. Given my newly restored Audible membership I decided to download it. This was probably not a good idea, since I felt noticeably MORE stressed while listening to it, and a bit calmer in the days or two since I finished (not because she heeled me, but because I'm not plagued by talk of time-management every time I get in the car now).

First takeaway: I am actually very well aware of how much time I have, thanks.
Vanderkam advised up to keep a time diary so we could see how exactly how are time is allocated throughout the day. I'll spare you the boring details of my day, but let's just say I don't have any "time sucks" that I can eliminate. I watch less than seven hours of TV a week and the majority of my Facebooking, Pinterest browing, and blog reading is done while I'm walking around campus during the day, pumping, waiting for the shower water to heat up, while walking to the mailbox, or in other short little snippets (less than 5 minutes). I've made an effort to use my phone less while I'm with Sawyer, as well. I multi-task frequently (maybe too much sometimes) and I try to do things as efficiently as possible. 

Second Takeaway: I'm too poor for this book
She spends a bit of time advising people to outsource via housekeepers, personal chefs, laundry services, personal shoppers, professional organizers,  and even assistants (she even has a night nurse, currently, for her newborn... part awesome, part indulgent). She tries to justify it by saying our time is WORTH it and that if it really MATTERS to you, you'll make it work. Listen, lady, I hate laundry more than anything, but paying to do that just isn't going to work in our budget, unless I want to cut into what we save. Yes, I am considering a housekeeper to come in once a month, but that's even a luxury I'm having a great deal of time justifying.

Third Takeaway: This book is for people with flexible work schedules
Nope, I don't have time to cut away from work for a bit to have lunch with my kid. Nor can I work out on my lunch hour, work a split shift, or choose a career that really hones in on my true skills and talents. While I do think I am a pretty decent teacher (my students may disagree, haha), I think there are other careers that may utilize some of my strengths better. Are these careers practical in terms of retraining, geography, etc...? No. I guess I just don't live in the same professional bubble as the author. 

Fourth Takeaway: Little changes can go far, as can consistency
There are some helpful, motivating things in this book, though. Like trying to focus on little things and really following through. This was something I'd been working hard to incorporate before listening to her book. Every week I jot down a few goals for the week, whether it's doing PiYo three times, doing a load of laundry each day, or grading at home for x amount of hours a day. I'm very motivated by to-do lists and check lists, so this sort of consistent accountability works really well for me.

Fifth Takeaway: Try to spend time on things you love. Make good decisions.
Pretty self-explanatory, but say no when you can, prioritize better, don't expect perfection.

This book might me really, really helpful for some people. Given my current anxiety regarding efficiency and productivity this was probably not the wrong book at the wrong time for me!


  1. Less than seven hours of TV a day? I'd hope so!

    1. Oops! I meant a week. Man, seven hours a day... to only have that amount of surplus time to waste!

  2. Sounds like a bust. The only one to benefit from this book is the author.
    When my kids were little and I was frazzled, not much helped but actual sleep, which doesn't help if you can't get it. I did try to remind myself of the things Erma Bombeck said. Looking back at the end of her life what she wished she had done differently:

  3. Must be nice to be this author! Even as someone who had a flexible work schedule pre-baby, I still didn't have the luxury of hiring help of any kind.

  4. It's been a shitty week in a shitty year, much of which is inappropriate for a blog comment. However, as the parent of two awful sleepers (the first two years of each of their lives was cruel and inhumane), that does get better. Eventually. There's not a lot about it you can do in the moment though.

    I want a flexible work schedule! Mine is not. My husband and I got in an argument the other day that ended with me saying (in a rather exasperated tone) "Do you understand the fundamental difference between our jobs?". He answered no. His job is extremely flexible (private company and closed doors) and mine is extremely rigid (public research library in a museum with open hours). The argument was over why I couldn't just leave early one day because he wanted me to (if I leave, the library door literally has to be locked) and why I can't come home during my lunch break. Anyway... Yes, flexible scheduling. :)

    You're right, venting helps.