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Track your time to enjoy life more ft. Laura Vand...

Track your time to enjoy life more ft. Laura Vanderkam

Time is money! But many of us know exactly where our money goes, but have no idea where our time goes. Once you know where the time goes, you can make changes that will help you spend more time on the things you value and less where you don’t (just like budgeting). Over on the Oh My Dollar! forums, we’re doing a fun time tracking challenge, March of Time this month. We brought on the expert of experts on Time Tracking, Laura Vanderkam, to talk about tracking your time.

For example, do you know how much time in a week you spend:

  • in meetings that don’t accomplish anything
  • doing dishes
  • chatting with coworkers about this weekend’s soccer game
  • reading to your kids
  • connecting with friends
  • online shopping/scrolling
  • watching youtube videos of Jenna Marbles blowing bubbles with her hair

Tracking your time has a ton of benefits:

  • Learning how you can change your time to fit your values
  • figuring out if you’re actually saving money paying for the unlimited gym membership rather than by class
  • understanding just how much time you do spend on things that you value (family, hobbies)
  • allowing you to come up with compelling data-based case for outsourcing, splitting household chores differently, or hiring help at work
  • finding “wasted” time that could be used for fun pursuits or batch chores (listening to a language learning podcast on your commute? folding laundry or stretching while watching TV, etc)
  • understanding the times of day you’re actually productive vs spinning your wheels
  • finding the time each week that you can easily add something you value (always sit on your butt on friday night and eat nachos but want to hang out with your friend more? Maybe invite them over to sit on their butt with nachos with you.)
  • get pretty charts

About Laura Vanderkam

Headshot of Laura Vanderkam, smiling at the camera with a black shirt

Laura Vanderkam is the author of several time management and productivity books, including Juliet’s School of Possibilities, 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 host of the podcast Before Breakfast and the co-host, with Sarah Hart-Unger, of the podcast Best of Both Worlds. She lives outside Philadelphia with her husband and five children, and blogs at LauraVanderkam.com.

Resources for Time Tracking

Please read this Time Tracking 101 from Laura Vanderkam, who has done the most extensive work on time tracking, including getting time logs from hundreds of people, and has published several books on the topic. I really recommend I Know How She Does – one of my favorite books by her, and my all-time favorite productivity book.

Apps for tracking your time:

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Episode Transcript (supported by our Patrons and provided by DSW Transcription)

Transcript

Lillian: [00:00:00] This show is supported by listeners like you through our Purrsonal Finance Society, which is a fancy name for our Patreon members. You can join up with other Oh My Dollar! community members to support episode transcripts, live streams, and more by making a pledge of $1 or more per month. Patrons get cool perks, like cat stickers, discounts, and a special badge on our forums. To learn more, you can visit ohmydollar.com/support.

[00:00:23] Welcome to Oh My Dollar!, a personal finance show with a dash of glitter. Dealing with money can be scary and stressful. Here, we give practical, friendly advice about money that helps you tackle the financial overwhelm. I’m your host, Lillian Karabaic.

[00:00:36] Today, we’re talking about time. Time is money; many of us know exactly where our money goes but have no idea where our time goes. Once you know where the time goes, though, you can make changes that will help you spend more time on the things you value and less where you don’t; just like budgeting. For example, do you know how much time in a week you spend in meetings that don’t accomplish anything? Doing dishes? Chatting with coworkers about this weekend’s soccer game? Reading to your kids? Watching YouTube videos about people who escaped polygamist cults – on the Oh My Dollar! forums? (Please don’t abandon us …)

[00:01:13] Tracking your time has a ton of benefits: learning how you can change your time to fit your values; figuring out if you’re actually saving money paying for the unlimited gym membership rather than by class; understanding how much time you actually do spend on the things that you value, like family, and hobbies; allowing you to come up with compelling database cases for outsourcing, splitting household chores differently, or hiring help at work. You can also find wasted time that could be used for fun pursuits or to batch chores. I like to listen to a language-learning podcast on my commute or fold laundry and stretch while I watch TV; understanding the times of day that you’re actually productive versus spinning your wheels – I’m pretty much nonfunctional after 4:00 p.m.- and finding time each week, where you can easily add something that you value, maybe. Also, you might get pretty charts out of it, which I’m a big fan of. This month on the Oh My Dollar! forums, we’re doing the March of Time challenge, which is a time-tracking challenge that everyone is participating in. Even if you’re hearing this deep into the month, you only have to track for a week, so you still have a chance to join. You can check more out about it at ohmydollar.com/time.

