Being Busy is a Choice

I reached out to Laura, inspired by her courage to call us out on our “busy lives”, and grateful for her practices that have helped me take stock of how I’m living my life. I wanted to know more about what makes such an inspiring woman tick, and asked if she was tasked with taking inventory of her own beliefs and dreams, what would she find?

She graciously replied: 

I believe…

That we have enough time for what matters to us. When we say “I don’t have time” that often means “it’s not a priority”. If that’s true, fine! But best to acknowledge that much of time is a choice, with the understanding that we must accept the consequences of those choices.

I wish…

That people won’t limit their lives based on cultural narratives. Pundits think they’re being profound when they lament that “no one can have it all” but I’m not sure how they’re defining “all”. It is quite possible to build a fulfilling career, raise a happy family, enjoy your own pursuits, and get enough sleep. Plenty of people do all these things.

My goal…

Is to continue to write most days. I think of myself primarily as a writer, but my career has evolved in many ways, and it’s amazing how easy it is to let non-writing work crowd out the creative stuff. I now put writing 500 words of purely speculative stuff on my to-do list every work day. I’ve kept up the habit for three months, and plan to continue.

A piece of wisdom…

Relax. Most of us can’t remember what we were doing on today’s date, two years ago. Maybe if it’s a particularly special day (e.g. a child’s birthday!), but probably not. Few things matter much in the long run. We need to keep our eyes on the big stuff and let the smaller pieces go where they go.

Laura Vanderkam is the author of several time management and productivity books, including Off the Clock, I Know How She Does It, What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, and 168 Hours. Her work has appeared in publications including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, and Fortune. She is the co-host, with Sarah Hart-Unger, of the podcast Best of Both Worlds. She lives outside Philadelphia with her husband and four children, and blogs at

Laura Vanderkam is the author of the forthcoming book Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done (Portfolio, May 29, 2018). Based on a time diary study of a day in the life of 900 people, this book looks at why some busy people feel relaxed about time, while others feel rushed.

You can check out Laura’s TED talk, “How to gain control of your free time,” here:

Sabrina Scalfari is co-founder of Well Made Mama along with Megan Connolly, a website devoted to helping women explore the way the science of human behaviour can help a modern mother adapt to her new role. Well Made Mama believes that child care begins with mother care, and that the health of the world begins with the health of its mothers.

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