Elastic time: How to gain control over your free time? / Laura Vanderkam (Deconstruction)

I am not the most disciplined, organized person on the earth (despite what my personal statement may say), and if you are anything like me, chances are you are struggling to manage your time effectively. In her 12-minute-presentation, the mother of three small children and a time-management expert, Laura Vanderkam helps us look at time from a new, refreshing perspective. In this video, we see a successful way of delivering your presentation by sharing a common experience with the audience (being late), telling short stories from other people’s lives, offering strategies to deal with a situation and using simple numbers in an effective way.

Laura builds a strong rapport with the audience by talking about the case when she was ironically late for her own presentation on time-saving, being an expert on time-management herself. Further, she goes on telling a story about the woman with the broken water heater, who surprisingly found time (7 HOURS!) to deal with the problem and its aftermath, despite the fact that at the beginning of the week she claimed not to have any free time. This story has sparked connection with the audience, as it is so relatable. I think we all had an urgent situation, at least once in a life, when you were the victim of some circumstances and it completely changed the way you planned everything beforehand. Speaking of my experience, once I had to finish all of my assignments in advance to attend my sister’s wedding (of course, a way better reason to reallocate your time than a heater problem). And, believe me, if you would ask me whether I could do it in advance or in such a short period of time at the beginning of the semester, I would say no, too. So, it all leads to her next point, that time is highly elastic and most of the time, “I don’t have time really means It is not a priority”. The woman with broken water heater found time to fix the problem, because she only prioritized it in her to-do list. Thus, if we prioritize “the things that deserve to be there”, “we can build the lives we want in the time we’ve got”.

Acknowledging that it is not always easy to find “time for what matters”, and even complicated for some people, Laura offers some strategies on how to balance our time commitments.  For that, the speaker suggests to write three categories each Friday afternoon – career, relationships, self- and jot down the things you want to finish by next year and ensure that you have proper investment in each category. Even though these suggestions might sound like a task, the way she delivered this piece of her talk, makes it clear that it is up to the audience to follow her advice or not.

Finally, the speaker presents numbers in an attractive way, so that it doesn’t look like a spreadsheet, but one numerical value embedded into one slide. The numbers (the time that we have to do what we want) come from solving simple math equation like “twenty-four times seven is 168 hours”. So, according to Laura, even if we work 40 hours per week, sleep eight hours per night, we still have 72 hours to spend on things that matter. However, I think this part of her speech could benefit from incorporating food-related time, as she does not consider the amount of time each person spends on eating (for some people food preparation and cooking is a big part of the day).

Overall, her friendly personality and articulate speech throughout the talk makes the presentation more engaging and impactful. I would like to end the deconstruction blog with her outstanding quote that I find to be true: “We cannot make more time, but time will stretch to accommodate what we choose to put into it”.

2 thoughts on “Elastic time: How to gain control over your free time? / Laura Vanderkam (Deconstruction)

  1. Great deconstruction post, Akalya (5/5). You have a confident and original voice that comes through your writing, and you explain your thoughtful and careful analysis of the main argument and persuasive techniques used in the talk.


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