[00:02:25] We have, literally, the most expert guest on time tracking, today. Laura Vanderkam is the author of several time-management, and productivity books, including, “Juliet’s School of Possibilities,” “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, and she’s the host of the podcast, Before Breakfast, and the co-host with Sarah Hart-Unger of the podcast, Best of Both Worlds. She lives outside Philadelphia with her husband and five children, and she blogs at lauravanderkam.com. Hi, Laura! I’m so excited to have you on! I’ve read your books on time tracking many times. I really want to know, how did you get started down this journey of tracking time? What was your journey into tracking your own time?

Laura: [00:03:20] Yeah, so I’d had many other people track their time, so I thought fair was fair. I had tracked by time a few times, here and there, over the years as I was having other people track their time to figure out where the time really went. Then, in April of 2015, I decided, well, let me just keep going. I normally had people track time for a week, so I started for a week. I went for another week. I went for another week. Here we are, almost five years later, and I am still tracking my time. So, yep, I know how I’ve spent every half hour of my life since April of 2015.

Lillian: [00:03:57] When you say it like that, it sounds pretty intense.

Laura: [00:04:04] It sounds crazy.

Lillian: [00:04:04] Does it feel-

Laura: [00:04:05] People are like, “Let’s turn off the radio now …”

Lillian: [00:04:05] I track a ton of data about myself. I publish an annual report every year, and I’ve been tracking data since like way before people had smartphones, or Fitbits, so it wasn’t normalized. But time was one of those things where it was really my last frontier of tracking. I track how many- I can tell how many tacos I ate. How many drinks have coffee I’ve had any given day of the past- over a decade. But time seemed like … I think I was almost afraid to track it because then I might have to confront some things about myself. Did you have fear that you would start tracking and that data would maybe show things you didn’t really want to see?

Laura: [00:04:51] Well, I knew that was possible, but again, if I’m asking other people to do it, I need to be brave. myself. I totally sympathize that it’s hard to track time, and it’s more difficult than plenty of other things. You don’t accidentally eat a taco, so if you’re tracking how many tacos you eat, there is a conscious choice to eat that taco, but with time, time keeps passing, whether you think about how you’re spending it or not. So, you will spend the next 24 hours doing something. How much of that is intentional, how much of it is mindful, or how much just happens is an entirely different matter, so that’s one of the things that’s trickiest about it. But that’s also why time tracking is so important, because it is so easy to spend the time mindlessly. By tracking time, we become so much more aware of it.

[00:05:41] I think what I was most worried about was not necessarily that I would find out I worked less than I thought I did, which I did find that out, or that I spent more time in the car than I thought it did, which I also found out, or that I had more leisure time than I probably thought, but I was not spending it particularly well. These are all things I found out. But my biggest worry was that I would become so hyper-aware of time that it might make me anxious about it. I was saying I would check in on my time every couple of hours, at least, for a long time. I have been very aware of time, and in a way that I think maybe some people might find disconcerting, but I’ve actually found it more liberating than anything else, because tracking my time has allowed me to see that I do have space for fun stuff in my life. It would be very easy to tell myself a story that I didn’t – I’m busy; I have work; I have children; various responsibilities – but knowing where the time goes allowed me to see that I could make choices with my time, so that’s been worth that level of accountability.

Lillian: [00:06:53] Yeah, I think time is so interesting because I work with a lot of people that are very anxious about tracking money. Sometimes, it’s the same thing, where they’re very scared of that initial like, “Oh, but then what if I find out exactly how much I’m spending on takeout and then have to change my behavior?” or something … They’re scared of what they’re going to find. But money is a finite resource, and time is a finite resource, but time is one of the few things that we are all given equally on a daily basis. We all get 24 hours. So, it’s fascinating to think about a resource that is like one of the only equitable resources, as far as allocating time. Obviously, we all have different levels of privilege and access to maximize that time, or make it efficient, or make it leisure-full, but, yeah, I think it’s a really fascinating. resource, I guess?

