#181 – The New Corner Office with Laura Vanderkam

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Episode Summary

Do you feel like you are too busy, wishing for more hours in the day? No matter who we are, we all get the same 168 hours in a week. How well are you using them? 

This week’s guest is the fantastic and prolific author Laura Vanderkam, who found out in her research that those 168 hours are more time than you think! She wrote a popular book all about those 168 Hours… and she also has an exciting new book named “The New Corner Office.” It is very timely information since it’s all about how to be successful while working from home– and don’t we need all the help we can get nowadays? 

Laura is the author of several time management and productivity books. Her work has appeared in publications including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, and Fortune. She is the host of the podcast Before Breakfast and the co-host, with Sarah Hart-Unger, of the podcast Best of Both Worlds. She is a mother to five children and runs a blog… so she definitely knows how to get the most out of her time on any given day.

In this episode, we explore:

  • How to set boundaries with your personal and work life…
  • How to hold yourself accountable in using your time wisely…
  • What are you making a priority in your day?
  • Are you being honest with how you are spending your time?
  • How you should audit your future, not your past performance.

You also might be wondering how she could be productive with five children running around all the time–? Take some notes as Laura reveals her time-maximizing secrets. 

Enjoy this episode with Laura Vanderkam!


Laura’s New Book “The New Corner Office

Laura Vanderkam’s Site

Laura’s Ted Talk

Sovereignty Academy

Listen Now

You can also click on the timestamps below to jump to those specific points in the conversation.
Read Full Transcript

This transcription was made by using Otter.ai so it is not 100% accurate.

Krisstina Wise [0:00]
Welcome back. This is Krisstina Wise your host. In this episode I interview Laura Vanderkam. Laura is the author of several books on time management and productivity, including off the clock feel less busy while getting more done. When she explains why some busy people feel relaxed about time while others do not. She’s written I know how she does it has successful women make the most of their time. And what the most successful people do before breakfast. She’s been featured on numerous TV programs, including the today show, and CBS This Morning. She has a TED talk with over 10 million views. And she’s the host of a productivity podcast. Oh, and one more thing. She’s the mom of five kiddos ranging from infant to 10. And she just wrote and released her latest book during COVID. Yes, I think she’s got the productivity code figured out. We talked about how to be highly productive and successful without feeling busy and overwhelmed. And we talked about the tips she wrote about in her latest book, the new corner office, where she shares how to manage life and work from home. So if you’re In need of some work at home productivity hacks you’ll wish to listen in. Please enjoy my conversation with Laura Vanderkam. Laura, thank you for being on the Wealthy Wellthy podcast.

Laura Vanderkam [1:11]
Thanks for having me. You’re welcome.

Krisstina Wise [1:13]
We were introduced through I think a mutual friend of ours. Lorie Marrero. Yeah, and she raved about you and She’s so excited to connect us and, and bow. I’m so excited to talk to you today. One, I’ve watched your Ted TED Talk fabulous. You nailed it. I think you’ve had over 10 million views or something amazing. So congrats. And a really your newest book and what you’re working on now so highly relevant. So I’d love to start there that your new books called the the new corner office. So what I would love is we’ll talk about that and really some of your your messaging in the book but to start off I’d love to hear a little bit of your story. What got you in the time management space you have many children, your mom your you know, and your you know, you’ve got a rockin business. So tell me the whole story. Tell me a little bit about Laura.

Laura Vanderkam [2:04]
Yeah, well, I mean, you know, people don’t generally grow up saying I want to be a time management expert. So I can’t say it was something I wanted to do when I was a kid. I also can’t say that I am always on time everywhere. Unfortunately, things seem to get out of my hands, occasionally, something we can all relate to. But I have long been fascinated by how some people managed to do a lot with their lives, both professionally and personally. And as I was kind of thinking about that question, many years ago, I had a realization, which is that we all have the same amount of time. And so when you meet these people who are doing awesome things with their lives professionally, and personally, it’s not that they have any more time than the rest of us. We all have the same 24 hours in a day, same 168 hours in a week. And so I thought, well, since they don’t have any of that more often than the rest of us, maybe we can learn from what these people are doing. And maybe there’d be interesting insights there for the rest of us. And so I began, you know, studying such people writing about such people and writing time management books that came out of studying the schedules of people who are just making the most of the hours we all have.

Krisstina Wise [3:18]
And what so was it because you wanted to be more productive? Or, you know, you’re like, Wait a second, there’s just such a kind of discrepancy between those high performers who seem to be utilizing time differently. And everyone else is because I want to be on one camp or another. It’s just something that, you know, this is kind of fascinating. I’d like to get to the bottom of this.

Laura Vanderkam [3:38]
Yeah, I think it’s more just general fascination. I mean, I can’t You know, I’ve probably long been interested in productivity. I was one of those kids who use a calendar and planner and things like that and kept track of projects and dates. And so it’s something I’ve always been interested in. And, and, you know, I’m interested in a lot of topics, but this was one that I wrote about, and why To keep writing about and that other people reacted quite strongly to and, you know, seem that I was maybe saying something that is a little bit different, which is that I don’t think that, you know, we’re all so crazy busy in this modern life that nobody can do anything. I think we actually have enough time for the things that are important to us. And that people are not necessarily increasingly overworked or increasingly sleep deprived or anything like that. Time is one of two, one of the things that’s so fascinating to me about time is that the general perception is very different from the measured reality. Many people have no idea how they spend their time. And when you have people keep track of it, we generally tend to work less, sleep more, have more leisure time, do less work of all sorts, including things like housework than we think we do. Which makes sense, you know, people spend less time on the things that, you know, it feels time feels differently depending on what you’re doing. You’re doing with it. So when you look at how people are actually spending their time as opposed to how they think they spend their time, there’s such a big gap. And I find that gap so fascinating that that’s one of the things that drew me to this subject.

