In case you haven’t seen it, a few weeks ago I tracked everything I did for 24 hours. I came out of the experiment with a few surprising lessons and decided to expand on that and track everything I did for a week. The results are in and the numbers are crunched. Let’s talk about what I learned from tracking my time for a week.
First, some numbers. Numbers mean spreadsheets! Yay! I present to you:
The Brutally Honest Breakdown Of What I Do With My Time
*I worked out 6 days this week, so I divided by 6 to get the average workout length.
**Though I did a bit of work on the weekend, I divided this by 5 to better compare it to a regular 9-5 type job.
***I took two naps, so I divided by 2 to get the average nap length. Clearly, I’m not into short naps.
Some thoughts on these numbers:
I slept for 8.7 hours each night. Granted, that includes the time it takes me to fall asleep, but I learned that I really mean it when I say I value sleep. I got my sleep. Get enough sleep.
Five of my six trips to the gym were between 87 and 96 minutes long. I had one weird workout where I wasn’t feeling it and cut it short, but I’ve learned I’m quite consistent with my workout length, even though I don’t track the time while I’m at the gym and just leave when I’m finished.
It’s a little shocking that I worked less than six hours per day. I know most 9-5 office people probably don’t actually work for eight hours either (I definitely didn’t), but seeing those concrete numbers isn’t fun. On the bright side, I’ve found a good direction and stride in the last few days, and now that I know what I’m doing, I’m definitely working more.
It was a weird week. I know, lots of weeks are weird weeks. But I took two naps that week and aside from that, I haven’t napped in months.
I don’t read nearly as much as I would like. I listen to audiobooks at the gym fairly often, but reading is rarely my main focus. I should take my own advice.
Seven minutes per day on emails is no longer an accurate number. As traffic to the blog has picked up (hi to all the new people!), so has traffic to my inbox. I now spend between one and two hours on emails most days. Keep it coming, guys! I love hearing from you all. :)
What did I learn?
I want to start by saying that tracking everything I did every day is DIFFICULT. I kept forgetting to write things down. I’d start out great in the morning, but by midafternoon, it kept slipping my mind. Some of these numbers are estimates because I’d realize suddenly that I hadn’t tracked anything in an hour or two and have to go back and figure out what I did.
Last time, I carried around a notebook and hand wrote what I was doing. This time, I kept a note on my phone that I updated each time I moved to a new activity. I think this impacted two things.
First, it made it more difficult to remember to track. The notebook served as a physical reminder to write down what I was doing. That didn’t happen so much with my phone.
Second, last time, I talked a lot about how having to write down and admit that I was going to get on my phone would often prevent me from doing so, helping to keep me focused. That didn’t happen nearly as much this time. I think that partially stems from it being easier to just type something out than it is to hand write it, and because I had to actually get on my phone to track what I was doing in the first place.
Sort of surprising after the first point is that I still felt compelled to track what I was doing for a few days after I ended the experiment. Even though I often forgot to track during that week, it kept popping into my mind afterward, and I’d reach for my phone before remembering that I wasn’t doing that anymore.
Tracking my time for a week made me much more aware of what time it is. Even now, a couple of weeks out, I still sometimes make mental notes like, “okay, it is 7:03, and I am leaving for the gym.”
I wasn’t great at sticking to my schedule while I was actually tracking my time, but I think I’m doing a better job now than I normally do because I’m in the habit of noticing what I’m doing. Monitoring my time is kind of like meditation but for my actions instead of my thoughts.
Speaking of meditation, tracking definitely made me more mindful. It pushed me to stay in the present moment, rather than let my mind float off and do whatever it wanted. I needed to stay aware of what I was doing if I wanted to accurately record my actions.
In the end, I recommend tracking your time, but only for a day or two. Don’t bother with a full week unless you’re really disciplined or really like numbers and data. Tracking a full week is a lot of work, but only tracking for a day made me much more productive on that day.
That said, I’m probably going to do this again in a few months. I know I just said that tracking a full week isn’t worth it, but I love numbers. Don’t forget that I’m a CS person.
I want to eventually do this again because things are changing quickly right now, and I feel like I’m finally hitting my stride. I’ve found a more concrete direction in my life, and I feel more like myself. I’m more motivated, more excited, and more energetic now than I was a few weeks ago. I think all of these things will be reflected in the numbers if I track my time again in a couple of months.
Feeling more like yourself makes a huge impact on your day to day life. The shift that has happened recently in my life is exactly why I’m doing this. I want to share what I know so that as many people as possible can create a life that feels right for them.
I already know that I work more and scroll less because I know what I’m doing, and I love what I’m doing. Life is much more enjoyable and fulfilling when I have a goal and know how to get there.
When I do this again, I’ll probably find an app to track my time, rather than writing everything down. Writing things down was interesting in that it taught me that admitting to myself that I’m unfocused then made it easier to focus, which is a great lesson, but as I move forward, I’m more interested in the data.
I want to know how my actions align with my values, and what steps I could take to use my time in ways that I see as valuable. Magic happens when the reality of your life aligns with who you are.
P.S. I’m sure there are some errors in my math up there. If you find any, let me know and I’ll fix them.