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Find the time for what matters: Laura Vanderkam speaks at TEDWomen 2016

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Laura Vanderkam at TEDWomen 2016 - It's About Time, October 26-28, 2016, Yerba Buena Centre for the Arts, San Francisco, California. Photo: Marla Aufmuth / TED

“We have the power to fill our lives with the things that deserve to be there,” says Laura Vanderkam. She spoke at TEDWomen 2016 on October 27 in San Francisco.

“Time is highly elastic. We cannot make more time, but time will stretch to accommodate what we need or want to put into it,” says author Laura Vanderkam.

Vanderkam studies how very busy women spend their lives. For her recent book, I Know How She Does It, Vanderkam asked 143 women to meticulously log their days, hour by hour, for a week and, in doing so, discovered an important trend: We have plenty of time, but we’re not spending it well.

According to Vanderkam, to spend our time well, we need to prioritize what matters and skip what doesn’t. Sounds simple … but how to decide? She suggests taking a step back from the daily scramble and thinking long term. Imagine writing your year-end performance review — but for the upcoming year. What are the things you want to accomplish next year?

Second, Vanderkam suggests doing a simple exercise every Friday afternoon, during the time you’re staring at the clock anyway: Write down two or three priorities in the categories of career, relationships, and self, then look to the week ahead and figure out how you can schedule in each priority.

“We are smart people,” Vanderkam says. “We have the power to fill our lives with the things that deserve to be there.”

Vanderkam also recommends taking advantage of the small moments that cushion our daily commitments, whether you use the 10 minutes after you wake up to meditate or pray, or your hour-long commute to read. A few minutes here and there add up. So choose what matters and spend your time, and your life, wherever you may find it, accordingly.