Krisstina Wise [5:13]
Well, let’s talk about that. So, I mean, there were so few things when it comes to the idea of time. I teach money and wealth creation and wealth management and as a topic, and the biggest thing is what I teach is like wealth is time, that when you have wealth, you have time at what time is choice, like what we can choose to do with the time. So it’s looking at what do I choose to do in any block of time or measure of time? And time is space. So I’m really curious like, what what did you find when is it just behaviors choices like people think they’re making different choices than they are? But why do people just think I’m so busy? I have no time.

Laura Vanderkam [5:55]
I think what happens is that Time keeps passing whether you think about it or not. So it is very easy to not notice where time really goes. I mean, most people don’t even know that there are 168 hours in a week. And if you don’t know that, like you don’t know the denominator for stuff, and people will tell you, you know, how many hours a week you spend doing something, but you don’t even know how many hours in a week there are. Like, it’s very hard to have a sense of proportions. And because of that, we are inclined to remember things that stand out for one reason or another. Either they’re novel or they are, you know, unhappy, like we don’t enjoy them. You know, moments of stress tend to stand out more than moments of happiness. That’s just human nature. And so because of that, it’s far easier to remember, say, a night that you worked late and suddenly decide that that is typical, versus say, a day that you cut out early because you had somewhere to be. That’s not typical, but why not? Right? What What is typical are judgments of what is a typical day tend to color our perceptions of what our lives look like. And so when I’ve done too Time Daria studies and certainly when other people have done time diary studies that are well designed, they don’t just ask people, how many hours do you do x? Or how many hours a week do you do y? Or even how many hours do you do this on a typical day, but they’ll say is let’s talk through yesterday. Like yesterday, what time did you wake up, then? What did you do, then? What did you do? And it turns out that yesterday is always different than people’s typical days. But that can’t be true broadly, like with a big enough study, and and mean that typical is typical. So that’s, I think it’s Yes, it’s a difference between one of the differences between time and money is that money can’t doesn’t keep going out regardless of what you do. You know, whereas time, you can’t save time from 2005 and have it back with interest in 2020 is gone. Every once in a minute has gone all the money in the world can’t buy it back and so it’s even easier to spend it mindlessly than it is to Spend money mindlessly. And as you know, it’s pretty easy to spend money mindlessly.

Krisstina Wise [8:04]
Yeah, that’s actually really, that’s really well said I hadn’t really thought about it that way. You know, one thing that you say in your TED talk that was really eye opening to me, was just that it’s like, I didn’t know there were 168 hours in a week, you know, it’s like, why haven’t I haven’t really thought about that one. But then you really broke it down to say, okay, there’s 168 hours a week. And if you work 40 hours, you sleep this amount of hours, there’s still this number of hours, this leisure, whatever the what we choose to do with that additional time? So would you talk a little bit more about that? Like, what are like, if you have a typical work week, and you’re sleeping seven or eight hours a night, how many hours we still have available? part one and part two. Let’s break up those like super performers and kind of everybody else what the difference they’re doing with those additional hours.

Laura Vanderkam [8:51]
Yeah, so the equation I always do for people is there are 168 hours in a week. So that’s 24 times seven, if you work 40 so a standard full time job. Sleep eight hours a night, that’s 56 hours per week, that leaves 72 hours for other things. And then of course, people are like upset by that. So then they want to talk it through. Well, I have to commute and I have to cook and I have to clean. Okay. You don’t do any of those things for 72 hours a week. I have five kids, I don’t do that stuff for 72 hours a week, right? Like, could you find two and a half hours to exercise in there, which is the equivalent of 530 minutes sessions during the week? Well, I’m guessing that in 72 hours, probably there’s two and a half hours somewhere, or some sort of physical activity or, you know, Is there time to read? Could you read three hours a week? Well, probably in 72 hours a week, you could find three hours to read. You know, we’re not talking about spending 40 hours a week on trips to a spa like that’s not reasonable for most people’s life. But certainly, there is some time available. And when I have people track their time that it often can find when things they’re devoting time to things that are not maybe the highest, you know, priority for them and it might be possible to to repurpose that time for something that they would find more enjoyable. And I think knowing where the time goes, allows us to make those decisions. And And honestly, we say, Well, what is the the difference of high performers, people who use time? Well, it’s that they know what they’re doing with their time. Because if you don’t think about where you would like your time to go, it’s going to go to the easiest thing. And that tends to be, you know, in the workplace, it’s like whatever is loudest right in front of you, often the inbox that just keeps filling up, or the meetings with whoever is managed to lobby themselves onto your schedule. In our personal lives, it’s things like television, scrolling, and media, social media, puttering around the house like redoing housework that didn’t really need to be done in the first place. It these are the things that sort of keep filling time. And in order to get past that you have to say, Well, what would I like to spend my time doing? What logistical things need to happen for me to spend my time doing those things and then how can I hold myself accountable for doing that?

