Book of the Month Review: “Off the Clock” by Laura Vanderkam

Have you ever wondered how some people are able to clock 50 hours at work each week, get plenty of sleep, and devote enough time to family, friends and loved ones? It may seem an impossible feat, but it’s more doable than meets the eye.

In honor of Leadercast’s June theme of Balance, we selected Laura Vanderkam’s latest, Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done, as our book of the month to learn how to be more productive at work while devoting enough time to the people we love most and the passions that drive us. 

Busyness shouldn’t rule your life. In the book, Laura describes that leaders must operate in a time paradox: In order to feel freedom with our time, we have to be disciplined with it. Time freedom doesn’t happen on its own, explains Laura. It comes by being disciplined in the logistics and schedules of our time so that we can truly go off the clock. 

Laura shares many insights in the book, but here’s what resonated with us the most.


1. Change your attitude.

Laura explains changing your attitude is one of the first steps to finding time freedom. Once we tell ourselves a story, we look for evidence to support it; it’s called confirmation bias. If you tell yourself that you are hurried and busy and everyone always needs something from you, you will find evidence that it is true. 

Now, it might be true that you need to scale back a bit and learn to say no to certain commitments, but just remember that you do have time for what is important to you. You can change the story and your mindset. Everyone has the same amount of time in a day, so choose wisely and look for evidence of how your choices are bringing you joy.


2. Build white space into your day.

Laura discusses building white space into your day and week for two reasons: 1) everything takes longer than you think it will, and 2) something always comes up.

Building in buffers in our day and in our week ensures we are not rushing and stressed when things inevitably don’t go exactly how we thought they would.

Try bundling meetings together as it tends to be more efficient, shares Laura. It can also be beneficial to schedule meetings in the afternoon. People tend to do their best creative work in the morning and the interactions of an afternoon meeting can get people’s energy back up later in the day.

Strategically thinking about meeting placement is crucial. People who have a solid understanding of how to use their time don’t just schedule meetings whenever they are free. They plan these times strategically for when it works best for both them and their team.


3. Make memorable moments.

As part of her research for her book, Laura did a study showing that those with the top Time Perception Scores (people who felt like they had an abundance of time to get done what they needed to get done) had all done something unique and interesting the day of the study.

These people had a bigger sense of time and hadn’t let the day just slip away or disappear into the mundane. They had gone salsa dancing or had a picnic lunch outside with co-workers. They made an effort to create memorable moments and invest in relationships with their family and friends.

You don’t need to create grand moments, but try creating little memorable moments and really savoring them as they are happening. Stop by that little store on your way home from work that you’ve always been curious about. Take a few moments to sit outside after dinner in the summertime and listen to all the noises around your home. These all serve as a breath of fresh air and help us to remember the little moments!

To sum it all up, do yourself a favor and begin tracking your time and see how time discipline opens the door for time freedom. Purchase Laura’s book to find more tips and insights on feeling less busy while being more productive.

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