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Laura Vanderkam Headshot

What Did You Do With the 2,016 Hours of Summer?

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Hard as it is to believe, Memorial Day was just over 12 weeks ago. There are 168 hours in a week. Now that the kids are going back to school, it's a good time to ask this question: what did you do with the 2,016 (168 x 12) hours of summer?

Sure, you slept some. Grownups slept about 672 of them. Kids a bit more. You probably worked a lot of them too. But even if you worked 40 hours a week for all 12 weeks -- 480 hours -- that still left 864 waking, non-working summer hours. If you took a week or two off work, that would put you up over 900.

This is a lot of time. Do you know how you spent those 900 hours?

I've been pondering this as the first cool snap here on the East Coast hints at the weather to come. I remember the big events: a week at the beach in early August, a trip to visit family in the Midwest in July. But many of those 900 summer hours came in shorter spurts. They came as a lazy weekend day, or a gorgeous summer evening when it stays light up until bedtime.

This was going to be the summer I seized this time. In my book, "168 Hours," I reference an exercise created by career coach Caroline Ceniza-Levine, called the "List of 100 Dreams." This is an unedited list of anything you might like to do or have in life. It's a good way to start thinking about how you'd like to fill your time, because time management isn't just about saving five minutes here and there. It's about filling your weeks -- even the small spaces -- with activities that bring you and your loved ones joy.

And so, in June, I tried to create a List of 100 Summer Dreams. I tried to think through anything my family might like to include in our summer. Perhaps we would try a hike in a nearby state park? A family swimming class? Making crafts together? Picnic breakfasts?

Well, you know how this goes. Work gets busy. With a three-year-old and an 11-month-old you can make plans, but then sometimes they just want to play with cars. Which is fine, until the car-playing devolves into bickering which devolves into whining for Dora the Explorer. We made it to the zoo a few times. I watched fireworks on the beach one lovely summer night and saw my baby eat his first ice cream cone, which involved him throwing his head back in ecstasy as the ice cream dribbled down his double chin. But we never did have picnic breakfasts.

So it goes, I guess. I don't believe in scheduling our lives (particularly our summers!) down to the minute. But we live in a distracted world. It is easy to lose our summer hours to television, web surfing, chores, errands and puttering. Using our time well is a process. Fortunately, each new week offers another 168 hours to try again -- and each summer, another 2016.

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