Laura: [00:07:48] Yeah, and that is one of the coolest things about it – that we all have the exact same 24 hours in a day. You either use it or lose it. I mean, once it’s gone, it’s gone, and all the money in the world cannot buy a second of it back. Because of that … There are many parallels between time and money, and I enjoy thinking of those parallels, but that is fundamentally one of the differences that’s there. At the end of the day, it’s as if all your money was burned … Not really. I mean, you can establish good habits that open up time [crosstalk]

Lillian: [00:08:21] Yeah, but you don’t get to carry it over, right? I love sleeping-

Laura: [00:08:22] -you don’t get to carry it over. No, if you were-

Lillian: [00:08:24] I love saving money because I can carry it over.

Laura: [00:08:28] No, and we can’t make the choice of “Oh, well, you know, I was hyper-efficient on one day in 2005, so now I get those extra hours [crosstalk] now.” It doesn’t work like that … But because we all have the same 24 hours, I think we can learn from each other in a way that we can’t, always, with money because of the inherent differences in the amount people have.

Lillian: [00:08:52] Yeah. All right, so what does your physical process of tracking look like, and has it changed over time?

Laura: [00:08:59] It’s been pretty much the same since I started tracking for good in 2015. Every Monday morning, I open up a spreadsheet on my laptop. I have gone through different laptops since this has started, but it’s always opening up a spreadsheet. The spreadsheet goes from 5:00 a.m. Monday to 4:30 a.m. Sunday in half-hour increments. It’s got the days of the week across the top – Monday through Sunday. Half-hour blocks from 5:00 a.m. to 4:30 a.m. down the left-hand side. So, for people who are curious, that’s 336 cells representing a 168-hour week. I just start filling it in. I write what I’ve been doing in sort of a level of detail that I have become comfortable with over time. This is one of the challenging things for people who start is they don’t know how much detail, and what to sort of gloss over, and what to do. People are like, “Well, do I record every time I go to the bathroom?” I’m like, “Well, you don’t really have to do that unless you want to know how many times you went to the bathroom [crosstalk]

Lillian: [00:10:00] If you want that data.

Laura: [00:10:01] If you want that data, be my guest, but if you don’t care, then then maybe just what were you doing the majority of that half hour. I also do some slashes, like if I was working and then went and started making myself lunch, it might be work, make lunch. Then, if I’m adding it up later, I might decide to do 15 minutes for each. So, it’s not an exact thing, but it’s close enough. By doing it as life is going, maybe checking in three or four times a day, I can’t get too far off. So, it’s okay to be off by an hour or two, here or there. That’s not the problem. What people find when they track their time is that they can be off by 10 hours or more on things, and that’s worth knowing.

Lillian: [00:10:48] Yeah, I think one of the things that was most fascinating to me was that … This book that you’ve done – now, I think, two books – where you’ve had people do time studies; in these times studies, one of the more consistent things that you’ve uncovered is that people that estimate how much hours they work and even people that work a lot of hours don’t actually work nearly the number of hours that they predict they do, because it all starts to … A lot of people will claim they work 70 or 80 hours a week, but it turns out that their actual work time during that time is a lot lower.

Laura: [00:11:24] Yeah, this is human nature. We overestimate the things we don’t want to do, and we underestimate the things we do want to do. So, nobody thinks they have enough leisure time, and everyone thinks they work too much. If you get paid by the hour, you have a pretty good sense of how many hours you work. That is a straightforward math problem, but where it gets a little bit more fuzzy is salaried work, and particularly salaried work that is sometimes different. So, if it’s not the exact same every single day, then we have a tendency to remember our longest days as typical, and maybe our longest weeks as typical, too. I’ll hear from people; they’ll be like, “Well, I was tracking my time, and then, my tooth broke, so I had to go to the dentist on Tuesday morning and take a half day at work. Should I start over with tracking?” I’m like, “Well, unless that will- nothing will ever happen to you again that causes you to have to take time off work, or to come in late some day, or whatever … Unless that will never, ever happen to you again, then, actually, that week is probably more typical than not.

Lillian: [00:12:28] One thing that I noticed is that you say that every person says, “Oh, this week was unusual,” the first week they track their time, and I see the exact same thing when people … Usually, I try to make anybody who comes to one of my classes track their expenses on paper for the first week that they do it. For people that have never tracked their expenses in that way before, everybody’ll be like, “Oh, this week was weird. I had to pay school fees,” or, “Oh, something totally unexpected happened, and I had to go out to dinner.” Here’s the thing I’ve learned after years of budgeting – no month is ever the same. Every week has something exceptional. I find it really interesting that time ends up being very similar.