Krisstina Wise [11:00]
It actually, you know, it really does make so much sense. One of my mentors that you know, you know, he’s worth 100 million dollars and and I got an opportunity to study with Him and for Him to mentor and coach me. But one of his things that he said like one of the top things when it came to more of this time management was big rocks first, and to go through your calendar putting your big rocks meaning if you get new family time or exercise time or get your vacation scheduled in January of whenever you want to take your vacation, like whatever those real priority very important things if you’re in sales like what what time slots for the sales calls, you know, whatever it is, but just to make sure and to use your calendar and block the time and let the less important things fill in the rest that versus it’s he was saying that usually it’s all kind of all the procrastination tactics and fill time and these little things we think we’ll get to the big things in reverse order. So do you find that same thing to be true?

Laura Vanderkam [11:59]
Yeah, and you’d mentioned my TED Talk. So I mean, if anyone listened to this sorry for repeating the story, but I think this is a good one, I tell the story of a lady who has, you know, I’ve had, like thousands of people track their time at this point for me, but she, this one stood out for me. She was very busy lady, you know, worked in finance to young kids. She’s tracking her time she goes out for a Wednesday night for something, she comes home and finds that her water heater has broken. And so there’s water all over her basement. She’s dealing with this crisis, like the water, the plumbers, the cleaning crew, everything to deal with this. It’s being recorded on her time log and winds up taking seven hours of her week. So you know, that’s a fair chunk of time. It’s like finding an extra hour in the day. But of course, we’re talking about this and said, like, you know, if we’d had this conversation before this week started and say like, Hey, could you find an hour each day to exercise or an hour each day to, you know, have those mentoring conversations with the people who want you to mentor them? We’d all be like, no, I cannot find the time for those things. Like look at me, I’m busy. But you know when she had to find time because there’s water all over her basement She found the time. And I think that’s so that’s what you’re talking about with the big rocks. Like, if you want something to happen, you put it in and everything else will fill in around it. Whereas if you’re trying to, you know, put the stuff in around the edges, it won’t happen because life gets away from you. So figure out what it is that’s important you and then treat it with the urgency of water all over your basement.

Krisstina Wise [13:22]
Yeah, like I love that. I love that example. That’s so true. Because when things do present themselves we that we have to take care of them so the time presents itself, and something that I hear all the time that I just I mean, it’s it’s the word that’s rampant, but it’s I’m so busy. I’m just too busy. I’m busy, busy, busy. And I think I heard Tim Ferriss say one time like busy is the new form of lazy almost, it’s an excuse that I’m too busy, as almost an excuse to not create the time to you know, do it. Tyrese, but what do you say like what do you when you hear people just say, Oh my god, I’m so busy, I don’t have time?

Laura Vanderkam [14:06]
Well, I don’t have time generally means it’s not a priority. And that is totally fine. Like, I wish people would just sort of own up to it, like, Oh, I’m too busy to get together. Well, you know, actually, I don’t want to get together. Like, let’s, let’s own up to that. All right. If that is the case, that is the case, you know, and that’s fine. We can all have different phases of life when stuff is more of a priority than it is at other points. And, you know, maybe there’s a lot going on right now. And so other things need to be priorities. But you know, the phrase I often use for people is if whatever you’re saying is not a priority right now, like if somebody offered to pay you $100,000 to do it, like it would probably become a priority pretty quickly. So it’s not that you lack the time. It’s that it’s not enough of a priority right now. Like you don’t want to do it. And if that’s okay, that’s okay. Yeah. Let’s let’s get ourselves back in charge of our time,

Krisstina Wise [14:59]
so true. And how much time has been wasted, for example, it’s, it’s, uh, I’m so busy, I don’t have the time there is truth in the fact that we could say, you’re just not a priority. And I’d rather not to go to dinner, or how much is a story, we’re telling ourselves that we’re so busy, but we’re actually wasting a lot of time scrolling or just vegging out, or that maybe it’s more like maybe the truth is less of I’m so busy, but maybe I’m just so tired. I just can’t do it or Yeah,

Laura Vanderkam [15:30]
I mean, there’s all sorts of reasons we say we’re so busy. And unfortunately, what often happens if you tell yourself the story, I’m so busy often enough, you start to believe it. And certainly anyone can look at their life and find a couple points of evidence of being busy right like that. There’s a lot going on. But you could probably find other calmer moments too. So if you’re walking around with that as your story, look for evidence of that. So you know, we choose what we view our lives as and I think busy is a pretty you know It’s not not the best word to go around describing life. Better to think of something else to describe your narrative.

Krisstina Wise [16:07]
Yeah, I like that. Well, let’s move into your newest book, you’re an author, you’ve written a lot of a lot of books and material on, on human behavior and time management and productivity. But your newest book, the new corner office, tell us about that. Like what inspired you to write this? And what are you finding in today’s times? Like how do we manage our lives when work and home and kids and life is all in one space these days?

