“168 Hours” is a time management book by Laura Vanderkam. The basic premise of the book is that we all have 168 hours in the week and most people don’t manage that time very well. From some reviews on Amazon, I gathered that many of the “solutions” for managing time better require money and a lot of flexibility. While I doubt the author blithely assumes that everyone can afford cleaning help or good daycare, the media does tend to focus on high-powered women when addressing the issue of time and work/life balance. See Atlantic’s recent “Women Can’t Have It All” article or any issue of Working Women magazine.
The focus on high-powered executives and especially on successful women makes sense on some level. Women are still expected to deal more with the juggling of household chores, childcare and work. Even if the chore and/or childcare split is 50/50, it seems that women devote more time thinking and managing these chores. The assumption is that if CEOs university professors and magazine editors can make it work, the average women can certainly learn time management tricks from them.
The problem is that this trickle-down theory is often not applicable to those lower in the ranks. For example, a magazine’s Editor-In-Chief has to answer to the publisher and certainly has high demands placed upon her. However, it’s unlikely that she has to ask permission for leaving early or for vacation time. She has more influence over company culture than those beneath her. She can work after the kids are in bed. If the average employee wanted to do that, he/she would have to convince the boss that they are actually working after work hours. Good luck with that…
My normal tendency is to write a short post and include a list of tips geared toward people in the middle-class. However, I wanted to explain the origins for this post and also acknowledge my own privilege. While I can’t really set my own schedule, work from home or easily pay for cleaning help, I am a white-collar professional working in an office setting and I do enjoy more flexibility than the average retail store or restaurant employee. For this, I’m lucky. Before you say that it’s also your ability, education and hard work, I know many who work just as hard with just as much ability who just happen to have less understanding bosses or a more nose-to-the-grind corporate culture to contend with.
How can you carve out valuable time if you’re not the 1% (or top 10%) with money and flexibility? How can you manage if you really don’t have the resources to outsource? I’ll try to answer this in Part 2 (coming soon).