Laura Vanderkam: Time Freedom Habits From The World’s Most Successful People

In this episode of MarieTV, we do have some
adult language. So if you have little ones around, grab your
headphones now. Hey, it’s Marie Forleo and you are watching
MarieTV, the place to be to create a business and life you love. Now, if you’re anything like me and you love
the topic of productivity? Stick around, because my guest today is an
expert on how to make the most of those 168 hours we each get every week. Laura Vanderkam is the bestselling author
of What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, I Know How She Does It, and 168
Hours, among others. Her 2016 TED talk, “How to Gain Control of
Your Free Time,” has been viewed more than 5 million times. Her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal,
The New York Times, Fortune and other publications. Laura, thank you so much for coming in. Thank you for having me. So I think we share a little bit of a similar
DNA. I have been and love talking about productivity
and time management. It’s just a topic area I can’t get enough
of. We talk about it a lot on the show. So I’m really curious, where did you develop
this love of this topic? How did this start for you? Yeah, well I wish there was a really good
story of hitting rock bottom and then, that would make a much better self help book. But I’ve always been interested in productivity. And it really came to a head when I had my
first kid several years ago and I was trying to figure out how I could make the pieces
of work and life fit together. And so I started studying people who were
making it work. And as I looked at their schedules and ask
questions about it, I saw that a lot of the stories we tell ourselves about where the
time goes may have some problems with them. And I find that fascinating. So I decided to write about it. Yeah. And so then it just was… Because I know for some authors they could
go on to a topic and be like, “okay, I kind of did this,” but there must’ve been something
about it for you that you’re like, “I’m going to do it again and look at it from a different
point of view.” Yeah, well I find the topic fascinating because
we all have the same amount of time. Yes. We all have 24 hours in a day, 168 hours in
a week. And so when you find people who are doing
all these amazing things in their lives, both personally and professionally, it’s not because
they have any more time than the rest of us. They may have other things going for them,
but they don’t have that. And so I enjoy studying: what are they doing
with their hours? How are they making the pieces of work and
life fit together and what can the rest of us learn from that? Yeah. So being Off the Clock, which is the title
of your latest book, as you call it, it implies time freedom. Yet time freedom requires discipline. I want to talk about the time paradox meaning
that time is both precious and plentiful. I thought this was so fascinating. Why do you feel it’s important to really dig
into this paradox and like really understanding both where the minutes go and then almost
simultaneously not wanting ourselves to be obsessed with where the minutes go? Yeah, there really is this paradox about it. And I mean the whole genesis of Off the Clock
came when I was feeling off the clock while on a run this morning in Maine where I was
there all by myself. Nobody was expecting me to do anything. I could do whatever I wanted. It was this very sort of liberating sense. And yet I realized in the moment when I was
having this wonderful run along the Maine beach that I had to figure out so many logistics
to get me to that place. I mean, in terms of making sure I didn’t have
work at that time, the logistics of getting there, child care, all this other stuff. And so all that time discipline is what had
led to time freedom. And as I explored this more with people, I
saw that many of the people who do feel the most relaxed about their time are also the
people who are most in control of their time. They have figured out where the time is going. They have figured out what needs to happen
in their life. They have put the systems in place to make
it work. And when you have that going on, well then
you can relax. Then you can enjoy time, because you’re not
vaguely worried that something’s not happening that’s supposed to, you’ve got some deadline
coming up you’re not sure about. So that’s when you can really feel off the
clock. For me, the more disciplined I am, I do feel
that’s true. The more freedom I have, and I’ve seen that
in the decades of my career. It’s like the more organized I become, then
when it’s time for me to be truly off the clock, I don’t need to check into email. I don’t need to pick up the phone. It’s like things are taken care of. But so many people, I feel like don’t do the
first basic steps, which we’re going to get into, about figuring out, you know, well where
does it all go? So when it comes to things like money or time,
for me it’s always about, right, you can’t measure what you don’t manage. And I love the phrasing of Pearson’s law:
“That which is measured, improves and that which is measured and reported, improves exponentially.” So let’s talk about time tracking. That’s one of your big… I guess so excited about this. And for anyone in the audience, who’s like,
“No!” Like if they need it, too. Please don’t make me. Please don’t make me, but it’s so exciting. For us, at least. I’m not sure of everyone. But I feel like if we can inspire them to
do it because there’s so much goodness and benefit and joy that can come from it and
the results that can come if you’re just willing to dig in there. So first let’s talk about you. What inspired you to start tracking your time? Well, I was curious about where my time went. And at the time I started tracking my time
continuously, which I did in spring of 2015, so I now know where every half hour block