Laura Vanderkam [16:36]
Yes. So I wrote the new corner office after all this started all the pandemic stuff started in March. And it just came out and about how successful people work from home. And there are many people who have been working from home for years. And a little disgust aspect of it is that it’s it’s really just not about work life balance, like I know that many companies like oh, You know, it’s a work life balance perk for people who’ve been here for a couple years. And even so we’re only going to do it on Fridays because everyone knows that Friday is like the day nobody’s really working. So if we assume people who are working from home aren’t really working, we’re going to minimize the opportunity cost here. And then the pandemic happened and everyone went home. And, you know, people realize what those who have been working from home before realize, which is that, you know, there’s a lot of upsides to it. I mean, there’s some challenges that certainly for people who are not used to working from home, and certainly for a lot of people who are dealing with simultaneous caregiving responsibilities while they’re working from home, that’s a very non ideal situation. But in the long run, when people when kids are back at school, kids back at daycare, and people are able to more focus they’re gonna find that working from home is actually incredibly productive. It’s it’s a great way to manage your energy so that on the days you are in the office or the days you are traveling, you are able to deal with that without burning out And that you can just work how you work best, you know, in terms of what hours maybe you work best, what temperature you work best, like if there’s a particular smells or sounds or whatever that you like, you can have those in your home office and be in your happy place in a way that you just can’t in a cubicle.

Krisstina Wise [18:17]
Yeah, it’s there. Do you have some tips? I mean, for for just even creating the space, like where there’s a separation? It’s almost in a way. I mean, I know for me, and in a lot of my audience and friends, we were really entrepreneurial. We could almost work anywhere. But there’s it’s like there’s how to separate more work from home to have that separation in a way. All consuming all the time. Or, you know, oh, there’s just a pile of stuff everywhere.

Laura Vanderkam [18:51]
Yeah, I think you have to think more in terms of temporal separation versus physical separation when your offices in your home. So one thing some people do is come up with With some sort of ritual to start the day, and some sort of ritual to end the day, you know, in the past that might have been, for instance, like walking kids to school, but these days less of that, but maybe it is walking a dog in the morning. And then when you’re done with docking the dog, you go sit down at your desk, and you’re in work mode. Or maybe it’s that you write in a journal to start the day or do some sort of ritual that begin the day. And just as important, some ritual to end the day, because that’s the harder part like, you know, you will sit down and work at some point. So most people don’t really need that much of a ritual to start the day because you know, you got to work. But ending the part ending the workday is a lot harder, and especially when you are at your house because you can probably see your laptop from anywhere and if you know there’s always something you can be doing. You can feel very guilty of not doing it when you can, you know, clearly it’s right there. So some sort of ritual that says, Okay, now I’m shutting this down. This is the end. We’re done. live to fight again tomorrow. You know, it could be writing in a journal, it could be writing your to do list for the next day. It can be calling a colleague to say goodbye, but just something to indicate to yourself that now the day is over. And I’ll be back tomorrow. So we’ll shut it down till then.

Krisstina Wise [20:10]
Yeah, that’s good. What do you see when, when people would those that you work with when they start tracking their time? It sounds like what they’re finding out is one is that they’re not doing what they thought they were doing like what what are they finding when they’re because in the nutrition world, I’m not interested in spending a lot of people that are that one thing they work with their clients is to track the calories not so much about the caloric intake, but just to see how many calories you’re taking in. Because when people do that tracking, what they find is like, holy cow, I had no idea of snacking so much I had no idea. I would have said I was taken in 1500 calories a day and I’m actually taken in 2500 when I start tracking everything, because there’s just kind of a, you know, pick up a few nuts here and there and not even thinking how those add up. I’m guessing is similar to time that once people start tracking that, what are they finding? What are the AHA was?

Laura Vanderkam [21:05]
Well, a lot of it is just that, when our free time for instance, appears, we tend to have low energy. So one thing a lot of people discover is that a lot of their free time occurs from let’s say, 730 to 1030 at night, and you are not really going to go do something amazing with this three hours that you could, for instance, you know, use for something fun. So, you know, what do you do about that? Well, I mean, one thing is to, you know, come up with things you could do during that time, that would be more meaningful leisure than just watching TV because people wind up doing a lot of that or scrolling around on the internet, you know, so maybe it’s going to bed earlier and waking up earlier and then you have more energy in the morning and then you could do whatever the athletic or meditative or creative work that you say you don’t have time for. It’s also just not thinking about how you want to spend your time so for instance, people will get to the weekend and not think about what they want to do until Like midday through Saturday, and then a lot of the things that you could have done are not available anymore. Because you didn’t start in the morning, and or other people have plans or you haven’t, you know, coordinated and made, you know, what you would all like to do together. So, you know, it’s it’s not that you don’t have time, it’s that you haven’t bothered to think through it, and fill it with stuff that you actually want to do. Because that requires thinking ahead of time and making plans. And you know, sometimes people just don’t want to do that. If you don’t want to put the effort into it, then time disappears. You know, there’s at work like we start the day cleaning out our inboxes. And then you can still be cleaning out your inbox at lunch, and you haven’t really accomplished anything except tending your inbox, which keeps getting more stuff in it. And so, you know, it’s not thinking about, well, what are the top priority work projects and how can I make sure I do those during the time when I have the most energy so, you know, it’s that general mindlessness. That means we wind up spending time on things that are easy and effortless as opposed to the things that might Be more enjoyable and meaningful, but take a little bit of work.

