Tracking My Time
My most recent experiment was from July, where I decided to track my time. I divulged my dating experiment from last summer, which you can read about here, and have continued trying experiments on myself from a place of curiosity.
This idea originated from a book I read a few years ago, by Laura Vanderkam, I Know How She Does it. Vanderkam collected hour-by-hour time logs from 1,001 days in the lives of women who make at least $100,000 a year. She shares specific strategies that her subjects use to make time for the things that matter to them. As someone who hopes to one day be a working mom, this book was fascinating for me.
At the end of June, the idea randomly popped in my head to see how I spend my time. I was originally planning to track in 30 minute increments but realized I often task-switch (something I’m trying to do less of!). I made a simple google sheets so I could access it from my computer at home, at work, and then the mobile app for when I was on the go. I’ll admit sometimes I slipped on doing my inputs for a few hours, so I’d say there is about a 5% chance of error in my entries overall.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with the information. Going into this that I recognized that I’m already pretty smart with how I spend my time. A few things I was thinking as I started the month:
I would likely spend a decent amount of time in transit as a result of traveling for work, going into DC from VA multiple times a week, etc.
I would leep, a lot
I probably don’t truly ‘work’ as much as I think I do
The things I love to do only make up a small portion of my day
In addition, July had a few “abnormalities” in that we had off for July 4th and I took PTO for 2.5 days and was out in Colorado. But I suppose each month has its own abnormalities, right?
I didn’t have a set list of categories for how I spent my time going into this, so what I ended up doing was taking my results and pulling them up a level or grouping them in order to avoid a pie chart with a hundred little pieces. For example, I took anything related to exercise (yoga, running, gym, volleyball) and grouped them together. What was difficult was figuring out some of the less intuitive groupings - Do I group all things together where I am socializing? Does talking on the phone count as that? Or do I do a relationships category focused on spending time with people close in my life? This was the hardest part of the analysis for me, because how I organize the data affects how I interpret it.
Now, to the good stuff: my time tracker pie chart.
So, what didn’t surprise me?
I spent a little over 1/3 of my time in bed or sleeping - because we spend about 1/3 of our days sleeping (if you get 8 hours of sleep a night).
I spent 1/5 of the my time working. I only worked 17 days in July because of holiday/PTO. Plus, my hours aren’t as terrible as I sometimes feel they are. It just feels like it when it's work and not play!
The percentages of the lesser categories (housekeeping, beauty, etc.)
What did surprise me?
That I spent equal amounts of time doing work and leisure. Granted, my definition of leisure was generous but this still was unexpected.
How little time I spend commuting. Despite working remotely, I thought I would spend more time shuffling around than I did. This goes back to the idea of work - that things that sometimes aren’t fun feel like they take SO much time.
I contemplated including a more granular view, but it’s too granular to the point that conclusions are hard to draw. While I feel that this experiment was interesting, I already felt that I was pretty conscious of how I spend my time, so I don’t know if my behavior will change much for it. I’m an efficient person that doesn’t enjoy wasting time - leaving little room for improvement. What I think would be interesting is to do the experiment again, in a month where it’s more normal. I contemplated doing it again in December, but I’ll be traveling for 2.5 weeks of the month, so that would be less informative. I think I’ll try again in January - which would also be six months from when I first did this - to see what has changed. I suspect that living in a different city, changing work teams, and undertaking new projects and hobbies will influence my time. Thus, a comparison between months may prove more informative and interesting than just one month alone.
If you feel like you’re clueless about how you spend your time, I think this is a great experiment. For me, this stemmed from a place of curiosity and self-experiment. If you have suggestions on future experiments I should do - let me know! I’m all ears.