of my time has gone since then, which puts this right out there. Nobody else has to do this. Nobody else has to track their time for three
years. Don’t worry. But you know, I write about the topic, so
I looked at thousands of time logs at that point. I wanted to really see where my time went. And I had kept logs of a week here and there
over the years. But I realized when I started tracking my
time continuously that I had chosen very specific weeks to track in the past, like weeks that
showed me as I wished to see myself. You know, the perfect week. And when you track all your time, of course
you can’t do that. And so I got a much more holistic perspective
on where the time goes. But yeah, I mean if you want to spend your
time better, you have to figure out where the time is going now, because if you don’t
have good data, then your decision will be flawed. I mean, it’s the same with any business decision. If you don’t know which stores are selling
what, how are you going to make right choices of what you’re supposed to be doing with that? So that’s really what it comes from. And I realized I had plenty of stories I was
telling myself. Let’s talk about them cause I thought that
was fascinating. Like, some of the big lies. And I think that’s what’s so valuable about
being specific and taking the time to track anything, you know, whether it’s money or
what you’re eating. Every time I try kind of a new way of eating
and I start to learn something new, I’m like, “Oh my goodness,” it shows me so much about
how I was kidding myself. I didn’t think I ate late at night. It’s like, oh my goodness, I snack late night
all the time. You start to discover these things. So with your time tracking, what were some
of the lies or stories that you were telling yourself? Yes. The equivalent of the six Oreos from the kitchen
next to the home office that magically disappear on their own in the course of the day. Yeah, I had thought that I worked about 50
hours a week because the weeks I had tracked in the past, I’d always worked 50 hours a
week. And it turned out that I had this story I
was telling myself that I’m a serious professional who works long hours. With writing, sometimes people view it as
a bit of a dilettante-ish sort of thing to do, so I’m very wedded to this idea of myself
as a serious professional. And then when I tracked my time continuously,
I realized that the average was a lot closer to 40 than it was to 50. And it’s not that I never worked 50 hour weeks
because clearly I had. I’d recorded them in the past. I’d worked 60 hours a week. It’s just they weren’t the norm any more than
a week working 20 hours was. And so when I realized, well, the average
is 40, not 50, that’s 10 hours that even studying this topic very closely, I had no idea where
they were going. And what did you discover about those 10 hours? Where did you start to feel like, “Oh, here’s
where it’s sliding off to?” Well, it’s interesting. I mean, you know, obviously some of it was
going to kid-related stuff. I turned out to spend quite a bit of time
in the car, which was just mind boggling for me because I usually work out of my home office,
so there’s no daily commute and that is where most people’s time in the car will appear
in their schedule. So, I don’t have to worry about that. It turns out I was spending more than an hour
a day in the car, listening to really bad music much of the time. And so I realized, I was like, well, I need
to be a little bit more intentional about this hour a day. But if I didn’t know that, like if I didn’t
know, I’m spending an hour a day in the car… With crappy music. With crappy music. I mean, I could tell myself all sorts of stories,
but it turns out that I’m spending more time in the car, than I am exercising, than I am
reading, like all these other things. That was a big one. I loved when you wrote, “Exercise takes a
lot of time only in our explanations of why we’re not doing it.” Pretty much. I was like, “Amen.” It was so good. As a woman who likes to go to the gym, when
read that, I was like, yup, because the days that I’m quote unquote “too busy,” and then
I really look, “I’m like, oh, but you know what? You watch the NBC Nightly News didn’t you,
girl?” Yeah. And I mean it’s hard to exercise at night
for many people, but that doesn’t mean we couldn’t have rearranged the schedule in some
other ways so that leisure time would appear at a different point in the day. And you know, I’ve committed to exercising
every single day and I’ve found that’s good for me because then it changes the conversation. I’m not like, “am I going to exercise?”
which is a whole existential debate. I don’t know. Am I gonna exercise? It changes it to “when am I going to exercise?”
which is a much more useful question. Yes. So for anyone hearing, okay, I know time tracking
is probably the first step, which would you agree, right? Yes. In order to make any significant and substantial
changes if we want to. If we want to. If we want to, then a first step is knowing
what the hell we’re dealing with right now. So for anyone who’s resisting this idea, I
feel like one of the big ones that you wrote about like, well I don’t have the time to
track my time, can you address that for them? Yeah. I see all kinds of forms of resistance to
this idea and I’m sure some people are like, crossing their hands listening to this. Like, “No, I’m never going to do it.” One category of people who resisted is people
who have to track their time for work. So lawyers, accountants, or you know, anyone
who’s punching in and out of something, you may feel like, “I track my time at work. I can’t deal with it for the rest of my life.” You don’t have to do it for three years. Like, that’s not expected. Just one week will give you so much insight
into your life that I hope you’ll find it worth it. As for the argument of being too busy, for
