Laura Vanderkam knows how successful women do it — how they do it all — manage high profile careers, care for their families, pursue their own interests, and even get seven to eight hours of sleep every night.
Vanderkam’s findings are based on a real-life study she conducted on career women making at least $100,000 per year and who take care of one or more children. Named the Mosaic project, the study is based on the women’s hour-by-hour time logs over a period of 1,001 days. Vanderkam shares her results in a book titled, “I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time.”
You can learn more about Vanderkam’s findings at an upcoming networking and discussion event sponsored by Ellevate, a global professional women’s network, on Thursday, October 8, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Brick Hotel in Newtown, Pennsylvania. The event includes wine and appetizers and a downloadable E-book. Fee: $40. Register online at the central Jersey chapter of Ellevate: www.ellevatenetwork.com/chapters/33-usa-central-new-jersey. For more information, call 609-613-8704.
Vanderkam’s study reveals that flextime on the job is key to balancing a successful career and a fulfilling family life. For instance, a woman might take time off in the middle of the day to attend a child’s school event, return to work afterwards and work an additional hour or so at night after the kids are in bed.
What surprises Vanderkam’s readers is that women in these roles do not work excessive hours in a typical week. On average, they put in about 44 hours per week, only slightly more that the standard 40 hours. Another surprise is that they regularly receive a good night’s sleep, catching seven to eight hours per night. Vanderkam finds that these women tend to feel happy and fulfilled as they balance work with family life.
Vanderkam’s book has won positive reviews by women journalists. Lorraine Candy, editor-in-chief of Elle UK Magazine, wishes that women would be more open about flexing their time than the ones Vanderkam interviewed. “They’re letting employers off the hook for not recognizing that making time for family doesn’t mean you’re less committed to a job done well,” she said in her May 13 post for the Daily Mail. But, she concludes, Vanderkam’s book gives her hope that it could encourage everyone to be more honest about the ways they can achieve work-life balance.
Vanderkam’s interest in time management stems, in part, from her own life as a working woman, wife, and mother. As an author, journalist, blogger (lauravanderkam.com), and speaker, she and her family live just outside of Philadelphia where she cares for four children, one girl and three boys ranging from eight months to eight years old. Although her husband, a business consultant who travels frequently, shares the parenting on weekends, she is the main caregiver Monday through Friday. A Princeton University graduate (Class of 2001) with a degree in public policy, Vanderkam has always been interested in time as a universal topic, she says. But after the birth of her first child, she became interested in the topic on a practical level.
She began researching time management and the lives of successful people, and started applying what she learned to her own daily routines, keeping track of how she was spending her own time as a writer and mother. She learned to make use of unexpected pockets of time. For instance, a canceled phone meeting opens up time for a 20-minute exercise routine.
Vanderkam’s first informal teachers in time management were her parents, who both had careers in education — her father as a professor at Notre Dame, and her mother as an adult education teacher. They had to figure how to balance career and family life, she says, laughing about her dad’s expression, “pursuing scholarship in snatches.” Her parents showed her how to be good at making the best use of small blocks of time.
In addition to “I Know How She Does It,” Vanderkam has written several other books, including “What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast,” “168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think,” and “All the Money in the World: What the Happiest People Know About Getting and Spending.” She is also the author of a novel, “The Cortlandt Boys.”
She is a member of USA Today’s board of contributors and a contributor to Fast Company’s website. Her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Reader’s Digest, City Journal, Fortune, and Prevention, and has been featured on several television shows, including the Today Show and Fox & Friends. As a speaker, she addresses large and intimate groups on the topics of time management, career, and work-life balance. In her free time (yes, she has free time), Vanderkam enjoys running and singing.
The way we spend our time and our perceptions of how we spend it do not always agree, she says. People tend to overestimate how much time they spend on things they don’t enjoy and underestimate time on what they enjoy. But, Vanderkam points out, we all have at least one thing in common: There are 168 hours in a week. After allowing eight hours a night (56 hours a week) for sleep, and 40 hours for work, you have 72 hours left for being with your family and pursuing your personal passions. “We can build the lives we want in the time we’ve got,” says Vanderkam.