Krisstina Wise [23:03]
Yeah, right on. It also makes me think that Yeah, just how easy it is to do mindless spending, it’s in the money category. It’s it I have people track how much they spend because same thing, it’s the dollars add up when we’re not mindful about where we spend it, even though it’s just $5 here $100 there over, you know, at the end of the month, that can add up to quite a sum. So I’m guessing the same thing again, it’s just so easy to be mindless when it comes to our time and next thing we know is the end of the day and and i know i have those days from thinking I didn’t get I mean, I know I spent stuff. I spent all day sitting at my desk or on my computer but I can’t think of one productive thing I’ve got I got done today. And it’s like what did I even do? Like how did the time just drift by so you know, is there do you have like tips or something where to take a break that he Of how easy it is to be frivolous with our time.

Laura Vanderkam [24:03]
Yeah, well, I think it’s good to think about where you want your time to go before you are in that unit of time. So what this practically means for many of us, I plan my weeks on Fridays, I think this is a really good time to do it. Take a little bit of time on Friday afternoon to think about the upcoming week, and ask yourself, what are my top priorities, both professionally and personally, I like to think in three categories, career, relationships, and self. Don’t list my top priorities, maybe it’s things that are already on my calendar, maybe it’s things I would like to do that I’ve decided to put on my calendar. Think about what the logistics are, you know, when it can happen, and he steps that needs to happen for me to get there. Put those in and that’s you know, how you plan a week. And if you do this week, after week, you will make progress on those things. And you will feel like you’re getting stuff done. I mean, I’ve you know, make the weekly list. And then from that weekly list, I make daily lists of what I’m trying to do. And the goal is at the end of the day say well actually I did everything on the list. You never want to make a list and then not do the stuff that’s on it. Because there’s no point in putting something on a to do list and then not doing it. Like it’s just as not done as if you hadn’t put it on the list. But now you feel bad about it. So only put the things on the list that you’re absolutely gonna do. So it’s a short list. But when you do it, you’re like, Yeah, I know exactly what I did today. I got it right there. These are the steps toward my goals, and I took them and the day is done and the day is good.

Krisstina Wise [25:23]
I think that’s so important. That’s such a really good point is that we have these long to do lists, maybe we cross and we go after what’s easiest, and then process off as opposed to saying, what would make today a really productive or effective or really meaningful, rewarding day is these three things all I need to do three things if I get these three things done, I can call it a really great day. And, and but we’re really doing the opposite. We have 30 things that’s, you know, unreasonable and Crossman, probably the few things off that don’t really make it productive, but we’ve got to cross a few things off. Yeah.

Laura Vanderkam [26:00]
Better to cross everything off and make sure that the things that are on the list actually matter.

Krisstina Wise [26:05]
Yeah, that’s a it’s so true. Another thing that, you know, I hear you saying, and I know it really works for me is I do something similar that my week next my, you know, at the end of this week, my next week will more or less be scheduled and scheduled means kind of this big rocks or this time slot. So I think of production in units of time. So it’s like, Okay, I’m gonna block my calendar for for the next, you know, for my exercise, all my exercises on my calendar, all my important calls are on my calendar. And then of course, there’s meetings that are there. So a lot of that I just say, keep an appointment with yourself. So just if you and I have this appointment, I would not just show up, you know, it’s like, yeah, Laura. So what you know, she won’t mind that she’s got herself ready for this podcast, and I’m just not going to show up. Of course, we don’t do that. But we do that with ourself all the time. We don’t keep the appointments with ourselves to go to the gym or to go for the walk or, or whatever the case is. So is that something similar that you recommend as far as just a tactic to really use the calendar as a tool to make sure that those big rocks are are scheduled, and that we hold those appointments sacred as well? Like, if it’s on the calendar, it’s sacred, and everything else can fill in the gaps?

Laura Vanderkam [27:23]
Yeah, I mean, although, you know, people have different personalities, and there’s some people who can put go to the gym on their calendar and then still not do it. I mean, you know, you have to decide what’s going to make you feel accountable for something and, you know, if you’re going to drop it as soon as somebody asks for that time, because you’re like, well, it doesn’t really count because it’s just a trip to the gym, you know, then that doesn’t work. So you have to figure out what’s going to be motivating for you. I tend not to put blocks of time for things like that, but I know I want to do it so I will do it. Like I mean I won’t let the whole day Get away from me. I’m make sure it happens at some point or another. So Have you figure out what what system works for you?

Krisstina Wise [28:04]
And do you have advice? I mean, you’re a busy mom, five kids, like you’re an author, you’re a business owner, you have five children, how do you do it?

Laura Vanderkam [28:13]
Well, I mean, I think about what I want to be doing with my time, you know, both professionally and personally and keep making progress on those things. And it look at the time that is available, see what steps need to happen to get to those goals and how I can make those happen within the time that I do have. I do want to stress here that you know people like are you trying to do all of this at the same time that I you know, have worked from home for years, but I also have childcare for my youngest kids all the time when I’m working like during the hours I plan to work. I am not to be the adult in charge during those hours. And I think that that is incredibly important. A lot of people who are experiencing working from home for the first time this spring, unfortunately have not had the benefit of having the kids not there with them. That they have been simultaneously in charge of both the kids and working. And that’s really, really difficult and long term just not sustainable. So if you are in that situation, it’s important to figure out well, how can I have some more coverage so that I can focus during the hours that I choose to work. And maybe that means you trade off with your partner. Like, it’s quite possible if there are two of you for each of you to work about 30 hours a week, while you trade off for each other. That’s one solution. You know, you can hire a sitter, maybe you swap care with a neighbor or relative or something like that. And I hope eventually kids will be back in school and that will all be available as well. But But until that, meaning to figure out how you can have at least some focus time in order to make progress on those, you know, professional goals that you are working toward.