me, it takes about three minutes a day. I check in three times a day. Each check in takes about a minute. So, it’s the same amount of time I spend brushing
my teeth. So if you argue that you’re too busy to brush
your teeth, then that’s fine. But most people find the space in their schedule
for it. And they can do it electronically. On your phone. You can do electronically. You can use a time tracking app. Like, there’s some that are even intuitive. So like you just go in at the end of the day
and correct the record. It doesn’t have to take that much time. I think it’s more often people don’t want
to do it because they don’t actually want to know. It’s the same thing with the food tracking. Like, you don’t want to know. The truth hurts. The truth hurts. But then it does set you free. It does set you free. And really, I try to tell people it’s not
about playing gotcha. Like, I don’t actually care if you’re on Instagram
for two hours every night. Like if life is working for you, go for it. But if you are telling yourself, “Oh, I have
no time to start this business on the side. I have no time to exercise. I’m not spending enough time with my family,”
whatever stories you’re telling yourself and you also have this two hour chunk on Instagram
every night. That’s when we need to start working on it. I am with you. I’m with you all the way. So, I have a question for you. And I know this is a big one. And it’s impossible that we’ll be able to
get into all the nitty gritty. But you do talk about this in your work, specifically
in this book. What can we do to clear our calendars of activities
that are boring, stressful, or just not the best use of our time? Yes, that is a big question. It’s a big one. How do we get rid of the stuff we don’t want
to do? I’ll give you two practical suggestions. The first, and I know you know this, being
very careful when you say yes to things and it is so hard to say no. And I find with people that the further something
is in the future, the more we are saying yes because it feels like we’re assigning it to
a completely different person. Yes. It will never be February. I’m sure you’ve probably had that. No one recently, but it’s like there’s some
times where there’s a thing where you have to get on a plane or show up and you’re like,
“Oh, that’s going to be fine.” And then the time comes, you’re like… Why did I agree to this? Why? Yes. I have so many friends who have this syndrome
all the time. Well you know, you figure it’ll never be February
or somehow you’ll be a different person in February. Like, you’ll have more time, you’ll be more
patient with the world. Yes. The future you always seems to have an open
calendar. The future you has nothing going on. So the future you could totally do this, except
it’s not true. I mean future you will be exactly the same
as you are now. We don’t really change as much as we sometimes
hope we will. So you know, the better question to always
ask yourself when you are asked to do something in the future is would you do it tomorrow? Would you do it tomorrow. And if you would, you’re probably booked solid
tomorrow, but if you’re thinking, yeah, I could try to move this around and cancel these
things because I really want to do this, then you will feel the same way in February. I like that. But if no? If no, no. No. One of my favorite things to teach folks that
work with me is I tell them to get on the no train. They get a first class ticket on the no train,
because some of us are so habituated to just people-pleasing and saying yes or looking
at opportunities like they’re the only ones we’re ever going to get and we just say
yes to things and like what you said happens, the calendar gets filled up with shit. You’re like, “I don’t care about this and
all of my other priorities just can’t fit in.” So, I like that. What was the second? The second one is, I usually plan my weeks
on Friday afternoons. I find this is really good time for it. Uh, not a whole lot else going on on Friday
afternoons, kind of drifting into the weekend at that point. But I’m willing to think about what future
me should be doing the next week and figure out my priorities for the week. But while you’re doing that, take a look at
what is already on your calendar for the next week and start triaging it. You can figure out at that point, well, is
there anything that just really doesn’t actually need to happen? Or anything that I think probably won’t happen,
but nobody’s going to make that call. Like, if that’s the case, go ahead and cancel
it. Do it ahead of time. Everyone can make other plans. Maybe you see on your calendar that somebody
asked for 60 minutes for a meeting and it’s like something you think could happen in a
five minute phone call, like Friday afternoon, make that phone call. Get it done and then that hour is opened up
in the next week. Or maybe it’s delegating something that someone
on your team could go handle this matter or there’s three of you on the same team going
to the same meeting. Like, please just send one of you. And you could free up hours and minutes by
doing this. I love this. I especially love just taking the time, especially
on Friday, because most people are, you’re kind of taxed from the week. There’s a lot going on. You are thinking about the weekend and it
doesn’t have to take that long. Just take five, 10 minutes. Just take five, 10 minutes, and you get hours
back. I mean, that’s about the best investment you
can make. Absolutely. So you told wonderful stories in the book. I would love to talk about the Canadian artist. Yes. Because we have many, many creatives in our
audience who have struggled or are struggling with a creative block and feeling like they
have all of these other obligations. They likely have maybe a day job. Maybe they have two jobs and things that they
want to do. So tell us about this incredible woman. Yeah, so Lorraine is a wonderful artist and
