Time Tracking Experiment, or What I Learned by Analyzing a Whole Month of My Life
“The way we spend our days determines the way we spend our lives. What we do at a particular moment is exactly what we do at all. ”It doesn’t matter what you consider your priorities: what you actually devote your time to is your chosen life priority. But how many people know what it takes every minute and every day of their lives?
- Annie Dillard
In one day, quite a few minutes - 1,440 to be exact. Even if we take into account the eight hours of sleep needed by a healthy body, it turns out that almost 1000 minutes remain for what we want to do. And yet at the end of the day it often seemed to me that the most important time was not enough. There had to be something that took more time than it deserved, and in order to stop wasting my life on nothing and spend time with more meaning, I decided to find out what it was.
Therefore, I set a goal for a month to take into account every minute of my time and check how my idea of how I spend time is true. In this article I will tell you how I did it, what I found out, and why you should do this too. (I’ll unveil the veil of secrecy: how budget tracking allows you to better distribute finances, and counting calorie consumption helps you build food correctly, and time tracking can tell you how to better manage the most valuable resource.)
Translated to Alconost
Step 1. Choosing occupation categories
A month of time tracking is more than 43,000 minutes. It was necessary to come up with some general categories to which pastime could be attributed - so the data obtained would make more sense.
So I thought about how I spend my days and what I want to devote my time to. After careful consideration, I have eight categories left:
- Paid work (for example, work for clients).
- Hobbies (e.g. side projects).
- Professional development (for example, customer acquisition, exchange of experience and new professional acquaintances, applications for interviews).
- Self-development (for example, keeping a diary, attending various classes and seminars, reading books that give inspiration).
- Relationships (for example, time spent with family, calls to friends, dates).
- Entertainment (e.g. shopping, TV, reading optional texts, attending recreational activities and walking).
- HLS (for example, physical exercises, breaks necessary for work, personal care).
- Helping others (e.g. volunteering, mentoring).
In addition, I didn’t want to tear myself away from reality: I needed categories for some classes, from which I was not enthusiastic - but time nevertheless passed for them:
- Distractions (for example, thoughtless sitting on social networks, long getting out of bed in the morning).
- Life (for example, all sorts of assignments, fees, routine affairs).
To check whether they were fully taken into account every day, I also took into account sleep, but did not include it in the analysis, since it already amounted to about a third of my time, and there was no need to change it. But if you want to allocate time for other activities due to sleep, then it would be better to include it in the analysis. I decided to focus only on how my wakefulness goes.
Most of these categories are likely to suit almost everyone, but there may be differences. Try to think carefully about what your time is spent on and what you want to spend it on, even if you are not currently devoting time to these activities. Do not overload the list: just leave no more than 10 categories.
Step 2. Desired time distribution
During the experiment, I tried not to judge how I spend time - just keep track of it and analyze at the end - but I had to focus on something in order to evaluate the results. I do not mean the assumption that it actually takes time, but rather a vision of how I would like to spend my time.
When you take up this task, figure out how many hours a week you want to spend on something, and calculate the appropriate percentage. It’s convenient to focus on the week, because from day to day our classes can be very different (for example, weekends differ from weekdays), and during the week you will just get a fairly accurate average rating.
Here you can let your ambitions unfold - imagine what you want to do "spend your own life ”, but you shouldn’t spend too much time in the clouds: if you work from eight to five and do not plan to change this in the near future, then paid work will be about 40 hours a week, or about 36% of the waking time.
Editor's Note. This approach will also provide a clearer idea of what the work time is spent on: just pick the categories that break the work day into different types of tasks.
Step 3. Tools
Now you need to pick up tools for time tracking. I already used the Toggl service for work, and therefore I decided to track the wake time through it. There are related apps for the iPhone and Android platforms - so you can mark the time on the go - as well as extensions for the Chrome and Firefox browsers. For each of the categories of classes, I created a project so that they can be easily tagged.
Of course, there are many other tools and ways to use them, so if you are used to another application, use it. You can, for example, add tracked activities to your Google calendar as events occurring during the day, and then use the Zapier application automation toolSave these events to a Google spreadsheet and analyze them. You can also automatically track the time spent in applications and on websites using the RescueTime service , and with a subscription, you can also mark offline activities and keep a log of the day.
Looking for the right app? We have compiled a list of the best applications for time tracking , in which you can compare their capabilities and find the right one.
Step 4. Let's start time tracking!
We pass to the most important thing. Decide what morning (immediately after waking up) you will begin to take into account your time, put a reminder in the calendar about the end of the "experiment" after 4 weeks, and proceed!
The first thing I noticed when I started tracking my classes was a great reluctance to do this. It was very difficult for me not to forget to mark everything, and it seemed that tracking took more time than it was worth it. Looking ahead, I’ll say that now I’m glad that I still forced myself to keep track of everything: in the end, I learned something interesting.
However, I constantly forgot to mark time spent on anything - especially in the first week or so. Somewhere after a day of torment, I put a periodic reminder on the phone. In addition, I decided at the end of the day to check whether the whole day was taken into account.
I also immediately noticed that some classes are difficult to attribute to a specific category.
Sometimes the reason was that it seemed to me that I was doing several things at a time. For example, cooking: it seems to be an occupation from the “everyday life” category, but at the same time I like to cook, it’s a good rest, and if the food is especially healthy, it’s generally healthy. But you can also cook together with someone else - then this can be considered as a contribution to the relationship.
