#MakingTime: A Day in the Life of a Time-Management and Productivity Researcher

Laura Vanderkam

Photo Courtesy of Laura Vanderkam

April 16, 2024 at 2:11PM UTC
Women can do anything — but not everything. As the largest online career community for women, we at Fairygodboss realize that balance is a myth, and that picking what to prioritize on a day-to-day basis isn't always easy. In the #MakingTime series, women share with us how, for one day, they chose to spend their most precious resource: time.
What: Author of Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done
Where: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Note from Laura: I track my time, so I know exactly how I've spent any given day in the last three years! There are no typical days. I travel once a week during my “busy” season (spring and fall) to give speeches, so those two days or so per week tend to feature a lot of plane/hotel/conference time. This day-in-the-life looks at how I spent June 29 — a summer Friday when I was not traveling.
I'm up. My three-year-old walks into my room to snuggle. My husband came home at 3am (a delayed flight home from Europe) the night before so I deal with the little guy. I had been in Canada Sunday to Tuesday, and my husband left Tuesday night for Europe and came home late Thursday (well, early Friday). We make it work!
Breakfast for everyone. We try to do family breakfasts in our house whenever we’re all home. It’s a great way to spend time together, and family dinner is sometimes difficult to make happen. I encourage the children to get dressed. My husband leaves for work around 7:45.
In my running clothes, I'm ready to go as soon as our nanny walks in the door.
I run in the neighborhood. I often like to run in the afternoon as a workday break, but I have too many phone calls on this particular Friday, and it’s going to be hot (90+ degrees). So I squeeze it in. I have run at least a mile every day since December 24, 2016. There is always someplace to fit in a run.
I help get everyone out the door for the camp run (my three big kids are in three different camps this week). I go fix something on the pool in the backyard ahead of the evening’s swim lessons, and then I grab a shower.
I call number one of the day — the lovely Jessica Turner (The Mom Creative, author of the new book Stretched Too Thin), who agrees to chat with me about marketing and book promotion ideas. I’m always trying to learn.
9:20- 11am:
I work on writing my monthly newsletter, blog posts, etc.
I have a call related to a speech I’m giving in California in two weeks. I had three people track their time for a week so I could use specific examples; this call is with one of the volunteers.
11:40am -12pm:
I email. I resisted the urge to check email during the 9:20-11 block, since email is better done during lower-energy times. Since email expands to fill all available space, I try to give it less space.
I repeat this pattern of doing a call on the hour, and dealing with email/blog comments/social media in the 15-minute breaks between calls. My book, Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done, came out in late May and I’ve been a guest on a lot of podcasts.
I drive to the post office to mail a copy of my book to another podcaster. I listen to myself on another podcast as I’m driving. I know some people don’t like listening to interviews after the fact, but I feel it’s the only way I’ll improve.
I drive to get my six-year-old daughter at gymnastics camp. The nanny (who has been hanging out with the three-year-old during the day) gets the 11-year-old and eight-year-old at their camps.
Ready, into swimsuits.
I swim with kids in the pool! Unfortunately, during this time, the three-year-old announces he needs to go potty urgently. I get him out of the pool (thankfully) but he doesn’t make it to the bathroom in time. I clean up, and the swim instructor comes.
I work while the six-year-old has her swim lesson.
I sit on the porch and read while three-year-old has his swim lesson.
I eat family dinner (our nanny made it during the three-year-old’s swim lesson). I clean up.
The nanny goes home, I read a bit (Middlemarch) while the kids play. My husband starts to put the three-year-old to bed, but it is not going well. Eventually, I pick up a magazine because I can only read so much 19th-century British literature.
I go outside and catch fireflies with the kids, then tell everyone it is bedtime.
I read stories at bedtime with my daughter.
I sit and chat with my 11-year-old and have a snack.
I put the 11-year-old and eight-year-old in their room and get ready for bed myself.
I sleep! According to my time logs, I average 7.4 hours/day, so this day is a bit on the higher side. My traveling days were lower, so it all evens out.


Interested in contributing to Fairygodboss' #MakingTime series? Email [email protected] with "#MakingTime" in the subject line.

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