Summary of Laura Vanderkam TED Talk with the same title

Where did the time go? How do we find time for what matters most?

There rarely seems to be enough time to finish everything at work, and once we’re home, we’re too tired to enjoy our free time, spend our time with family and friends, or enjoy time with ourselves by doing exercise or doing our hobbies.

Laura Vanderkam is an author and time management expert. In her popular TED Talk, she tells us: “We don’t build the lives we want by saving time. We build the lives we want, and then time saves itself.”

According to her study of keeping track of how busy people spend their time hour by hour, she found that time is highly elastic. “We cannot make more time, but time will stretch to accommodate what we choose to put into it.” And so the key to time management is how we treat our priorities.

Figuring out Your Priorities First

Here’s the key to actually making your priorities: Vanderkam says: “we treat our priorities as the equivalent of that broken water heater [by] putting them into our schedules first.”.

First, we need to figure out what they are.

Think about your academic/professional trajectory. What you can do is write down three to five things you hope or you want to do it spectacularly. Give yourself a “performance review,” much like you’d get at the end of the year at a job. Write down three to five things you did spectacularly. So you can write next year’s performance review now and make them you prioritize for next year. These are your prioritize for next year.

Break These Down Into Doable Steps

Now study what you wrote down. More likely than not, the things that made your life amazing on paper are the things you prioritize. Now you know what priorities to focus on over the next year. You can do this for both your academic/professional and personal goals. We have a list of six to ten goals we can work on in the next year. And now we need to break these down into doable steps. We do this by thinking through our weeks before we are in them.

make yourself a three-category priority list: career, relationships, and self. Making a three-category list reminds us that there should be something in all three categories. Then look out over the whole of the next week, and see where you can plan them in. Where you plan them in is up to you.

There is Time

in 168 hours a week, you can find time for what matters to you. If you want to spend more time with your kids, you want to study more for a test you’re taking, you want to exercise for three hours and volunteer for two, you can. It’s about looking at the whole of one’s time and seeing where the good stuff can go.

small moments can have great power. You can use your bits of time for bits of joy.

At the end of the talk, Laura Vanderkam emphasize things that she truly believes about time

“I truly believe this. There is time.”

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