Laura: [00:13:09] Yeah, there are always these “known unknowns.” I think that was the phrase Donald Rumsfeld once used. So, there are, of course, unknown unknowns that you have absolutely no idea could happen to you; but the known unknowns are things like, well, somebody will have something go wrong. Some unexpected expense will come up. There’s this same thing with time. People are like, “Oh, well, I couldn’t get this done this week because the kids were sick, or we had snow, so things were delayed.” It’s like, well, if it’s winter, those things happen. This is not unexpected. Really good time management, just like really good budgeting, accounts for that. You build in space for the unexpected to happen, and you don’t know exactly what the unexpected thing will be, but you can be almost positive that something unexpected will happen, so you have to leave a little room for it.

Lillian: [00:14:02] Yeah, I was thinking of this interview, today, when I ended up getting completely derailed by a phone scammer for almost an hour because we got … I work at radio station, and I handle the finances there, and we had gotten a phone scammer pretending to be the utility company, saying we had an unpaid bill. There were like a number of reasons why it was almost presumably believable that we had miss this because [crosstalk] Yeah, well, we operate a bunch of LLCs, and they have different billing addresses, so I was like, “Oh, it’s totally feasible that a bill got mailed to a different one.” I had to log into our online accounts, check these account numbers to make sure it wasn’t really a scammer, and I lost like an hour of productive time. I’m an hourly employee, so if I have an hour that I don’t spend doing the stuff I need to do and instead trying to make sure I don’t get scammed by someone who wants me to pay them $500 in the next half hour, then I end up in this situation of like, oh, yeah, that’s time I’m not going to get back.

Laura: [00:15:02] Exactly. If it’s gone, it’s gone.

Lillian: [00:15:04] So, is there something that you find is extremely consistent that people find, when they first start tracking – like they spend too much time on one task, or that they do way more dishes, or watch more TV than they expect?

Laura: [00:15:17] Well, they actually do fewer dishes than most people think. There are all sorts of things people find. We lose a ton of time in transition, and we lose a ton of time not thinking about how we want to spend our time. So, one example of this is that Saturday morning, it’s nice to have a nice leisurely morning. I have young kids, so we never have leisurely mornings, but I’m sure some people have leisurely mornings out there. But if you don’t think about what you’d like to do with your Saturday, much of the Saturday can be gone before you actually get around to doing it. You spend this time kind of puttering around the house, looking at social media, watching TV, and none of it is this high-quality leisure that we claim we have no time for. But, if you thought about what do you want to get up on Saturday and go do, you can find space for a lot more stuff; like if you’ve made plans ahead of time to go meet friends and go for a hike, or some crazy thing like a boat ride – things that you have to plan ahead to do [crosstalk]

Lillian: [00:16:20] The kind of stuff you post about on Instagram rather than the stuff you hide on Instagram.

Laura: [00:16:25] Yeah. Yeah, exactly. The things that make you the kind of person that other people want to be when they’re looking at Instagram. Those are the things you have to think to do, and if you haven’t thought to do it, it’s going to be 3:00 on Saturday, and you’re not going to go for the hike, at that point, because it’s going to be dark before you get there and get back. So, by not thinking about our time, we waste all kinds of time. Now, I’m not saying there aren’t obvious time wasters – people waste tons of time surfing the web, checking their inbox every 20 minutes, or every 10 minutes – but I think the mindlessness is the biggest culprit.

Lillian: [00:16:59] Yeah, our forums tell you how much time you’ve collectively spent on the forums for Oh My Dollar! [crosstalk] and a bunch of people were like, “I don’t appreciate that it gave me an automated badge to remind me that I’ve checked in every single day for 100 days.” [crosstalk]

Laura: [00:17:14] -“Congratulations, you’ve spent 20 hours this week on this forum.” Yeah, it’s the kind of news people don’t want to get.

Lillian: [00:17:22] Shh, shh! Hey, that’s my business. It’s connecting with other people. It’s great, right? So, are there common fallacies that you find that people tell themselves about their time? Is it just that they do more of the things they don’t like and less of the things they like, and that’s one of the common stories, or …?

