Habits, Organization, Productivity

Time tracking experiment

Good morning! It’s a 5:30 a.m. swim practice day. These are currently “necessary” in Asher’s schedule, because he is so busy with volleyball + soccer right now that he can’t get to as many of the evening practices. Even with the early Wednesdays in the mix, he’s only making it to swim about 3x/ week right now. (His usual is typically 4x, sometimes 5.) He/we are not really a huge fan of the 5:30 a.m. days…. but, he/we do it….. yawn.

Anyway, not a lot of time here before pick up, but just wanted to share:

I am trying out time tracking! Laura is basically the queen of this, and I’ve tried it before, in different (usually more complicated) capacities. But I never exactly stick with it.

The closest version to time tracking I’ve stuck with has been recording a short paragraph in my journal/daily page in my planner each morning, about the previous day. (I usually write a short-hand run down of the whole day: e.g. “Up at 5:30. Shower. Breakfast/ w kids. Drive to school. Home. 20 minute walk. Dishes, clean up kitchen. Then work. Meeting at 8:30. Etc.” I can usually remember most things from the day before- I don’t list exact times or anything.)

However, I have been finding more and more that…. I kind of don’t want to do that anymore! It just can end up taking longer than I think, the writing by hand can be tedious, and I’ve been finding myself skipping it more and more often. The practice was supposed to be fun/ enriching, not a drag.

So, I’ve (mostly) stopped! (I’d been consistently doing it since ~2020. So I have about 3 years’ worth of these journals at this point.)

But another part of me doesn’t want to stop, because I really like the idea of recording these details- and I DO sometimes go and look back at them. (They are also a good way to win an argument, if someone claims we did or didn’t do something on a certain day. I can be like, “A-ha! Wait, I WROTE IT DOWN! We DID have grilled hamburgers for dinner last month on that Tuesday!”) 😆

I also feel like I will really like to look back on these random entries in another 25 years, potentially, too.

Therefore, in line with my current shift to more digital practices, I decided to try out Laura’s (digital) time tracking worksheet. I realized that she has a Google Sheets version (I’m a big Google fan), and I can easily keep it open in a tab on my work computer all day.

Also, I have the Google Sheets app on my homescreen on my phone. So I can also update the sheet quickly from there! It’s so quick and easy- I’m not sure why I never realized this before. (I think I was turned off by the “spreadsheet” idea, thinking it would be unsustainable on weekends or when I’m away from my computer. But duh, I can access Sheets from my phone!)

This feels like a great way to combine my current journaling habit with an easier/ more sustainable method.

I know most people probably use Laura’s time tracking tool just for a temporary period, to evaluate how they’re spending their days occasionally. But I am wondering if I could just follow in Laura’s footsteps and continue using it long term! (She has been tracking her time for I think 8 consecutive years now.)

I’m not planning to break it down to total up like, how many hours I spend on household chores or driving kids around, etc., though it’s nice to have that data available if I would want it. I mostly just want a place to quickly and easily record what I do every day! (Why??? I’m not sure. Maybe because I find it shocking and unnerving how sometimes I flat out cannot remember what I did 3 days ago or on a day last week. lol! When I write things down, I feel like it helps things stick. It makes those experiences, no matter how mundane, seem a little more…. lasting, I guess.)

Anyway, I’ve been using it for two full days now and I’m really enjoying it! We’ll see- maybe my paper journal will eventually become a relic of the past, too….. (gasp!) 😉

Daily Gratitude:

I am grateful for my work trainee “graduating” now to the next phase of her training/ more independent work! I do really enjoy training people, but I’m also ready to get back to more solo, regular work now.

19 thoughts on “Time tracking experiment”

  1. I used Laura’s tracking sheets at the beginning of the year for a week and LOVED it. I definitely have no desire to do it long-term, but maybe one week a quarter? It really helped provide a reset as it made me more aware of how I was spending my flex time.

    I also have a One Line A Day Journal and love, love, love it. I write 2-3 sentences about our day and since this is my second year using it, every day I get a fun blast from the past! Yesterday I was filling in our current day and looked back and could see who we happened to have over for supper that day a year previous (it also happened to be Easter Monday last year).


    1. I love the idea of the One Line a Day! I think it would be so cool to be able to see your previous years’ thoughts all lined up like that. I think I am “too wordy” to really use that, though! hahaha. I have thought that it might be nice to somehow incorporate a review of my past entries somehow into my monthly routines though, like.. I don’t know, randomly circling a few dates on the calendar over the span of a few months, and then looking back on those from previous years when I get to that day, like a spot check? lol. Ok, that might be a little much. More likely I will just occasionally pull one out and peruse it, for old times sake. 🙂


  2. I have only time tracked for a week at a time. I like doing it for the same week each year so I can get a feel for how my days have changed year-over-year. But I don’t have any desire to do this long term. I don’t feel like I would ever look back at it so it feels like data for the sake of data – for me, at least! But clearly it’s been beneficial for Laura since she’s done it for 8 years now!

    I wish I could access google docs/sheets/etc at work. That really limits my ability to use things like google calendar and pushes me to be more paper-based.


    1. I would be sooooooo mad if I couldn’t use Google docs/sheets on my work computer! They did take away our Gmail access a couple years ago, which also drives me nuts, because I really liked to be able to delete a few emails while waiting for a meeting to start or respond about something from school on a break, etc. I often have my personal laptop nearby, but that whole extra step of opening it and pulling up my Gmail always feels burdensome! Fortunately we can still access all other Google services like my beloved Google calendar, Tasks, etc.


  3. Ooof, 5:30 practice. I used to be a morning person but having a baby who didn’t sleep until he was 2 seems to have left me with a sleep deficit I never quite made up.

