Book Review – “Off the Clock”

Book Review – “Off the Clock”

Off the Clock
Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done

Laura Vanderkam

Time-diary studies find that most people will say they worked less, slept more and had more leisure time yesterday than they do most days. This is me. There is no way I’m anywhere close to as “busy” as I feel. That’s why I’m reading this book. I want to feel less busy, and maybe even get more done.

Below are some excerpts from the book that I think are helpful to increasing one’s enjoyment and use of their “time”.

pg 86-89
Effective people keep their calendars really clear. Even top-level executives from huge companies. They take the time to do deep-focused thinking when they are unlikely to be interrupted and keep space available to take care of day-to-day emergencies and to talk to people who interest them. Vanderkam explains the pitfalls of a corporate culture of many meetings. “Anyone can pack a schedule. People who get a lot done choose not to fill time, both at work and at home. Says Heath: “It’s what you say no to as much as what you say yes to.””

pg 90-91
Open space on a calendar “invites opportunity in a way a cluttered calendar can’t. These moments of nothing, chosen because time is precious, also have the paradoxical result of making time feel plentiful.”

pg 93
“people with more abundant time-perception scores were likely to have thought through their days ahead of time. Such strategizing boosts efficiency; planning your toughest work for the time when you have the most energy means a task might take one hour instead of two.”

“Planning conscious breaks during the day could have the same effect. Going for a thirty-minute walk at lunch, for instance, will clear your head and enable focus for the rest of the afternoon.”

“My takeaway from the logs was that people with high time-perception scores worked fewer hours because they chose not to fill all available space. They could have filled this space; they simply elected not to.”

pg 117-119
“The truth is that enjoying the present isn’t easy.” . . . “People who feel like time is abundant approach the present in two ways. First, the practical: they learn to be where they’re supposed to be in enough time that they can relax. Then, the more daring psychological feat: They find ways to savour the space of time where they currently are . . .”

pg 133-134
Chapter introduces the concept of lingering when life happens create pleasurable moments. Also, to “try what Bryant and Veroff named the “Daily Vacation Exercise” to practice lingering in pleasurable experiences. Each day for one week, plan to do something you find enjoyable for ten to twenty minutes. A few possibilities are:

  • watching the sunset,
  • sitting outside at a cafe with a good cup of coffee,
  • visiting a bookstore on your lunch break, or
  • going for a walk in a nearby park.”
    “try to notice and explicitly acknowledge to yourself each stimulus or sensation that you find pleasurable. Identify your positive feelings and explicitly label them in your mind.” . . . “consciously lingering in pleasurable downtime reminds us that we have downtime. And that can make us feel like we have more time than when we let it slip though our hands.”

pg 141
“When people say they want more time, they also mean that they want more time spent doing things they are happy about. Few people would want more time tacked on to a prison sentence.” . . . “Time is just time, but we perceive it differently based on what we are doing, and our mental state.”

pg 142
“ In the time-perception survey, people who strongly agreed with the statement “Yesterday, I spent my time in ways that made me happy” were 22 percent more likely to agree that they generally had time for the things that they wanted to do in life.” . . . “People in the top 20 percent of time-perception scores spent a higher proportion of their time on things that are known mood boosters — exercise, reflective activities, and interacting with friends and family”.

pgs 154-157
Dealing with bad times: if it is for a limited period of time, know that and know that all time passes, and pace yourself through it. Then “Take pleasure in what you can. Sometimes there are things you can enjoy only during times that do not, in themselves seem enjoyable. But if not, sometimes small good things shine brighter in the middle of darkness.”

pg 173
When time is tight, try an attitude shift, tell yourself “OK, you only have this time, just do what you can do” . . . “feeling like we have all the time in the world is really about managing expectations. Some suffering — the kind we must learn to be good at — is inevitable. But other suffering is self-imposed. In particular, we suffer when expectations exceed reality. This suffering is a major cause of wasted time.”

pg 195
“In my survey, people’s time-perception scores rose in direct proportion to time spent with friends and family”

I believe I also read in this book that you will feel more rushed and less at ease when you want to get through the activity at hand so you can move onto doing something more desirable.

After taking into account what I’ve learned from the book for the past week or so, I believe I generally feel less rushed than before and I’m definitely creating and enjoying more moments in my life that are worth lingering over.

The Beaver Boardwalk

The Beaver Boardwalk

A favourite park of mine to visit is in Hinton, and it is called the Beaver Boardwalk. Walking the boardwalk over the water and into the forest is a wonderful experience and it is quite beautiful. I’ve seen beaver in the park on a previous visit, but unfortunately not this time. This time I was there in the middle of the day, which is not a time beavers like to be active, but was a beautiful day for both a walk and taking some photos.

Here’s a picture showing the beaver lodge:

Beaver Lodge

Here’s a showing another dam. The water is held back to a height of about 3 feet:

Beaver Dam

And lastly, I wandered through the forest on the boardwalk and discovered another beautiful, crooked path:

Crooked Boardwalk Path
University of Alberta Botanical Gardens

University of Alberta Botanical Gardens

My friend and I went for a trip to the University of Alberta Botanical Gardens on Friday. We had a lovely visit. The gardens are much improved since I was there last, and with all the rain we’ve had recently, the gardens are in top form. The Aga Khan garden was the highlight of the visit for me as I’ve never seen it before and it was beautiful.

