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Northwestern University management professor Harry Jansen Kraemer has a favourite number: 168. That’s the number of hours in a week. And if it isn’t top of mind for you, he argues it should be.

“No matter who you are, what you do for a living, where you live, or how productive you are, you only get 168 hours a week. The only difference is how you spend your time,” he writes in his book Your 168.

You may only have a rough idea of how you actually spend your time. But he knows for his own life, and argues you should as well for your life. More importantly, you should have a goal for how many hours you will spend weekly on six buckets: Career, family, faith/spirituality, health/sleep, fun/recreation/reading and making a difference.

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That starts with thinking deeply about your values. Then try an initial allocation to make every hour count toward achieving those values. Finally, you need to build habits to achieve your goal.

What do you stand for? What is your purpose? How would you react if you only had three days to live? What kind of example do you want to be for others?

Those are some of the questions on values you have to wrestle with before testing some numbers to attach to the buckets and fiddling to make them add up to 168. For him, to give you an idea, the two biggies are career at 50 hours and health-sleep at 55 hours. Making a difference is 10 hours – 6 per cent of his time.

“The reality is no matter how dedicated you are to building a values-based life, you’re always going to be a work in progress. Nobody gets it right all the time. In my more than 40 years of pursuing a values-based life, I’m constantly recalibrating how to allocate my 168 hours a week to reflect my values and what I believe is most important in my life. That’s the only way I know to pursue life balance,” he says.

He warns it will be hard. Often his students embrace the idea but flounder because they can’t change habits to become healthier or to carve out time for reading. Accept that it’s more than a matter of jotting down some hours on a chart beside your balance goals.

Identify one or two changes you want to start with. Know why you want to make each change – how that relates to your values and your intended 168. Be very specific. Don’t set a vague goal like “being healthier.” Set a target, say to walk for 20 minutes a day, something achievable that can be expanded later on.

Find people to support you and hold you accountable. “Maybe you use a coach, which can be for physical fitness or career development. Maybe you join a group that meditates together once a week. Whatever your specific goals, find others who are on similar journeys. You can keep each other accountable and motivated,” he says.

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He urges you to be “planful” – to know your obligations and commitments, and be mindful of your goals. Don’t let everyone else plan your life for you. Develop a realistic plan to achieve your bucket goals. But he adds that spontaneity flows from planning: You can reprioritize when other opportunities suddenly arise since you have a framework. This applies in particular for fun, something that’s vital but often neglected. Plan for fun, including enriching fun that engages your mind. And be open to offers that arise suddenly offering pleasure.

Join him in making your 168 a favourite number.

Quick hits

  • Microsoft keeps lots of data, including on its own operations when it moved to remote work. Meeting time increased by 10 per cent overall as people could no longer catch up on things in the hallway or at the coffee meeting. But duration seemed to shorten, with 22 per cent more meetings of 30 minutes or less and 11 per cent fewer meetings of more than one hour.
  • Time spent working hard is often better spent identifying where the bottleneck making it hard is located, advises blogger James Clear.
  • If you can choose one way to boost your credibility to colleagues, consultant Alain Hunkins says show up on time to meetings and other events.
  • Janis Fratamico, global head of brand experience at SAP, reworks the 80/20 principle to come up with this career advice: “Every job has a 20 per cent ‘suckage’ factor. No matter what you do or who you are – playing for the Yankees, singing on Broadway, or filing taxes – 20 per cent will suck. Accept that. But if the scales tip and it’s more than 20, it’s time for a change.”
  • To cut-and-paste something that was not the most recent item you copied in Windows, hit the windows key and V, which will open up the clipboard and give you a selection.

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