Krisstina Wise [29:47]
And so you just wrote a book during this pandemic. And again, five kiddos and you know, managing a household. So tell me about your days like how did you how did you structure your days How were you able to write this Look and do these podcasts and keep your family going?

Unknown Speaker [30:04]
Yeah, well, I mean,

Krisstina Wise [30:05]

Laura Vanderkam [30:06]
get up pretty early these days. Just because I, my youngest is a baby. I mean, there’s so if you have babies, like you’re sort of at the whims of their schedule to a bit of a degree, so I kind of wake up with him and feed him. You know, get going on breakfast and stuff. We have our nanny shows up at eight to work. And that’s generally when I either finish up with breakfast or you know, helping with the kids. And then I go into my office and get started usually by 830. And then I’m in and out some because again, I gotta feed the baby. But the bulk of my work I tend to do between about 830 and 430. On any given day, that’s when I schedule stuff. And you know, I’ve certainly this was different in the spring because the kids were home as well. And so normally I would work pretty Straight through the day, but in this case, I would stop to help get their zoom calls loaded up for school when they were doing all that. So my time was a little bit more fragmented, for sure. This spring than it has been at other times, but you know, you can still get stuff done. I think you have 30 minutes, you can write a section of a book as long as you’re not trying to answer your email at the same time. So I’d take advantage of that 30 minutes and get what I could write done. And then you know, deal with what I could after that, I would say the one thing that has been hardest with all this is recording my solo podcast, I have two podcasts before breakfast. And the new corner office is also a podcast. It’s a book that’s now out but also a podcast. And each of these podcasts is a short daily tip. Like just something that’s gonna take your day from great to awesome, but because it is just me it is very important that there not be background noise because it’s a scripted, solo voice sort of podcast and that has been hard to get Quiet. So I could record with with minimal background noise 10 episodes a week, even if you’re sure they’re only like five minutes each, but still, that’s, you know, a lot to do. So I’ve, you know, I do it whenever I can I I’ve done it at night like at 10 o’clock at night I’ve, you know, asked everyone in the house to be silent for 30 minutes and they can’t really do it. But I get at least some done before the 30 minutes is up. And the other day the baby was asleep and the four older kids were at tennis lessons and I managed to record 10 podcasts before they came back from tennis. So you know, it was on a Saturday morning, like I work whenever I can to get the recordings done.

Krisstina Wise [32:41]
Yeah, there you’re saying, Hey, this is a priority. So I’m going to figure it out. And when the space presents itself, I’m going to fill it with this specific thing because it needs to get done. And that’s a really great example for how to you know when we prioritize things, do you have any tips around with both partners working home together and kids, you know that how to navigate the whole families that the house we’re trying to work or trying to get family stuff done his job her job, what recommendations or tips do you have there? I think

Laura Vanderkam [33:13]
that the couples who do this really well have a very good policy about who is in charge at what point because when both people are in charge, no one really is and then it’s kind of a free for all everyone’s resentful because they’re getting interrupted. But then both parents are getting interrupted and it really didn’t need to go that way. Ideally, you come up with a schedule so each of you can cover for each other. on my blog recently, I did a post on how both partners could get a 30 Hour Work Week covering for each other and basically, you know, the understanding is, you know, kids can do napping or screen or quiet time from about one o’clock to three o’clock in the afternoon. That tends to be a good quiet time for young kids and older kids too. But, you know, one party generally works You know, Monday and Wednesday from eight to three, the other works from one to six, and then they flip on the other days and Friday can go back and forth between them. But between the hours of eight and six, then Monday through Friday, each of you one week gets 29 hours, the other week, the other person gets, you know, 29 hours and the other person gets 31. You know, if as long as the person who is on is on, like the job is not just about keeping the kids safe, it’s keeping them out of the other person’s office. And so you have to actively be on during that time. But if you’re committed to doing this, like both of you could keep really working and focus and that drastically beats the sort of resentment or the feeling like Wait, how do you get to lock yourself in the office and the kids are always bothering me? Well, no, they’re not always bothering you. They were up here the other day and that’s just lack of you know, the the fighting that can occur when the guidelines aren’t clear. So set those communicate well get a policy you can both live with and then stick to it and you’ll probably get through this okay.