does fabulous work. She does a lot of paintings of flowers. She lives up in rural Saskatchewan, which
has a beautiful landscape but a little bit hard to get around to do things. Anyway, she had written me originally because
she was feeling not as productive as she wanted to be. And so I asked her to track her time and share
her schedule with me and she sent in a time log, where she was working for about 40 hours
of the week, but on various different projects, only 12 hours were on her top priority of
actually painting, which is, you know, she’s an artist. That’s what she wants to spend her time doing. And she wasn’t happy about this, so I sort
of had various ideas about productivity, but when I sent them back and then she wrote me
back a little bit later, she wanted to share a little bit more about this, which is that
she was facing this real creative block. Like, she was having such a hard time getting
going on things. She’s feeling like there was never enough
time for art. Like, the world was conspiring against her,
house problems. Plumbing. Plumbing goes out and you’re trying to get
a plumber out to rural Saskatchewan. He’s not coming when you want him, he’s coming
when he wants to be there. And you know, various things going on. And so, we talked about this and how she could
deal with this. And the thing though is looking at her schedule,
she was complaining about this worst possible week ever. And I saw that she had actually spent 16 hours
that week on making art, versus the 12 hours the week before where she hadn’t complained
about how crazy everything was. And it’s like, “Well, wait. You’re actually scaling it up. Like, you’re doing a good job. It’s just that your expectations are unmatched
with reality.” So a better question, a sort of better way
to think about this is to make art when you can and relax when you can’t. If you lower your expectations in the short
run for what you can get done, I find that that’s actually the secret to longterm productivity
because when people think that in any given day there are going to, you know, paint 10
paintings and spend 18 hours in their studio, that’s not going to happen. And then they get discouraged. You feel like shit. You feel like shit and then you stop. Totally. Totally. And then you don’t keep going, and then that’s
when those voices come in and telling you, you’re never going to do this. You’re never going to work again, whatever
the story is that’s going on in your head. And so, we talked about how she could try
to get to the studio on Monday just to sort of start the week well, but then the rest
of the time, like make art when you can, when you can’t relax, see how it goes. And while it sounds like that would be an
excuse to like underperform, it turns out not to be the case at all because when you
get rid of these extreme expectations for yourself, and say, “Well, I’m just gonna do
a little. You know, that feel pretty good. Oh, I could do some more. Okay. I’ll just do a little bit more.” And next thing you know, she’s like got this
huge exhibit going on the next year like with many, many paintings because when art feels
good rather than a source of stress, then you want to do more art. Absolutely. And it’s so counterintuitive. Like I can even hear the part of my brain. I can feel it in the audience, too. “No, if I’m not listening to the drill sergeant
who’s mean in my head, I will absolutely do nothing.” You know? And they think, and I’ve had this, this is
something that my man Josh is actually quite good with. You know, because I’m one of those people
who can just drive, drive, drive, drive, drive, and he’s like, “You know, you’ve done a lot
today.” I’m like, “Not really enough.” He’s like, “No, you can actually be nice to
yourself and you’re going to get more done.” I could do more. Yeah. I could always do more. I could always do more. But it’s so true. And when I do take his advice, your advice,
I do find myself feeling just even more light and more restored and just happier. Yeah. And the truth is, you can do amazing things
in the long run with very small steps. I mean, if you want to write a 70,000 word
book, write 1,400 words a week for 50 weeks of a year. At the end of the year you’ve got a 70,000
word book. Like 1,400 words a week is nothing. It’s 350 words a day for four days. Like, you send that many emails by 9:30 A.M. This is actually where I was going later,
but we should just talk about it now. You have that section in the book called,
“The Secret of Prolificacy.” If I pronounced that right. Katie Cannon. Yes. The UK writer who had just had a baby and
managed to write and edit five books, a novella and three short stories in one year. I was like, damn. It was great. And part of what you said, and I’m going to
share this and I want to hear more from you cause you wrote the story, but just this simple
technique of setting that timer in 20 to 30 minute blocks of focus. Yeah. And pumping out a little bit. Just a little bit. Just a little bit. And then a little bit more. And this is how people who are incredibly
prolific get it done. I love this woman. She has to write under multiple pseudonyms
because so many books are coming out that it can’t be managed under like, one name. Really? That’s kind of amazing. But what it is, and so if she is writing a
70,000 word book, I mean, she has a bit more of a tighter schedule than a year for doing
that, but you know, she can write it in seven weeks. That’s 10,000 words a week. She’ll set a goal to do 2,500 words a day,
four days a week, 2,500 words. That’s going to be three 800 to a 1,000 word
scenes. Sets a timer. You know, 20, 30 minutes, she can write an
800 words scene, because she knows what she’s supposed to be doing cause she’s got it outlined. So, she’s working from that. Does three of those a day. We’re good. Next day. Does another three. Next day another three, you know, then she’s