In other cases, it was difficult to pinpoint exactly what I was doing. The Internet is partly to blame for this: I noticed that I often sit there, sometimes at work, sometimes talking with friends and acquaintances, sometimes being distracted by video with cats.
As a result, several rules helped me to distribute classes into convenient categories:
- Try to keep records as specific as possible. Remember that the goal is to take into account every minute of wakefulness as accurately as possible. Therefore, if you spent two minutes on a snack, then a minute on a text message to a friend and another 10 minutes on all kinds of fees, then each of the classes should be assigned to the corresponding category. Studies show that our brain is not really multi-tasking : it seems to us that we are multi-tasking, but in fact we just quickly switch attention between several tasks (it sounds familiar, right?). And this, too, must be remembered when tracking classes: taking into account what takes a minute or two on the strength may seem like a waste of time, but in a week or a month all this “trifle” will come together and can give a tangible result.
- When categorizing classes, tag them. A label can be a detailed description of what you actually did (for example, “watched TV” or “answered emails”) - the category (“entertainment”, “work”, etc.) has a wider scope. Using tags with categories is very convenient. Firstly, if you forget to put something in the right category, with a tag it will be easier to do it later. Secondly, when analyzing the results, it will be possible to analyze in more detail the largest categories, which take too much time.
- In extreme cases, start the countdown immediately, and specify the category later. The Toggl service allows you to take an activity into account even if no label or category is specified for it. Therefore, if you have finished doing something and do not know what you will do next, just start the timer: when after a while you stop the timer to switch to the next task, you can specify a category and put a mark.
- Decide where to attribute the "lost" time. At the end of each day, I checked if all the time was taken into account. In most cases, it turned out that I didn’t take 10-30 minutes into account - I call it “lost time”: something memorable is not enough to come up with the idea to take this into account. Probably, it will be the same with you, so think about what classes you usually “lose” time in, and decide where to put it. I decided to attribute such cases to the category of “everyday life”: I think these are just the minutes when I walked around the house and cleaned up every little thing or was going somewhere. Perhaps you know that a lot of your time is “lost” on social networks - then it is better to attribute it to “distractions”, well, or somewhere else.
Step 5. Analysis of the results
So, four weeks have passed - time to analyze the results. Regardless of how you tracked your classes, I recommend calculating the total number of hours in each category and putting the data in a spreadsheet editor to make it easier to build charts.
The Toggl service allows you to download a CSV file with data, which simplifies the work, but the data is presented in the form of hours and minutes - therefore, to work with them, you need to translate the hours and minutes into one number. (We multiply the number of hours by 60 and add in the minutes - or divide the minutes by 60 and add in the hours. So, 3 hours and 22 minutes will be 202 minutes, or 3.37 hours.) If you had another application for tracking time, it’s possible , the data will need to be transformed somehow differently.
When I did all this, the month I spent appeared in the following form:
Let me remind you that the desired distribution was this:
You can immediately notice that the amount of time I spend on “entertainment” and “everyday life” is much more than what I want, because of which there is less It remains to such important categories as work, development, relationships and healthy lifestyle.
If you look at the categories of “eaters” in more detail, you can better understand what time is spent on and how to change it. After analyzing the category of "entertainment", I saw that it was unacceptably long to watch TV - about a full week of work per month! In my defense, I can say that I didn’t take this month to watch Twin Peaks, but thanks to this I was able to see firsthand the influence of addictive TV shows and shows and wondered if I really wanted to spend my time like that. Of course, TV sometimes helps to relax at the end of the day, but when I saw how much time it takes, I thought that I could do something else and somehow combine this habit with other activities.
In the “everyday” category, I found that a lot of time was spent driving - more than I expected. However, I can definitely spend this time with greater benefit - if I pick up interesting podcasts that will contribute to self-development and professional growth.
Obviously, your priorities and numbers will be completely different, but when you look at your results, try to be honest with yourself. What time spent on what classes do not please you? What would you like to pay more attention to? What takes too much time from you, on which you can “save” in favor of other activities?
I was also surprised how much tracking of what I was doing affected some bad habits. For these 4 weeks:
- I began to spend time more consciously. The fact that I take into account every minute was enough for me to better understand how my days go by - and this is a step to stop wasting time the way I don't want it. Opening Instagram in the morning, I started the timer - this was not enough to stop immediately, but enough to exit as quickly as possible and stop the timer.
- There has been less multitasking in my life. The need to take time into account has made me more “single task”. It’s difficult to keep track of classes if you constantly switch between them, so more often I limited myself to just one thing, and only then moved on to the next task.
Finally, thanks to this experiment, I was able to evaluate how much time actually fits in one day. Calmly and soberly looking at how much I was able to do during the day, week, month, and how much time was wasted, now I can’t say so easily that I don’t have time for something. It is quite obvious to me that there is time - you just need to carefully prioritize.
Time tracking is not necessary in order to feel worthless or the obligation to get rid of bad habits - it is needed to just get information. After looking at the data, you may not want to change anything - or vice versa: your eyes will open and you will turn your life around. But in any case, now you will know exactly what precious minutes of life are spent on.
About the translator
Translation of the article was done in Alconost.
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