Krisstina Wise [35:01]
Yeah, that’s actually really great advice. I mean, it seems so obvious after you say it. But establishing that might be a little bit more difficult and just navigating that. Another thing you said there that, you know, I found to be true. As well as, when we’re really focused on those priority things you really don’t have to put in 50 hours a week in many cases, a 50 hours a week comes from things dragging or not getting done or filling in kind of wasting space. And it is amazing. Like, we when you say like, okay, these things have to be done, I’m going to, you know, have this 30 hours or make sure, we can get a lot done and in a shorter space of time, we are very focused and prioritized and committed to producing that, you know, that result or that outcome. Study back through to,

Laura Vanderkam [35:48]
I mean, there’s no reason to work long hours just to do so. I mean, you know, one of the upsides of working from home is that you get rid of some of that FaceTime culture where like, Oh, wait, I don’t leave until my boss leaves because that makes me look like I’m a go getter. You know that you don’t have to have that same group time norm. And I think that that is a really good thing. Now, if you had 40 focused hours, you could probably get more than you would get more done than you would in 30 focused hours, you know, past about 4550, it gets a lot harder, because people tend to lose energy and intensity. And so there tends to be some real dips in what’s happening during some of that time. There’s usually only about, you know, 45 focused hours, even if the person is sitting at their desk for 60 or something like that. But, you know, yeah, if you focus on sort of high value things, you can get a lot done in 30. And if you give yourself a couple extra hours after that, you know, to do the nice stuff, like networking and, you know, learning new skills. Yeah, you could, you could do a lot. I mean, certainly you can, you know, build your career working 30 to 35 hours a week, as long as they are planned really, really well.

Krisstina Wise [36:58]
Is there anything that in your And your new book and the new corner office. Is there anything that when you’re doing this research and really coming up with the material, did anything really stand out to you? Is there any like big aha moment or something? That’s the big reveal in the book.

Laura Vanderkam [37:15]
You know, there’s a lot of different tips. But I think that you know, one thing that’s really important is that working from home can really help you manage your energy, that we have this idea that working from home is about work life balance, but the pace of modern business is very swift. And you need a lot of energy to keep up with it. And when you’re burning, energy, commuting, like getting up earlier than you need to to sit in traffic for an hour. You get to work feeling like you’ve done something even though you haven’t you just shaded places like this. That’s just a waste of energy that could be put into more productive things like finding new clients or, you know, establishing yourself as a thought leader. And so really freeing up that community At least a couple days a week is one of the best things you can do to boost your career. As long as people get over this FaceTime notion that you know being in an office shows that you are dedicated. And and the good news about the pandemic, if there is any such thing as good news related to this is that we’ve accelerated a decade’s worth of workplace change into a couple of months. Certainly remote work was rising rapidly before all this, but it was still relatively limited. There are so many places that people could have been working from home for years now. But they weren’t because there is this idea that like if you work from home, you’re not serious, right? And now that everyone’s working from home, you say, Well, actually, you can be very serious and still work from home. These things are not mutually exclusive. And and so that’s good news. As we move forward, I think we’re going to reset the assumption of how many hours you need to be in an office versus You know how many you can be elsewhere and still be getting stuff done?

Krisstina Wise [39:04]
Yeah, exactly. But let’s, we’re approaching the end of our time together. So there’s a few wrap up questions that I like to ask all of my guests. And the first one is if you said, Christina, if you really, really knew me, you would know that what’s something that a lot of people don’t know about you?

Laura Vanderkam [39:21]
I’m not sure I’m such an open book. I’m like, my blog and all that. So I’m not sure that there’s anything people don’t know about me. But I am rather introverted. I did not understand that for a long time, because I, up until this year made a big chunk of my living giving speeches, you know, so I’m used to being on stage and thousands of people watching me, you know, I’m talking on all sorts of stuff all the time. So I’m not shy, like I’m not a shrinking pilot by any means. But I find interacting with lots and lots of people kind of draining. And so I always have to come back and sort of center myself and spend time by myself in order to then feel better to go out and talk to more people. Again. And so that’s always been that’s been sort of a challenge the past few months because I live with six other people and they never leave. You know, sometimes like go shut myself in a room for a little bit. And my more extroverted family members can go out, yell at each other, and other places while I just kind of you know, try and have a little bit less stimulation for a while.

Krisstina Wise [40:23]
Oh, perfect. So, tell me a brag moment, what’s something you’re really proud of? Like a really, you know, prideful moment?

Laura Vanderkam [40:32]
Well, I am proud that I wrote a book during a pandemic while being quarantined with five children, you know, even with with help with all of them, of course, and you know that I have an infant and did this and one of the reasons I’m actually happy to have done this is this is a money related thing. You know, as I said, I, much of my business was off speaking places, right, like a big chunk of my income over the past few years has been doing that and as you might have And that business is sort of non existent at the moment. Nobody’s going to be having big conferences probably for at least another year, if I had to guess. And so as a matter of saying, Well, how can I pivot? And so one of the things I did, I started this new podcast, the new corner office, and then turn it into a book as well. And so, you know, these two things together are replacing, you know, some of the income from from speaking and, you know, hopefully that speaking will come back. I assume it will at some point, but until then, here’s something else I can do. Yeah, I

Krisstina Wise [41:31]
love that. And yeah, big kudos. I’m still shocked. I’m like, how did you do that? Are you just on the flip side of that, tell me something like a big failure, like something that, you know, a big lesson that came out of something that didn’t work so well?