got her weekend, relax. Next week, do some more. At the end of seven weeks she’s got a novel
and then she can spend, you know, two weeks editing it and it’s out. I think one of the other benefits that we
didn’t touch on, but you certainly go into in the book in great detail is how also knowing
where our time goes helps us savor the memories. And then extend our experience of how we live
our time. Like, I know even from my journals, if I look
back at the meal I had in Italy, like, what was the lunch? What was the dinner, what did we do the next
morning? Even if we had a fight, like what was it about? It brings me back to a place of this feeling
of expansiveness. Yeah. So, savoring time is really associated with
feeling like you have more time because not only are you experiencing the pleasure, you’re
acknowledging that you’re experiencing the pleasure and the more moments that you notice,
the more time is memorable. And I have a great quote in the book somebody
had said that very often when we say “where did the time go?” What we’re actually saying is, “I don’t
remember where the time went.” Like, when time isn’t memorable, then we don’t
remember it. But when we really savor these good experiences,
they become these robust memories that we can then look back on. And that’s actually been an upside to me of
my time logs. I mean, I did it to see where my time really
went. Can I spend more time on X, Y or Z? Which is fine. And I’ve learned some useful things from that. But it’s also provided this wonderful equivalent
of a journal for like the past three years that I can look back and see my memories of
that week. And with a journal itself, you often even
just write about the highlights or the things that were worrying you at the time. I’ve read some of my old journals and please… The angst is just like, it doesn’t matter. You’ll forget what this was even about within
two years. But I mean the time log, you’ll not only see
that dinner, the wonderful like lunch in Italy or whatever, but you see like what you were
doing immediately before and what you were doing after. It gives you the whole context of the memory
and so it’s even more rich and so it creates a bigger memory. One of the things that has been really helpful
for me, I know you talk about this as well, is why tackling your top priorities both at
the top of the week or in the morning is so effective. Yeah. Well, most people have more energy and discipline
and focus in the morning. Not everyone. I’m sure people are gonna write and tell me. I get that all the time. That’s cool. I get that all the time and that’s totally
cool. If you are doing your best, most creative
work at night, you are a night owl. That is awesome. Rock it out. Most people when they say,” I’m not a morning
person”, what they actually mean is that they’re tired in the morning, which is often
a different matter. That’s because they were up too late doing
whatever, didn’t go to bed. You know, hitting snooze in the morning. It’s not that you’re not a morning person,
it’s that you don’t get enough sleep, which is a very different issue. Solve that, you may have a lot of discipline
in the morning. But the reason to use this time is that that’s
how we get stuff done. I mean, a project that takes two hours in
the morning might take four hours in the afternoon. Because of so many interruptions. Yeah, so many interruptions, like you keep
getting distracted, you don’t have the energy to do it. Your brain needs a break, but you haven’t
given it a break. So it takes fake breaks. Like you know, that’s when you’re reading
the same email six times in a row. So, tackle these difficult projects when you
have the most energy and you’ll get through them faster. You’ll probably do them better. But I also think the beginning of the week
is a great time for speculative work that life has a way of crowding out. And in Off the Clock I tell the story of a
friend of mine, Catherine, who’s a writer and she was trying to get a book contract. She wanted to be a book author. And she thought, “Well, I’m going to write
some big magazine stories that might lead to a book deal.” And so we’re checking in with each other every
week. She’s like, “I’m going to do it Friday afternoon. That’s when I’m going to carve out for my
pitches.” But like week after week stuff would come
up and I’m like, oh I had a big client call on Thursday. So that took all my time on Friday or my kid
was sick on Wednesday, so all that stuff got moved to Friday or we left early for the weekend,
whatever. It wasn’t a good time. When she moved that to Monday morning because
I said well, that’s prime time. You have the most discipline and energy and
focus, we’ll see if it gets done. And you know, it was very difficult for her
to do because she’s basically ignoring her clients until 10:00 AM on Monday when she’s
the kind of productive person who wants to get right to it. But it happened. She wrote these magazine pitches, she got
a great magazine story out of it. She got a book deal. She’s the same person. She was the exact… she’s not more productive. Not a better writer or anything else of trying
to do this work on Friday afternoon versus Monday morning. Same person. It’s just that using this time at the beginning
of the week means it happens. The emergencies have yet to come up. You wait until the end of the week? The time will be taken away. Same thing with early mornings. I know you told a few great stories in there,
the one about the CEO who goes to the Waffle House? Yeah. I mean, well, he runs a big company and he
wants to be the sort of engaged boss that people can come talk to if they have issues,
right? The problem of being that person is you have
to really truly be that person, because if people come to you and talk about problems
and you’re like looking like you are trying to do something else, that you really want
