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.