Laura: [00:17:38] Yeah, I think … There’s a common story people tell that, “I have no free time whatsoever.” Right? That’s a phrase people will say to themselves. There are certainly moments in life that are rushed and harried, and if you are looking for those rushed and harried moments, you will find evidence that your life is rushed and harried. But if you are looking for evidence that your life is not so rushed and harried, then you can find evidence to support that, too. When people track their time, they tend to discover that there is some free time. It may not be as much as they want, but it’s some. “Not as much as I want” is a very different story than “never.” That is one of the key takeaways that people get from tracking time is that the “never” story is overstating things. “Not as much as I want” is totally true, but “not as much as I want” is a much more productive story, because then you say, “Oh, could I scale it up over time? Could I find ways to do more of these things that I am doing?” That, you may be able to do.

Lillian: [00:18:44] Yeah, I think one of the things- you had a name for it, but it was like the ‘everyday fallacy’ or something like that, where you’re saying that people believe that they don’t ever do anything, if they don’t do it every day. But it turns out that … I think one of the examples you gave was tucking your kids in bed at night and reading them a story. Sure, maybe you don’t get to do it every night, but you get to do it four days a week, and that’s pretty good on the balance.

Laura: [00:19:09] Oh, definitely. Yeah, I tell people, “Don’t fall into the 24-hour trap.” That might be the phrase you’re looking for-

Lillian: [00:19:14] Oh, yes.

Laura: [00:19:14] I suggest people have more of a 168-hour mindset. 168 hours is the number of hours in a week – that’s 24 x 7. If you have that mindset instead of the 24-hour trap, you start looking at time more holistically. So, on any given night, you’re like, “Oh, I didn’t read bedtime stories. This is horrible, terrible!” or, “I got stuck working late tonight. That’s horrible, terrible!” or, “I didn’t exercise today. This is horrible and terrible!” Which, you know, if it’s every day, okay, but if some days you don’t exercise, but other days you do, well, great! Let’s celebrate the fact that you’re doing something three to four times a week instead of holding it out for every single day, which, there are very few things that people do every single day. I mean, people will tell you, “Oh, I exercise every single day,” and they mean five days a week. People will tell you, “I go to the office every day.” Well, they mean five days a week … Somehow, when things happen more than four times, you start – especially if they’re things you don’t necessarily want to do – we start giving ourselves credit for every single day, but it’s not true.

Lillian: [00:20:17] Yeah. That’s really fascinating. I think one of my favorite parts about your book, “I Know How She Does It,” was that you conducted this large survey of financially successful mothers who worked full time; they have hobbies; they had young kids; they also tracked … You had them track their time. Was there commonalities you found in the way they manage their time or was it extremely unique?

Laura: [00:20:43] Well, everyone was a little bit different, but I saw a few commonalities. These were people who were very high income; so, big careers. They did work more than 40 hours a week. People are always interested in finding that out, but it wasn’t that much more than 40, and that, I thought, was very interesting because we often think that, oh, well, if you have a big job, it’s going to require working around the clock – 80-, 90-hour work weeks – and that was just not the case. The average in my study was 44 hours. Nobody topped 70 hours in the week they tracked, and the people who topped 60, almost all of them had some reason that … They could tell you it was not a typical week. They were saying there’s never a typical week, but it was, say, a week where they were running a conference for four days. Well, yeah, [crosstalk] at the conference from 7:00 to 11:00 every day, that’s going to drive up your working hours pretty quickly; or it’s an accountant right before the tax filings – yes, those are long weeks. But they knew that it wasn’t going to be like that in, say, June, so it’s very different from the norm. Yeah, people work a lot, but they didn’t work around the clock.

[00:21:54] The other thing that was interesting is these were, again, women with kids. So, many people who have children would, in fact, like to see their children on occasion. We have this story that if you have a big job, you won’t see your family, right? That’s the trade-off. Nobody can have it all. If you have the big job, you won’t see your family. That’s turned out to not be true at all. People were spending tons of time with their families because, again, they were working, on average, 44 hours a week, and there’s 168 hours in the week, so there’s time left over. But they were smart about scheduling their work in order to maximize family time. One of the most common strategies I saw was working what I call a split shift. So, again, this only works for people who are salaried and have some control over their time. I’m not suggesting that if somebody is getting paid by the hour and has set shifts that this will work. A lot of these women would leave work at a reasonable time, say, 5:00 or something like that; go home; spend the evening with their families; then do some more work at night after the kids went to bed. By doing this, instead of working straight through, they were trading off work time for what might have been TV time, instead of work time, for family time. That was a tradeoff that many people were willing to make, and that’s how they were able to work longer hours and yet still have a full personal life, as well.