them to leave, people pick up on that. So to be that person who can deal with whatever
comes to him, he had to do his focused work somewhere else. So, he’d go to the Waffle House in the morning
and spend an hour, an hour and a half tackling whatever is his big priority for the day. And so by the time he shows up at work, he’s
done it. He can relax. Every single time that I do that and my schedule
changes and sometimes waking up really early doesn’t make sense because of how late I work
the night before. But when I do, it’s always so magical. There’s something in that morning time before
the sun even comes up when it’s so peaceful and there’s no emails coming in, there’s no
nothing. And when that happens for me, it’s like by
the time I get to 8:00 A.M., it feels like I’ve had a full day. And like I have had a full day. I can do whatever. Come bring it to me. I can conquer the world. That’s right. That motivation will you through the rest
of the day. I want to talk for a minute because I think,
like you said earlier, you know, if someone enjoys being on Instagram for two hours, God
bless. If you know that you’re doing it, but if you’re
complaining that you don’t have time to do other things, it may be a problem. Let’s talk for a minute about social media
and our phones. What have you discovered from all of the work
that you’ve done with people’s time logs and all the folks you’ve worked with? Yeah, so I mean, for Off the Clock, I had
900 people track their time for a day, all very busy people, a lot going on in their
lives, had them report how they were spending their time, how they felt about their time. So I could look and compare the schedules
of the people who felt relaxed about time, with equivalently busy people who felt starved
for time, like time was a source of stress. And I found that the people who felt most
relaxed about time check their phones about half as frequently as the people who felt
most starved for time. There’s been some other research out there
showing similar things, that we have open space and then we choose to chop it up. So, an hour of leisure time doesn’t feel like
an hour of leisure time if you’ve picked up your phone 10 times and just looked at, people
think they’re being productive because, you probably looked at your work email for like
30 seconds, but you went immediately to somewhere else, you know, headline scrolling, social
media, whatever. And so it’s not really work. It’s not really leisure, either. It’s this weird gray area that could be free
time if people chose to make it free time. But you know, often we’re telling ourselves
a story that we are so busy and so we don’t recognize it as free time and then we feel
worse about the whole thing. I want to wrap today with something that you
have in the book and I think it’s wonderful, just about setting really small goals, right? Not setting these huge expectations for ourselves. Like, I’m going to run five miles every single
day or like you said, you know, someone saying, I need to do 10 paintings or I need to pump
out all this stuff and holding these really high, almost perfectionistic goals for ourselves
every day. And one of the things I love that you wrote
is, “Done is better than perfect because there is no perfect without being done.” Yes. And Marie, you just said what I was going
to say. My line, I guess. Yeah, it is. It’s beautiful. Well, yeah, I mean, we have this idea that
we could get to some perfect thing, which you can’t and things become better once they’re
out in the world. You can get feedback on them. You can at least hear from stakeholders what
they like and what they don’t. See how people react to it and that’s what
makes it better. So you’re almost always better in getting
something out there and seeing what you can learn from it, because it can’t be perfect
until it’s done. That’s right. And I know, because I’ve definitely curtailed
a lot of my own perfectionistic tendencies, I don’t think people realize how much time
they waste. Oh, so much time. Right? It’s like if we think about this beautiful
life that we have and all of these opportunities to create things and make a difference and
have fun, those perfectionistic tendencies just suck the shit out of us. I mean, it’s just horrible how much time they
waste. Yeah. It keeps you from enjoying the fruits of your
labors and seeing what other people think about them and maybe making a difference in
someone else’s life when they discover them, as well. Laura, thank you so much for coming on today. This was wonderful. Thank you so much for having me. Now, Laura and I would love to hear from you. Again, this is one of my favorite topics of
all time. So I’m curious: which insight meant the most
to you and most important, how can you turn that insight into tangible action right now? Leave a comment below and let us know. As always, the best conversations happen over
at the magical land of, so go on over there and leave a comment now. Once you’re there, be sure to subscribe to
our email list and become an MF Insider. You’ll get instant access to an audio I created
called, “How to Get Anything You Want.” It’s so good. You’ll also get some exclusive content, special
giveaways, and some personal updates from me that I just don’t share anywhere else. Stay on your game and keep going for your
dreams because the world really needs that special gift that only you have. Thank you so much for watching and we’ll catch
you next time on MarieTV. Are you tired of talking into an empty void? Are you ready for more sales, more clients,
and more raving fans? Take our free seven day writing class at It takes about three minutes a day. I check in three times a day. Each check in takes about a minute. So it’s the same amount of time I spend brushing
my teeth. So, if you argue that you’re too busy to brush
your teeth, then that’s fine, but most people find the space in their schedule for it.

