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There was a time, not so long ago, when I was busy, busy, busy. At least I thought I was.
I told people I worked 60 hours a week. I claimed to sleep six hours a night. As I lamented to anyone stuck next to me at parties, I was basically too busy to breathe. Me time? Ha!
Now I work 45 hours a week and sleep close to eight hours a night. But I'm not getting any less done.
About the Author
Laura Vanderkam is the author of "168 Hours" and the forthcoming "All The Money In The World: What the Happiest People Know About Getting And Spending" (Portfolio, March 1). Ms. Vanderkam lives outside Philadelphia with her husband and three children.
My secret? I started keeping track of how I spent my time, logging how many hours and minutes I devoted to different activities such as work, sleep and chores.
I soon realized I'd been lying to myself about where the time was going. What I thought was a 60-hour workweek wasn't even close. I would have guessed I spent hours doing dishes when in fact I spent minutes. I spent long stretches of time lost on the Internet or puttering around the house, unsure exactly what I was doing.
I'm not alone in this time fog. If you believe results from the American Time Use Survey, done by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and other studies, plenty of Americans have faulty impressions of how they spend time in our "too-rushed-to-breathe" world.
We all have the same 168 hours per week -- a number few people contemplate even as they talk about "24-7" with abandon -- but since time passes whether we acknowledge it or not, we seldom think through exactly how we're spending our hours.
We also live in a competitive society, and so by...