Book Review: “I Know How She Does It”

Women's plates are already full. So how do some succeed?

“I Know How She Does It” by Laura Vanderkam
c.2015, Penguin Portfolio
$27.95 / $32.95 Canada
296 pages
The opportunity arrived on a silver platter.
It was almost irresistible, in fact, but the truth is that you’re looking for a new plate because your old one is full. You have no time to take another project, no matter how wonderful it might be. That all could change, though, once you’ve read “I Know How She Does It” by Laura Vanderkam.
So you say your schedule is jam-packed. Between the kids, your job, your spouse, the house, and other assorted obligations, you barely have time to take a shower. How do other, perhaps even busier, women do it?
Vanderkam, who’s written other books on this theme, wondered, too. She began “seeking out time logs” from working mothers who made at least six-figure incomes, and she studied how they spent their time. She calls it “The Mosaic Project,” and when she (and her participants) saw how they spent their days, it was eye-opening.
People tend to overestimate how much they work, she says, and underestimate how much they sleep. She noticed that, when a week was accounted for and all non-work-related activity was removed, some full-time-working women with children actually put in just under 34 hours of work. Her findings showed that even the highest average workweek was under 50 hours, total. And there was adequate sleep.
“If you work 46 hours per week and sleep 8 hours per night,” says Vanderkam, “that leaves 66 hours for other things.” 
To maximize that leftover time, there are strategies that she recommends.
You may work odd hours but “be strategically seen.” Pop in to the office during regular work time, or occasionally go out after work with colleagues.
“Build in slack” so you’re not without breathing room in your schedule. Know “The Ten Secrets of Happier Parenting,” to enhance family time. Remember that eating a meal together as a family doesn’t necessarily mean dinner. Make date nights. Delegate chores and embrace the theme song from Frozen. 
Above all, remember: “There are no points for martyrdom.” Take care of yourself, and learn to use “pockets of time” to your advantage.
Sounds familiar?  It did to me, too, perhaps because there’s not much new inside “I Know How She Does It.”  Indeed, author Laura Vanderkam herself wrote something quite similar five years ago.
Even so, and as much as I enjoyed that book, there are quirks here that didn’t impress me.
Readers, for one, will surely notice pages and pages of time logs from people they’ll likely never meet, which is interesting once or twice, but not any more than that. I also questioned the focus on high-income working mothers (just 4 percent of the population). This would have been a vastly different – and more approachable – book, had the author utilized a more widely-representative base of participants.
Though this book is limited in its scope, I think readers who are seriously lacking time-management skills might get some help here. Most working mothers, however, have this covered. As for “I Know How She Does It,” they already do, too.