Laura Vanderkam [41:48]
Well, you know, I mean, I have plenty of things that don’t work out. I mean, I never think of things as big failures. I just started thinking like, well, didn’t happen or didn’t work out. You know, I’ve written all sorts of like book proposals that didn’t turn into books, like people like you written a lot of books, okay, I’ve written even more proposals that haven’t become books. And one of the reasons I think I have so many books is I keep trying stuff out and seeing what might work and might not. And, you know, so I’ve certainly gotten news about some proposals like, oh, nobody’s interested or, you know, I thought something was gonna fly and it didn’t, you’re having something I’ve written get rejected, like, that’s happened tons of time. But you just write something else or tweak it and try it somewhere else. And you know, then it doesn’t become a big failure. It’s just a little failure that you know, you pivot on to the next thing.

Krisstina Wise [42:35]
Yeah, that’s good. Thank you. All right, one final question. And I like to ask all of my guests, the wealthy, wealthy podcast, it’s a little bit of like myth busting and alternative ways to think and act and behave and, and believe so. Tell me in your space, like what do you bump up against all the time that you just it’s kind of a popular belief that you would just like to call out and say that’s not true.

Laura Vanderkam [42:58]
Yeah, well, one of the ones that come up again, All the time is the idea that it’s impossible to have a big career and a family and to enjoy both and still be relatively relaxed. You know, I wrote a whole book about this. It’s called I know how she does it, where I looked at the time logs of successful women who had big careers, who also had families and saw what their lives truly looked like. And it was not crazy. It was not you know, whatever that movie was the I don’t know how she does it movie where she’s distressing pies to make them look homemade. Like there was no pie distressing. Going on these time logs like this is not something that like we just have this idea that if you have a big career, you must be neglecting your family. And if you somehow spend time with your family, too, you must never sleep. And if you somehow find time for sleep, you must do absolutely nothing else. Like there’s no exercise, no friends, no hobbies, no reading, whatever. There was all that. Like I saw that on the logs like Yeah, sure. Did. People have some stressful moments? Sure, of course, but they also had some really good moments too. And so it’s kind of a question of What narrative you choose to tell yourself and so I’m, I’m here to try to bust the myth that it’s impossible to have it all, I think it’s quite possible to have it all. And good news is we have 168 hours a week to do it. And

Krisstina Wise [44:12]
I love it. Laura, thank you so much for your time. You’ve been just a wealth of information. And I love all your tips. And we’ll be pointing everyone to the book in the show notes if they want to pick up a copy copy of the new corner office, which, yeah, we’ve all found our new corners.

Laura Vanderkam [44:28]
Exactly. And hopefully we have that place where we can build our empires from. Exactly. Thank you so much.

Krisstina Wise [44:36]
If you’re inspired by today’s show, and you’re the kind of person who likes to help others, there are some easy ways that you can help me first, please subscribe to the wealthy, wealthy podcast by doing so. It helps both of us. You’ll never miss an episode and it helps me and my ratings. And if you’re able to leave a review, hopefully five stars even better. Finally, if you think Your friends and family would enjoy the show. I invite you to share the wealthy, wealthy podcast with everyone you know. If you have any questions I’m here you can email me at support at wealthy, wealthy calm, and I may even use your question or suggestion for a future podcast episode. Also, if you want to be motivated and inspired more regularly connect with me on Instagram or LinkedIn at Christina wise, that’s k ri s s, ti na WISE. I believe we are all on this journey together towards finding our sovereignty and freedom. And I’d love to be part of your journey. I’d love to help you and especially on the financial side. So learn more at sovereignty Academy calm as always, thank you so much for listening and being part of the wealthy, wealthy community.

What We Covered

[1:48] Who is Laura Vanderkam?

[3:25] What started you down the road of being a productivity specialist?

[5:51] Why do people think that they are so busy and that they have no time?

[8:40] Tell me how people typically spend their 168 hours in a week. How could they spend them better?

[11:50] Talk about priorities and how people see them as relating with time.

[14:00] What do you say to people that have the mentality that I am simply too busy to do that?

[15:00] How much time is being wasted? What is the story we are telling ourselves?

[16:15] Tell us what inspired you to write your latest book “The New Corner Office”?

[18:25] What are your tips for creating the perfect home office space? How do you create the separation of Work & Personal life?

[20:50] What are some of the big aha moments when people first start tracking their time?

[23:05] It is easy to be mindless with our time like we do with our money. What are your tips to break that habit and bring more ease to wisely spending our time?

[27:00] What are some strategies you recommend to keep us accountable for our time?

[29:50] How do you structure your day?

[32:55] What are your tips for parents with kids to prioritize work time? How do you manage who is taking care of the kids and who is solely working?

[35:30] When you put it that way if you manage your time wisely the reasons for working 50 hrs a week are very few.

[37:10] What are some of the big takeaways or big revels in your new book?

[39:10] Krisstina if you really really knew me you would know that?

[40:25] Tell me a brag moment!

[41:38] Tell me something you perceived as a big failure

[42:46] What is a myth or misconception you would like to bust?


“Once a minute is gone all the money in the world can’t buy it back and so it’s even easier to spend it mindlessly than it is to Spend money mindlessly.”

“There are 168 hours in a week. So that’s 24 x 7, if you work 40 so a standard full time job. Sleep 8 hours a night, that’s 56 hours per week, that leaves 72 hours for other things.”

“I don’t have time generally means it’s not a priority. And that is totally fine.”

“If whatever you’re saying is not a priority right now, if somebody offered to pay you $100,000 to do it, it would probably become a priority pretty quickly.”

“You have to think more in terms of temporal separation versus physical separation when your office is in your home.”

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