64 thoughts on “Laura Vanderkam: Time Freedom Habits From The World’s Most Successful People

  • What a very fascinating topic. I try to organize my day everyday just because I don't like doing nothing and I always need to ffed myself with books, exercices, trainees,…. I am so afraid of boring myself, and life is too short to be little. I tank you very much Mary for this video… You always have good contents that makes me growth and think in the best way.

  • Action item: I will start monitoring the "screen time" on my phone and limit my screen time.

  • Thank you so much for this video!

    The advice about appreciating what we do with our time instead of having great expectations of spending a lot of time on a project, really spoke to me.

    I am myself a writer, and my problem is actually that I don't limit the time I spend. I often force myself to make progress when my brain isn't working, which leads to a lot of "wasted" hours. It also leads to burnout, which means I need several days off before I can continue writing again.

    If I can learn the skill of appreciating whatever I accomplish at a smaller time frame, such as a two-hour frame each day, this could really help me keep writing regularly. I could also have a greater amount of inner peace on a daily basis.

    For a number of reasons, I haven't had a job since completing my studies. I hope that changes soon. But during these past few years, I've consantly beaten myself up about not having produced enough writing-wise knowing that I have a lot of time at hand, and knowing that I can spend up to 12 hours a day writing (or trying to write). I really need to free myself from these expectations.

  • After watching this I felt so refreshed. I find that it's not that common for women to talk to each other in this way. I can't put my finger on what it is though.

  • Interesting topic… maybe I need a consultation regarding my time. Off top I spend 3 hours a day in my car commuting to work 😩 and I hate it. I wonder what type of advice she would give to a single parent.

  • Most important insights – tracking my time, setting small daily goals based on a master plan, working in brief blocks of time (30 mins). Step to be taken: from tomorrow, I will be exercising 20 mins everyday, no matter what. Also will be working in 30 min blocks at the office.

  • I'm going to look at apps to see how I can track my time and set smaller goals so I feel productive 😅

  • For me it’s never about the “amount” of time. It is about the quality of time and the amount of “energy” I have available. I almost always don’t have the energy so I started taking baby steps towards improving my health. I did start with yoga and keto but then I discovered I never had the energy to cook properly or do yoga. I knew something was draining my energy so I started looking into my psychological state and mental health. And boy oh boy! Turns out I’m a codependent in a somewhat abusive relationship “and childhood”. I never knew because I always doubted myself. Now I’m setting new rules for my interactions with others and myself too. I have a long way towards learning to be mindful as a first step.

  • I needed to hear this,.. I think at times we just need to organise ourselves better to make use of the time we have, then we will be less stressed

  • I agree that time tracking is a game changer! I used to think I was working soooo much or that certain tasks would take so much time, when in reality it only took 30 minutes or an hour. I use RescueTime to track my time in the background on my computer. I get a weekly report that grades my productivity and lets me know where my time goes. Thanks for this video! I’m going to start tracking my time outside of work.

