I tracked every second of my time for a week.  Here’s what happened.

A chart breaking down an average day.
An Average Day in Chart Form

Just for giggles and to give my border collie brain something to do, I decided I was going to track every minute of my day according to what I was doing at the time.  Yeah, I know.  What’s the point of that nonsense?

In searching for a justification better than “I like playing with and analyzing data,” think about this:  Time is all you have, and it is finite.  Are you spending it in a way that is useful and happy-making to you?

What did I learn from tracking every minute of the day?

Some things that need change

I got some serious feedback on things I need to think about and take action on

The act of time tracking messes up the data.

Rather like someone who has decided to keep a food log, the very act of tracking my time has meant that the feedback has become more immediate.  Having to press a button on my phone to log what I was intending to do made me a bit more deliberate about what I was choosing to do.  I tried very hard to reflect what my time genuinely looks like, screwing around on the Internet or hopping like a bunny from task to task.  That didn’t stop me from wincing when I needed to deliberately say, “Okay, I am going to screw around on the Internet now!”

Time tracking is a time-consuming pain.

I could only stand doing it for about six days before I felt like it was distracting me from things I genuinely wanted to get done.  I could have sucked it up for the purposes of this article, but the sample of how I spend my time was reasonably representative, spanning workdays and a weekend, so I ran with the data I have.

I will probably start treating tracking my time rather like I treat tracking my food – only if it looks like there is a problem and I want a reality check.

I realized my priorities were screwed up

I suspected this.  While I was spending a decent amount of time on my family[1], I was not so good at spending an appropriate amount of time on my friends.  In fact, it helped cement a decision to get my butt off Facebook – which I will discuss in another article.

I also was spending far too much time on chores and housework.  I know that sounds nuts, but while having a tidy house is one thing, and yes, I do want that, puttering around all day looking for things to put away or clean and listening to audiobooks isn’t really where I want to put All the Energy.  I deserve a nice environment, yes.  But I can and should corral that time into discrete units so that it is taken care of efficiently and doesn’t get out of hand.

I found that my time was badly scattered

I already knew multitasking is a myth.  You’re not multitasking, you’re context switching.  Thing is, if you do that, you’re bearing a cognitive load. 

Numerous studies point to the fact that as you context switch between tasks, your efficiency on those tasks, as well as your accuracy, suffers.  For work that has a heavier cognitive load, a flow state is important.

If you take a look at the screenshot, you’ll notice that unless I was teaching a class, sleeping, exercising, or knitting, a lot of my time was spent in context switching.

Now, the reality?  Most housework chores simply don’t take all that much time or cognitive load. I’ve talked about that before.  However, when you’re switching your attention a lot, you’re not getting as much done.

I am taking away from this particular data that how much time I dedicate to something does need to depend a bit on the cognitive load the task takes.   Laundry, not so much.  Writing? Learning a new computer language?  I need to stop switching around and focus.

I was putting too much mental energy into exercise

Look, I need to work out.  I do work out.

I do not need to spend an hour looking for motivational articles on the Internet about why I need to work out or to get me excited about my goals.  My body does not care about what it takes to get me on the treadmill or weight bench.  It only cares that I did it.

That hour I spend hyping myself up to work out is in no way adding to my life.  It would be better-spent knitting.  At least I’d get a sweater out of it.

Things I won’t change

Because living on purpose choosing deliberately is a big deal to me, I’m happy that I got feedback about things I don’t want to change because I’m happy with what I’m doing.

I spend a lot of time planning or preparing

Straight up, I’m okay with this.  It wasn’t a surprise and I was always happy with spending my time this way.  I used to have a martial arts teacher who consistently said, “Preparation precedes action.”  True. Very true.

Making bento the night before takes about 15 minutes a night.  If I eschew those fifteen minutes, I am running a non-trivial risk of not making a well-balanced lunch when I get hungry around noontime.  I’m fine with giving Future Me that little present.

Laying out clothes and tidying while the bath is running (I have low water pressure) definitely jump-starts my morning, especially when exercise clothes are staring me in the face on what I know is going to be a busy day.

Five minutes with my Bullet Journal translates into more knitting and reading time because I think about what I want to accomplish in a day and when that’s done, I’m blasted well off the hook for being so-called productive.  I had kinda figured this was so, but now I have a numeric comparison.

I spend a lot more time reading actual books than I thought

I thought I consumed most stories in audiobook format while I’m doing household chores these days.  So I figured that the “Reading” part of how I spend my time under “Hobbies” was going to be a bit anemic.

Naw… Not really.  Part of this is that I read in the bathtub, and I had no idea how long I generally spent in the bath soaking and reading a book.  I found out that I average about as much time doing that as I do exercising.  Nice balance and a pleasant surprise.

I get enough sleep.

OK, I already knew that.  I’m protective of my sleep and have been for many years.  I’m stupid when sleep-deprived, so I avoid that.  I find the bragging about running on too little sleep idiotic and I’m sure it contributes to our unstable politics.  That, and not making your bed.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

So, a question for my readers.  Are you satisfied with how you spend your days?  If not, what do you want to do and how can you do that?


[1] If you’ve known me for five minutes, you know about the family thing.

Self-Improvement

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.