Lillian: [00:23:15] That’s so fascinating, and I kind of see that. I think one thing that I noticed, when reading “I Know How She Does It,” was because we were focusing on people with “big jobs and high incomes,” a lot of these women seemed like they were only able to really have these full lives because they had the financial means to have help around the house, like nannies, childcare, house cleaners. I’ve often found, in minimum-wage service-industry jobs, time is often tighter than money, even when money is tight, especially … Even if you’re only working part time, when you’re trying to save money, time is often the substitute, right? Everything ends up taking longer when you’re in poverty; like long, drawn-out processes for government assistance; the wait to get seen at the one clinic that accepts Medicaid; the longer commute on public transit versus your own car … One of the big ones is if you work service industry, these are regular shift schedules where you only get them on Saturday, when the week starts on Sunday. It means that, every week, you have to shuffle to get childcare covered or whatever. Do you do you think that someone that’s in that situation would actually get value out of time tracking, or do you feel like it’s one of those things that’s- it’s once you’re at a certain income level, then you’re kind of in the stage where this is going to be valuable.

Laura: [00:24:33] I think it’s still valuable to track time, the same as it might be valuable to track spending, even if you understand that there are certain things that are not necessarily ideal, that may be out of your control. I mean, as you mentioned, it is expensive to be poor, and it’s expensive, in terms of time, to be poor, as well, which is one of the great unfortunate things in life. But I think that anyone can get value out of tracking time because it can help you see patterns, for instance, that you might see … Actually, this is time that I do have, for instance, to play with my kids. I mean, yes, I can’t guarantee what time I’ll get off work on any given day, but I know I never start until this hour.

Lillian: [00:25:18] Mm-hmm.

 

Laura: [00:25:18] So, maybe we can try to make use of morning time as family time, for instance. Or I can see that sometimes I get a break at this point. How would I like to best use that break? Maybe that would be a good time to clear my head and get some energy by going for a walk or something like that. It’s not going to work to build in long shifts at the gym, but maybe you can go for a walk outside and experience that. You can see that- when might be good to go to bed. If you’re tending to have to wake up at a certain time, maybe you want to try your best to have a bedtime, in order to maintain that and have some control over that. So, it can help in any circumstance, and even if we don’t control every aspect of our time, by seeing these patterns, or seeing when things might work, we can take some bit of control over it, and that can be very motivating.

Lillian: [00:26:20] Have you read the book, “Your Money or Your Life”?

Laura: [00:26:24] I have, in fact, read that book.

Lillian: [00:26:25] Yeah, I think one of the fascinating things, which I think dovetails really well with time tracking, and your work, is they have you calculate essentially what your life energy- what your real hourly wage is. I think it’s extremely eye-opening because I think most people that don’t make a lot of money – that are paid hourly – are very familiar with the, “Okay, I have to work five hours to be able to buy that thing.” One of the big things that book does is it looks at all of the expenses and costs, in terms of your time, that your job has. So, for example, I have a half-an-hour commute each way, and that hour lowers my real hourly wage overall, and it’s very … Like the wear and tear on your car, and if you work a job where you have to dress a certain way, that cost of maintaining suits for court or whatever – those things are- overall, those are lowering your hourly wage. I think that’s a really valuable exercise. I don’t know. Do you find that book helpful, or is it very like- you’re like, “I know all this because I track my time.”

Laura: [00:27:25] Well, I do. I know these things, but one of the quibbles I have with a lot of the people in the financial independence, early retirement movement is, in many cases, work is portrayed as a bad thing; that it’s keeping you from the life you want. I don’t think work has to be that. I think, sometimes, it is, and that’s too bad. I hope people can build a wonderful life outside of work, then; but, for many people, there are some really cool aspects of their jobs. I know in my case, I love what I do, so I don’t view the hours I’m working as some subtraction from my life force, or whatever the words were [crosstalk] It’s just part of who I am. So, that’s-

Lillian: [00:28:14] Spoken like a true New Yorker, right there.

