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Marie: 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.
Laura: Thank you for having me.
Marie: 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?
Laura: 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.
Marie: 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.”
Laura: Yeah, well I find the topic fascinating because we all have the same amount of time.
Laura: 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?
Marie: 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?
Laura: 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.
Marie: 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.
Laura: Please don’t make me.
Marie: Please don’t make me, but it’s so exciting.
Laura: For us, at least. I’m not sure of everyone.
Marie: 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?
Laura: 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.
Marie: 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?
Laura: 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.
Marie: 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?”
Laura: 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…
Marie: With crappy music.
Laura: 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.
Marie: 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.”
Laura: Pretty much.
Marie: 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?”
Laura: 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.
Marie: Yes. So for anyone hearing, okay, I know time tracking is probably the first step, which would you agree, right?
Marie: In order to make any significant and substantial changes if we want to.
Laura: If we want to.
Marie: 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?
Laura: 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.
Marie: And they can do it electronically. On your phone.
Laura: 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.
Marie: The truth hurts.
Laura: The truth hurts.
Marie: But then it does set you free.
Laura: 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.
Marie: 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?
Laura: Yes, that is a big question.
Marie: It’s a big one.
Laura: 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.
Laura: It will never be February.
Marie: 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…
Laura: Why did I agree to this?
Marie: Why? Yes. I have so many friends who have this syndrome all the time.
Laura: 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.
Marie: Yes. The future you always seems to have an open calendar.
Laura: 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?
Marie: Would you do it tomorrow.
Laura: 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.
Marie: I like that.
Laura: But if no?
Marie: If no, no.
Marie: 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?
Laura: 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.
Marie: 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.
Laura: Just take five, 10 minutes, and you get hours back. I mean, that’s about the best investment you can make.
Marie: Absolutely. So you told wonderful stories in the book. I would love to talk about the Canadian artist.
Marie: 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.
Laura: 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.
Laura: 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.
Marie: You feel like shit.
Laura: You feel like shit and then you stop.
Marie: Totally. Totally.
Laura: 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.
Marie: 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.”
Laura: I could do more.
Laura: I could always do more.
Marie: 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.
Laura: 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.
Marie: 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.
Marie: 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.
Marie: And pumping out a little bit.
Laura: Just a little bit.
Marie: Just a little bit.
Laura: 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.
Marie: Really? That’s kind of amazing.
Laura: 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.
Marie: 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.
Laura: 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.
Marie: 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.
Laura: 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.
Marie: Rock it out.
Laura: 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.
Marie: Because of so many interruptions.
Laura: 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.
Marie: 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?
Laura: 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.
Marie: 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.
Laura: I can conquer the world.
Marie: That’s right.
Laura: That motivation will you through the rest of the day.
Marie: 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?
Laura: 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.
Marie: 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.”
Marie: And Marie, you just said what I was going to say.
Laura: My line, I guess.
Marie: Yeah, it is. It’s beautiful.
Laura: 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.
Marie: 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.
Laura: Oh, so much time.
Marie: 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.
Laura: 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.
Marie: Laura, thank you so much for coming on today. This was wonderful.
Laura: Thank you so much for having me.
Marie: 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.
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