    I want to track how long it takes me to do core job tasks – how long does it take to prep a lecture from scratch, write an article (4 years at my current rate), mark a paper, etc. I have a rough sense but I think it would be helpful to have a more specific sense for workload purposes and to know when I should be pushing back on things. I was very good at this when I worked a couple of different research jobs, but a not great now that I’m in a perm post.


    1. I think that is the most interesting thing about time tracking, if you actually really break it down to figure out how long you spend doing certain things. I think that can be super eye opening!! Because we are typically bad judges of how long something takes (as evidenced by when I look at my phone use totals, and think, Oh, I’ve barely been on my phone today…. but my screen time tells another story… ha!).


  4. I love this for you, ha! I love the idea of time tracking but I don’t really love getting super granular. I start of strong and by 6pm I track nothing! I use Sheets to communicate with my running coach (enter training log etc) so agree a super user friendly option for the phone/desktop. I also don’t want another reason to pull out my phone though (own personal hangup lol).


    1. Yes, I was super surprised how user-friendly adding items to Sheets on my phone is!! I can fill out 5-6 boxes in literally like, 10 seconds. And then it all instantly syncs, beautifully! I love it.


      1. Oh, and I borrowed Laura’s idea of only updating it a couple times per day, so I have found it to not be a big deal to remember 4-6 hours at a time. If I say update it at like 8, 12, 6, and before bed, that’s plenty.


  5. Oh, man, I tried to track a day once in 2022 and I had so much anxiety over it that I just stopped doing it. I can’t imagine doing it every day!

    I don’t follow Laura. How is this data helpful for her? What does she use it for that she couldn’t use simpler data for? How much time does she spend on this? It sounds…hard.


    1. So, she uses this like a journal/ accountability buddy, similar to how you track about your books read or your workouts. I think she also uses them for memory keeping purposes (being able to look back on what she and family were doing on a given day, 5 years from now) and also to provide general awareness of how she spends her time. (I heard her say once something like that on a busy week, if you feel frazzled and you tell yourself, ugh, I’ve had ‘no” time for myself this week!, you might be able to look at your time log and realize, oh wait! I actually went to the gym 4x, met a friend for coffee, watched a movie with my spouse, and spent some time baking cookies. Or whatever. So the time log can be a nice reminder of what your reality was, when sometimes life can “seem” or feel otherwise.)

      I have been using it similar to how she described her use, and I have easily spent less than 5 minutes per day filling it out. I have accessed it ~ 4x per day- at 8 a.m. when I sit down at my desk, again around noon, some time after work (5-6 p.m.) , and then at bedtime. It only takes me maybe 30-45 seconds to fill out each time (most boxes just get a couple words- e.g “work- meeting” or “drive E soccer” or “made dinner”), so it’s less than 5 minutes total for the day. Compared to my hand written version/ journal, this is actually faster! I’ve clocked my other paper journal style at usually around at least 6-7 minutes to write it all out per day.

      I’m not planning to extract the data frequently (e.g. how many hours do I spend doing dishes?) UNLESS I find something I’m unhappy with that I want to pay attention to. I mostly want to try this because I’ve been keeping a handwritten recap of my days (and would like to continue), but this feels faster/ easier, actually! And easier to store!


  6. When I first started working, I had to track my time to the quarter hour. (I worked remotely.) I did that for seven years and that was enough for FOREVER.

    I love the idea of tracking your time as a type of journaling. It seems totally reasonable to me that you might scan through your journals in 20 years and think, “Wow! I can’t believe how much time I spent in the car!” or whatever. It will be interesting to see whether you prefer the digital version to the handwritten one!


    1. I am honestly kind of shocked how easy this feels!!! I think it seems more overwhelming and difficult than it really is. It’s just so quick that it’s hard to feel like a burden- just a few minutes per day. I’m not sure how I never tried this digital method sooner. I think I also felt wary of it being time consuming, but surprisingly, it’s really not. Or maybe I thought doing it on paper was more whimsical or something.. haha.


    1. Haha, I think I’m actually more surprised how much time I spend doing “misc” stuff…. like just so many random little things add up! Emails, phone calls, errands, random stuff with the kids, etc. I didn’t notice some of that before.


  7. I did this a few years ago after I read her book Off The Clock, and I guess it was interesting to see where my “free time” went, but other than that, I found it a bit tedious to keep track of. Plus I do a lot of things concurrently, commuting while listening to an audiobook for example, and I like to have things categorized in black and white and that felt like grey to me, and so I struggled with where I would put that chunk of time! I do like it as a journaling tactic though!

    I think she has eight years of data because it allows her to analyze and subsequently write books about it! Maybe that is cynical, but I doubt she would be doing it if it were just for funsies.


    1. The concurrent thing was the trickiest bit for me. I didn’t WANT to get granular, but I also do quite a bit of multitasking (though maybe that is the proof I need, since most productivity experts lament multi-tasking).


      1. I think multitasking has its time and place. I do think it is too easy to do a crappy job at two things rather than a good job at one and then a good job at the other, BUT I don’t see why I would do the dishes or drive or run without a podcast or audiobook on!


  8. I’ve been tracking time since November 2022 and enjoying it! I do find that it helps me realize when I’m in a bit too much of a rut of routine – I love routine but if every day goes “Family Dinner, kids bedtime, dishes and tidy, internet, read, sleep” then I realize I need to do something more intentional with my evenings. I definitely find google sheets helps and the fact that I can do it from my work computer. I missed a week when I was ill but besides that it’s kind of fun, and doesn’t take too much time, and I think it will be somewhat interesting to look back on.

    I have one “COUNTIF” formula in the sheet to track my sleep. I used to track more but so much multitasking made it hard to really spearate what I was doing… but I’m usually not multitasking when I’m sleeping 🙂


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