Laura: [00:28:19] Yeah, well, I think there’s some nuance to this. I think we have to … We don’t want to give our whole lives to work, but it’s also really cool to have work that supports the rest of your life, that makes you feel like a whole person, and like you’re contributing meaningfully to the world.

Lillian: [00:28:38] Yeah, that’s one of the … I love what I do, and I’m not in that camp of- A lot of the financial independence/retire early people are in jobs that they claim to really hate, but they pay them really well. I’ve never been in that situation where I have golden handcuffs because I love the work I do, but I don’t get paid extremely well. So, for me, the whole fire thing is you have to be moving towards something, right? You can’t just be escaping work, because you still have to live a life, regardless of how much money you save.

Laura: [00:29:09] Yeah, if you’re going to retire early, what are you going to do with yourself? [crosstalk] think about what that is, and hey, wouldn’t it be great to find a job where you do what that is?

Lillian: [00:29:17] Yeah, and a lot of the people that have retired early that are even really active in- like Mr. Money Mustache and things like that, they’re functionally doing work afterwards. A lot of them are flipping houses and doing construction on their own properties and stuff. For them, it’s more about work being optional, but it’s very funny to watch a lot of them end up treating blogging about financial independence/retirement early as a job after they retire, anyway. So, it’s not … [crosstalk]

Laura: [00:29:43] Yeah, I know. A lot of these people do blogging, and writing, and speaking [crosstalk]

Lillian: [00:29:47] And you’re like, That’s my job.”

Laura: [00:29:48] -“Hey, that’s my job.”

Lillian: [00:29:50] Exactly. Well, it has been lovely to have you on. I usually ask every guest what the best financial decision you’ve ever made and what the worst is. It doesn’t always make the final cut. Do you have any decisions that stand out in your mind?

Laura: [00:30:08] Well, I think a good financial decision is marrying somebody who is as frugal as I am. I think maybe “frugal” is too nice a word. “Cheap” might be a better word … But the two of us don’t fight about money because neither of us have particularly huge spending habits.

Lillian: [00:30:30] It’s been awesome to have you on the show. This has all been so fascinating, and I really like your work. I know that a lot of people right now are slogging through the time tracking and probably learning a lot, as well, as part of the Oh My Dollar! community. So, I’m sure your insight will be very valuable to them.

Laura: [00:30:50] I hope so.

Lillian: [00:30:51] If folks want to connect to your work, whatever you’ve got going on, where do they find you?

Laura: [00:30:56] Well, you can come visit my website, which is lauravandarkam.com. I blog a couple times a week there. I’m very kind of 2006 that way. Or you can listen to my podcast. I have an every weekday morning one called Before Breakfast. It’s a little productivity tip every morning; and another one called Best of Both Worlds. My co-host and I talk about issues of work and family from the perspective of people who really love both.

Lillian: [00:31:19] That’s awesome. Well, it was such a delight to have you on. Thank you so much for joining us. Yes, I really hope that many people discover the wonders of time tracking through your work and hopefully this episode. Any parting wisdom you want to leave us with?

Laura: [00:31:38] You know, that tracking time is really about giving you back time. I really do think that time discipline leads to time freedom, because when you know where the time goes, then you can make good choices about it; and when you make good choices, you can make choices that open up time for the things you want to do. So, don’t fear it. It’s not a sentence. It’s not anything bad. It’s something that can actually give you your life back.

Lillian: [00:32:02] That is excellent, excellent advice.

[00:32:06] Our show is supported by listeners like you and was underwritten by the Tamsen G Association, Warrior Queen, and Galena S. To learn more about supporting the show, you can visit ohmydollar.com/support. I think that wraps our show for today. We love hearing from you. Email us your financial worries, your time-tracking questions at questions@ohmydollar.com, or you can always tweet me @Anomalily, or @ohmydollar. Oh My Dollar! is recorded at the XRAY.FM Studios in Portland, Oregon and is syndicated through PRX. This episode was engineered and edited by Tony Scholl. Our intro music is by Aaron Parecki, and your host, and personal finance educator is me, Lillian Karabaic. Thank you for listening. Until next time, remember to manage your money so it doesn’t manage you.

 


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