An old favourite of mine is the Kurimoto Japanese garden.

And a new favourite is the Grebe Pond.

Prairie Dog

Prairie Dog

A few days ago, I was shocked to see what looked like an over-grown gopher in our roses. When I moved, the critter took off and I managed to snap a few pictures on my phone. I do believe it is a prairie dog, which I didn’t know we had in Edmonton.

Hey Lucy!

Hey Lucy!

I was lucky enough to see Lucy at the zoo again today, and this time, I knew how to take a video with my phone! I did have to learn how to rotate video, but I had the video 🙂 The video is of Lucy eating a snack and having a dustbath.

I put the video here: LucySnacksDustBath.mp4

Breakfast Cookies

Breakfast Cookies

I was having trouble finding a simple recipe for breakfast cookies, so I adapted a top-rated oatmeal cookie recipe to suit my needs. This recipe is still a little too addictive for me for regular use, but it was tasty with a butterscotch flavour coming through from the brown sugar. Also, I was very happy with the texture, it was very biscuit-like.

Breakfast Cookies With Pumpkin Seeds

1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups quick cooking oats
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup chickpea flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds

Mix together the oil and brown sugar, beat in the egg, and stir in the vanilla. Mix together the dry ingredients and stir them into the creamed mixture.

Grease a cookie sheet and preheat the oven to 375F. Roll the dough into balls and place on the cookie sheet. Flatten the cookies with a fork.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Let the cookies cool for a few minutes before removing them from the sheet to either a rack or a plate.


  1. I tried a variation on this recipe: half the brown sugar and 1/4 cup chopped dates added with the dry ingredients. This still makes for a tasty cookie and I don’t find it as addictive.
  2. The original recipe is found here:


New Kobo Forma

Today, I bought myself a new kobo, the largest model, the forma. I did this despite already having a small kobo that I don’t use that much. There are a number of reasons I avoid using it:

  • when using a font large enough that I can read it easily, there isn’t that much text on a page
  • page turning is slow
  • sometimes I hit the wrong spot and the page doesn’t turn
  • sometimes I can’t tell if several pages turned instead of one page
  • putting a book on the kobo is a nuisance
  • the extra expense to get a physical book isn’t that much more than a kobo version
  • all these issues mean I seldom use my small kobo

So far the bigger kobo seems to be solving most of those issues. Most importantly, page turning works better. There is a physical button you can also use to flip pages on the big kobo, however, this bar could have been designed better because the “new page” bar is part of the same bar used to go backwards a page. When concentrating on a book, it is easy to press the wrong part of the bar.

Another reason I got the new kobo is that some of the books at the public library are readily available to e-readers but not in physical form. This new kobo can connect directly to your public library account. This makes borrowing a book and putting it on the e-reader a quick and easy process. And there is a bonus reason for getting the bigger, newer kobo – it is water proof, you can take in the tub or the swimming pool and if it gets wet, it will still work.

There are still frustrating aspects to the kobo system. For example, right now, I have “overdrive” selected which is the name given to the feature allowing access to the public library. When doing a search when within “overdrive”, one would think the search result would be library books available to me. But I’m being shown books that are available for sale instead. I have to re-select “overdrive” to get the correct search.

But overall, I like this new kobo and am getting good use from it.

Quotes from Rapt

Quotes from Rapt

I love good quotes and so it seems like a good subject for blog posts. The reason I’m thinking about quotes today is I just found a couple I like in a book I just started reading, “Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life” by Winifred Gallagher.

The first is:
Life is the creation of what you focus on – and what you don’t.

The book talks about the vast quantities of stimuli and information all around us, and how we by necessity ignore much of the overload and pay attention to the little bit that is of interest or importance to us. By being mindful of what we focus on rather than leave it random, we can change the nature of our life.

The second is:
You cannot always be happy but you can almost always be focused, which is the next best thing.

I’m treating this quote as food for thought. When focused, I tend to be at peace which is a good place to be. But my focus isn’t the best these days so this quote can be motivation to grow my focus.

Women on Youtube

Women on Youtube

If you search for productivity and life management types of videos on youtube, youtube promotes young men with a sprinkling of women doing a TED(x) talk. Yet there are some incredible women out there with great ideas. After doing a little searching, here are a few women I enjoy listening to and I think youtube should do a better job of promoting them:

muchelleb channel (Michelle)
Michelle is a very feminine, yet determined woman, seemingly young with a lot of life experience. She documents her life and wisdom in easy to follow detail on youtube. Her videos are among my favourites because they are low key and very easy to listen to.

Mel Robbins
Michelle’s opposite, with more of a tough love kind of approach. She’s older, with some great how-to’s for creating change in your life. I first listened to her doing her TEDx speech on her 5 second rule which teaches you how to get out of bed in the morning! I’ve tried her method and it is very effective at shutting down the complaints my brain wants to bring to my attention as I climb out of bed. Another tidbit – according to wikipedia, she is the most booked woman on the speaking circuit, and I can see why, she is a very attention-grabbing, easy to follow person.

Laura Vanderkam
Vanderkam is a woman with 5 children who has researched how women succeed in challenging careers while parenting too. She plans in 1 week chunks and has great ideas on how to fit everything into a week. She says it is difficult to have a balanced day, but a balanced week is generally do-able. I especially like her approach of planning your upcoming week on Friday. Because by Friday your energy levels are typically depleted, but planning the following week is still an interesting task.