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Off the Clock is Worth Your Time

By Kelly

It’s clear from previous blogs that Laura Vanderkam is my favorite time management author, so I was thrilled for a chance to review an advance copy of her new book, Off the Clock, on sale May 29.

But I have to admit, I feared a rehash of her previous, brilliant books, because she’s so thoroughly covered this subject already. How much can you really say about time management?

Well, Laura’s found a fresh new angle for this topic, once again.

While 168 Hours tells you how to track and mindfully spend the hours in your week and What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast shows you how to maximize your mornings, Off the Clock teaches you how to savor and lengthen time.

It’s about the physiology of time instead of the math.

How time feels has always fascinated me. I’ve noticed each birthday, time seems to speed up a little. In fact, when I turned 26, it started going so fast, it scared me.

I casually mentioned it to my grandma when she called to wish me a happy birthday.

Instead of answering her question about how it felt to be 26, I asked, “Is it normal for time to speed up as you age?”

“Oh yes,” she said nonchalantly. “And it gets faster every year. But just imagine how you’ll feel when you’re 80,” she said with a laugh, meant to be reassuring, but wasn’t. “Years start to go by in the blink of an eye. Then they start going even faster than that.”

When the phone seemed to go dead on my end, she laughed more. I felt bad for not even trying to reign in my reaction. But. Yikes. How time treated her sounded awful.

Since then, I’ve read a lot about how to slow down time.

Here is my very unscientific theory of why time seems to speed up as you age: When you’re a child, since everything is new, your memories don’t compress because you need them to aid the learning process. Think of children’s minds as brand new computers with lots of memory.

But as you age, two things happen: You experience repeated actions more often and your memory starts to get full. So just like computer memory, it starts compressing similar things to make room for more memory. Naturally, what memories get compressed are similar.

As adults, our lives are full of repeated actions and routines to compress, or as Laura puts it “waking up too early to commute too far to jobs where too many hours are dictated”, so you’ve got to find ways to fight the compression.

My solution has always been try new things. If one memory is different from all the others, it’s less likely to compress.

This is indeed supported in Laura’s book where she writes “adventures make life memorable, and memories stretch time.”

But Laura digs deeper into the psychology to reveal several hacks to slow down time, like:

  • Creating richer memories in the present by using all five senses.

  • Noticing little details to deepen your memory of something.

  • Savoring the moment by learning how to linger instead of rush.

  • Spending time with people.

She also gives strategies to create more space by refusing to fill time with:

  • Unnecessary busyness. Whether it’s a commitment that doesn’t interest you, a pointless meeting or hated chore you can afford to outsource.

  • Playing on your smartphone. Laura’s time-perception survey found that those who constantly checked email or scrolled through social media had more anxiety and less (perceived) time.

  • Agonizing over the best decision. Good enough is good enough.

  • Unrealistic expectations of yourself. A BTN, or better than nothing, goal often adds up to better results.

And much more in the helpful 222 pages than can be explained in a 600-word blog post.

Off the Clock is worth the read. Time invested reading it is time saved in the long run.

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