  • I was totally busted when she called out those of us who claim to not be morning people, lol! #AllFacts #TruthBomb

  • Thank you for this video and topic. Honestly, I have never connected with the concept of time management until right now while watching this video. I have been keeping tracking of all the money I spend – every cent, every day, every biweekly paycheck – for a long time in my Notes App. I love it, and it helps me to know where all my money is going (whereas if I didn't I would have very little idea where it all went). But it just now clicked that I could do the same thing with time! Marie is so right when she said that you can't Maddie measure/understand something that you haven't measured. I am able to understand my spending habits because I have recorded/measured them. So I'm looking forward to recording my time habits, too!

  • Definitely monitoring my time is what I’d like to try.
    Because, when I monitor my finances, I have better results, so this should bring me a much needed clarity.
    Thank you, Marie!

  • This was forwarded to me from a friend – ohh it was gooood! I got so much from this, most importantly around thinking that small steps are too insignificant but rather to appreciate the small increments – to create when you can & relax when you cant. Let the process feel good and watch it bloom. Thank you both Marie and Laura.

  • I love everything about this video. But I would have a question. How do you manage to track your time when your schedule is almost never the same ? Some tips ?

  • As a creative with a full time job and small business I have many excuses as to why I don't have time to make art. I love the quote, " Done is better than perfect because there isn't perfect unless there is done" Wow!!! Life changing statement!

  • Thank you for a great interview! One comment on the planning the next week on Friday afternoon – I would suggest doing it in the morning in order to give others time to adjust their calendars, in case of delegating for example. Otherwise what may happen is you suggest/ cancel the meeting and on Monday morning you would need to deal with extra conversations on people's schedule.:)

  • I loved this interview. I've been a Marie fan for a while and have recently tried putting more things on my calendar and planning my week so they get done instead of getting lost in the day. I love the point she made about how even spending a little bit of time working on something you would like to accomplish adds up. I do very detailed illustrations, and often get daunted by how long they take me to complete; this inspires me to try to do a little every day, even if I don't have as much time as I would like to work.

  • What’s the best way to track time? Is there an app you use or do you do it manually with pen and paper? As a lawyer I track time at work easily using our case management platform, so if there is something similar for personal time that would be great.

  • Yes I agree. Never forget that the most valuable asset you have is your time. It's not about how much time you have. It's about how effectively you manage your time. Thanks and love you Marie Forleo

  • Really useful Maria thank you! Just downloaded toggl for my iphone. Seems pretty simple to use. Also made me realise how much I actually do when I feel like I haven’t done anything. Thanks again!

  • It's so interesting how being productive and feeling productive are two different things sometimes. Our brains can be tricky.

  • I enjoyed this all, except when she said the quote "where did the time go?" And related it to not being quality time. Everytime the time gets away from me it's because I'm in nature or having good coffee with my husband, or hiking, or with my dogs or family, or traveling the world. I always find myself when it pure joy thinking where did the time go. It's a state or bliss so time flies. But that's just me and the only thing that didn't connect with me. Everything else was common sense and a good reminder since we all get into unproductive habits sometimes. Mine is social media. This will be my 6th year taking 3 months completely off, but the rest of the year I look every day. 👎

  • Got inspired by your channel and created '7 HABITS OF SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE'. If you could spare a moment and check it out, my day will be made.

  • gonna take the time out to review & prune my goals so i can get into what really matters with my new time logging process 🙌🏾

  • I believe that managing your time wisely will lead you to be productive and planning your goals realistically then you are less likely to be stressed. Being an affiliate marketer, I have almost mastered every bit of time management and planning my goals. It really helped me to be successful with my business and learned to love it more every single day.

  • My summary:
    1. Track that lurking beast )))
    2. Shift everything to the morning hours (and fix your sleep at last!)
    3. Keep your expectations not higher than you can cope with

  • Start of by saying thank you i had asked for some guidance in the morning and then i am watching your video tonight i like the dea of tracking time documenting how you spend your time by doing so what i heard you say and believe you can clearly see what is working and what is not.

  • I started my rotations this week, and I've been working about ten hours at a day at the hospital and even more when I get home. I liked the "If you have time to brush your teeth", analogy because I realized it's possible. I'm definitely going to look into a time management app, because I really need help dealing with this new challenge in my life. Thanks for this!

  • Done is better than perfect because there's no perfect without being done. 👌👌👌

  • I will try to track my time from tomorrow and I WILL NOT feel bad about where I spend how much 🙂 I will focus on learning about what feels good and what may be improved.
    I think the most useful thing was to start the day or the week with the most priority work and dedicate Friday afternoons for planing 🙂

  • I loved this exchange! Great information – it sparked many ideas & memories. I will start time tracking immediately as I am embarking on some next level goals now. In the past, time blocking has really worked for me.

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