Reducing Stress Using the 168hr Week Rule

Journal daily activities 7 days. Learn to restructure daily obligations. Pare down successfully. Manage time and best. Reduce stress.


Carolyn Foster, MA


a person's feet in a pair of socks and a cup of coffee
a person's feet in a pair of socks and a cup of coffee

7 min read

I wrote this peer-reviewed article as part of my duties as a Disease Prevention Management Educator at Michigan State University Extension (MSUE). MSUE published the original article on February 3, 2014. All rights of original and revised article copyrighted and reserved as property of author, Carolyn Foster, MA.

Reducing Stress Using the 168 Hour Week Rule        

I learned about the 168 hour week rule in 2006 in my Life Coach Practitioner Course through the Certified Coaches Alliance. It was so instrumental with helping me stay on track I want to share it with you.

Stress comes in many forms; job related, personal, physical, and mental. The dictionary defines stress as, “A physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation; a state resulting from a stress; especially one of bodily or mental tension resulting from factors that tend to alter an existent equilibrium.” (Merriam-Webster, 2014).

Stress is responsible for causing a variety of physical symptoms: migraine headaches, muscle spasms, nervousness, hyperventilating, irritability, insomnia, anxiety, depression, and hives. Believe it or not, children experience stress with the demanding schedules they have these days with personal and school obligations.

We all experience stress. In our hurried, rushed daily experiences, stress is a major part of life and impacts mental and physical illnesses. Numerous studies have proven that if you don’t take measures to reduce negative stress, you will pay the price mentally and physically.

We have to find ways to manage stress because it will not go away. There is good stress e.g., planning or attending a wedding; and bad stress which can result from finances, jobs, and parenting. We can manage stress by setting some realistic goals and expectations. You can learn how to put negative stressors in perspective by setting boundaries and managing your time.

Michigan State University Extension recommends the “168-hour week rule” as an effective way of managing stress relief by logging your daily activities by logging, journaling, or spreadsheet formats in the manner described here:

  • Fact! There are only 168 hours in a week (24hrs./day x 7 days/wk.=168hrs.).

  • Chart (log) a one-week (7 days) schedule noting everything you do in a week; minute- by-minute, hour-by-hour, from the time your day starts until bedtime.

  • Log everything for seven days.

  • Take your log or journal with you wherever you go.

  • You’ll only have to chart this schedule once, initially, but,

  • You will have to periodically update the chart as life changes and events occur.

Logging everything WILL be tedious the first time you do it. I recommend logging for 2 weeks because your second week of logging may be different, but won't be as stressful to complete. I promise you it will be worth it so please stick with it. Use Google, a spreadsheet, or other apps for the quickest, most efficient way of logging accurately.

168hr-week 1-week Log example: Begin logging with first day your week starts.

  • 6am-7am—Wake up, shower, prepare for work, school, homemaking, work-from home set-up (may differ depending on your remote or hybrid hours).

  • 7am-7:30am—Prep and eat breakfast.

  • 7:30-8:30am--Travel to work (again, this depends on your situation).

  • 8:30-9:00am--Arrive at work. Check your email, social media page(s) and respond.

  • 9:00-10:00am—Appointments, meetings, etc.

  • 10:00-10:20am—Return from break.

  • 10:20-12 noon—work duties, miscellaneous obligations

  • 12pm-1pm—Lunch and exercise break

  • 5pm-7pm--Leave work. Arrive home, gym, pick up kids, get dinner, etc. (tailor to your specific schedule)

  • Continue logging everything until bedtime. Be sure to log how many hours you sleep.

  • Repeat logging daily activities for weekdays and the weekend. At the end of 7 days, add up all hours you have logged. Write down the total even if it exceeds 168 hours.

By the end of my 7 days of logging regular daily obligations and activities, I had a total of 268 hours. But, here's the thing. There are only 168 hours in a week! I remember staring at my log, and counting again, thinking I had to have miscounted!

Logically, there weren't enough hours in a day [and week] for me to effectively manage my time and life. No wonder I was stressed out and had no time to relax, breathe, and do 'me'!

Logging all daily activities into 7 days gave me a clear look at my schedule and what I could pare down, condense, and combine. By week 2, I was able to form plans designed to reduce my stress using these tips that will help you do the same:

  • Combine daily tasks (check email while commuting to work, use a voice app to dictate, read, and respond).

  • Plan meals for the week using google, apps, or journal if you prefer writing.

  • Prepare meals for the entire week on a weekend (Can use an air fryer or slow cooker).

  • Freeze daily portions in baggies (label special diets, allergies, etc.).

  • Defrost pre-bagged meals in the refrigerator (for food safety do not defrost by leaving food out on the counter) or defrost by microwaving before dinnertime.

  • Prepare school & work lunches for the week on the weekend (or day off)

  • Pack and label all lunches, (refrigerate when necessary). Bag & leave portioned afterschool snacks for your kids.

  • Arrange carpool, bus stop drop off/pick up with other parent(s)/neighbor for younger kids if possible.

I had my daughter do this 168hr week rule log when she was in high school. It resulted in her being less stressed with schoolwork and finding spare time to enjoy more television and play video games (this was prior to todays’ vast technology).

For those seeking less stress and better time management, the 168-hour week rule is priceless. Utilize it. Sit back, and chill!

This article was [originally] published by Michigan State University Extension. I revised this article to be more compatible with more current standards and lifestyles (2024). The original article can be retrieved on the Internet: Retrieved online 02/24/2024