I just finished barreling through productivity writer Laura Vanderkam’s new book, I Know How She Does It, on how women juggle careers and family.
While it’s full of time-management gems, my biggest takeaway wasn’t how to save a few minutes here or there. Instead, this read served as a reminder that life should be my priority — not chores, not errands, not even work.
We know from research and anecdotes that when people look back on their lives, they tend to wish they’d spent more time reading with their children, or hiking through the woods, or giving and receiving hugs. They don’t typically wish they’d worked harder or kept a tidier kitchen or stayed more on top of the laundry.
Yet our non-work hours are so easily filled by to-do lists and chores and errands; my husband and I are always lamenting how much admin and red tape and organizing we feel like we have to do. But even when we spend hours getting it done and checking off boxes, we don’t feel satisfied. Because there is always more to do. Always.
Chores, Laura writes, are like email: they’ll suck up whatever time you give them, and they’re never the best use of your time. Making chores your priority, especially on the weekends, simply isn’t going to make you happy; instead, just fit them in when you can, and better yet, learn to ignore them altogether. Even if you can’t afford to outsource errands, you can minimize how much time you spend on them each week, simply by learning to let go.
“The best way to find time for leisure is simply to claim it — to let the dishes sit in the sink while you read the paper on the porch, to take time for that art project or photo book despite whatever might be lurking in your inbox,” she writes. “You don’t become a better parent or employee by not enjoying your life. There are likely lots of options available to you that would make life more fun. Don’t assume anyone is judging you, or actually cares, if you choose some of them.”