I want to clarify a couple more things about my time tracking experiment!
First, why I’m doing this:
I am not tracking my time so that I can deeply analyze it, or be able to say with certainty that I spent exactly 3.21 hours with my children yesterday.
Maybe some people may want to do that, in order to potentially make changes in their life. (Perhaps by tracking, they realize the way they are actually spending their life doesn’t line up with their core values. Sometimes we are not the best judges of time, I think- it can really slip away! This feels similar to people counting calories- not necessary for all, but a helpful tool for some.)
But I really don’t care about that part, at least not currently. I feel generally satisfied overall with my time usage. Good enough, anyway.
For me the time tracking experiment is just taking the place of my journal. I was essentially already doing this, just in a different format.
The digital spreadsheet is just a quicker/ easier way for me to jot down what I do each day! I can certainly type WAY faster than I can write, and the vertical column format is more user-friendly, anyway, compared to the paragraphs I used to write. (And easier to look back on/ scan.)
In terms of extracting actual data from my log, though, I think it would be tough. This is something I’ve thought about a lot before, when I’ve seen other people time track and then add up “totals” of X # of hours doing x,y, or z. For me, this feels like it would be nearly impossible to capture accurately! SOOOO many of my 30-minute blocks include multitasking, or quick 5-10 minute activities (which, add up? And still count!).
- For example, I never sit down and spend a full 30 minutes looking at Facebook. But yet, somehow, I probably average over 20 minutes a day looking at social media. It’s embedded in, say, the “pick up Asher from volleyball” box, because maybe I scrolled for 5 minutes while sitting and waiting for him. Same with texting or quick email exchanges.
- Or I might be cleaning up the kitchen (household) while also listening to a podcast (personal/leisure?) for 20 minutes, and then spend 10 minutes talking with the kids (kids/family) while also chopping some vegetables (household/meal prep).
This is totally normal life, but it makes it very hard, in my opinion, to neatly categorize that time. And I don’t really care to! I don’t need that level of granularity. I’d just write down in my box something like: “household misc– kitchen/ prep vegs. Podcast/ kids”. The only purpose of this (for me) is to generally capture what I was doing then, so I can look back and remember things. I can include as many details, or as few, as I want.
I am actually (and surprisingly) loving the digital format because it’s so EASY to write more or less! If I wanted, I could write more detail- the spreadsheet box obviously expands to fit as much as I want. For example, I could write, “Talking w/ kids. A telling funny story about drill they did at soccer! Terrible weather- freezing and windy for practice.” An entry like this would definitely jog my memory later better than just “Kids”. But then again, many times, a quick, simple entry suffices- e.g. “work” or “groceries” or “drive kids”.
Re: how long it takes to do this:
I am so pleasantly surprised at how quick it is! It seems quicker than my old method!
I’ve generally been checking in with my log about 4x per day, and each check-in takes me 30 seconds- 1 minute.
- ~8 a.m. (at my desk)
- end of work day
- before bed
So, each time I have to fill out maybe 8 boxes? (=4 hours of time). Many times it includes repetition though, so it’s very quick. (e.g. 7 pm- gym. 7:30 pm- gym.)
I would say I have averaged about 3-5 minutes per day total updating this time log. Keeping it open on my computer makes it a breeze to pop in a few times during the day, and then I have just done it from my phone before bed to fill in the evening.
Okay! Apparently I had a lot to say about that. LOL! Totally understand most people wouldn’t want to do this, but like I said, for me it’s really functioning like a JOURNAL (hobby/fun/personal type thing), not some kind of neurotic obsession with measuring my time to the millisecond. 🙂
And, sorry if that was a lot (2 full posts!) on a subject some might find boring. Then again, Laura has written multiple best-selling books on the topic, so, enough people must find it interesting! 😉
I am grateful for phone chargers.
17 thoughts on “Time tracking, continued!”
I loved tracking my time for a week and found it both insightful and inspiring. Knowing I was going to be logging my time made me more mindful of how I was spending that time…however, I don’t think that motivation would last more than a few weeks. And while it didn’t take much time, I don’t have any desire to add something like this to my daily routine at this point. I think I would feel pressure to include everything, and that would start to overshadow my days.
For me, and I know I mentioned this the last time, using the One Line A Day Journal is my equivalent. I write 1-2 sentences at the end of each day – highlights/lowlights and it’s been a lot of fun to look back this year (my 2nd year of using the journal) and see what happened this day last year.
I DO think I will try to do the time tracking next year when Laura runs a tracking session via her blog.
I love that you’re loving it and will enjoy continued updates.
I love reading about all of your experiments and habits you try. I am similar in that I enjoy trying new things, but I HATE the idea of tracking things! The idea of it really stresses me out! One of my good friends works with a nutrition coach and said how much it has helped her emotionally with food. I was surprised because this would stress me out to no end! Of course, I totally respect we are all wired differently.. I could just never do it!
I do have the 5 year journal, I think similar to what Elisabeth mentioned. I stay home with my 18 m old and 3 year old, so I think tracking my time ALL day might get a little.. repetitive. Ha.
Katie, I get stressed out by specific habit tracking, too. I’m better at recording situations or events. When my kids were the ages of yours and not usually sleeping through the night. I had to stop wearing my FitBit at night because the sleep tracking and analysis would stress me out. I’d feel so sad about the state of my sleep. Lol.
Eileen, I agree that the sleep tracker thing can be sad to look at!!!!
Haha about the repetition!! Well, I can see that. I think the 5 year journal is a GREAT idea, especially with little kids!! I so wish I would have had something like that. Seems like the perfect place to jot down kids’ milestones, too.
I think people seem to be very yay or nay on tracking stuff. Definitely must be a personality trait thing, because I really don’t find it stressful- but, I think I MIGHT find it stressful if I had to submit my tracking logs to someone. Maybe what I find non-stressful is the fact that I am pretty loose with it. As in, the fact that I track something doesn’t really make me feel pressured to not do it, exactly. Maybe that’s bad, but I really just track yes or no- and I don’t worry about it if I don’t check something off on a given day. At least not with my daily habits I track. Probably I would be more successful if I did care more about not missing a box! I always identify as an Upholder, but sometimes I question that, because at the same time I can be kind of lax on stuff like this, too. Hmmmm…. 🙂
I’ve used a Line a Day journal (like Elisabeth) for about the last nine years (I’m on year ten and will need a new journal for Christmas!). I really love being able to look at what April 20 has looked like in past years, so I can understand wanting to have all that information.
I thought your handwritten journal was so lovely, though. Do you think you’ll miss the process of creating it?
Ohhhh I know!! I have such mixed feelings, because I do kind of love the idea of one day having a whole box of these lovely handwritten journals to pull out and page through…. I don’t know!!
10 years is so impressive for the line a day journal!! I really wish I had started something like that when my boys were born. That would be a great idea for a new parent gift!
You definitely encouraged me to try time tracking. I think I am spending a lot of time on things I don’t want to spend that much time on. I usually journal, but when I get too busy I don’t journal and many memories are lost.
Yes, I was finding myself skipping my paper journal more and more, which is actually what made me pause and think about it…maybe that means it’s not really serving me anymore, you know? I don’t like the gaps either. I am hopeful maybe this digital format might be easier to stick with! Which is counter-intuitive to what I would have thought, but in reality I have my phone with me ALL the time, whereas my paper journal often sits on my desk- making it more likely to especially miss on weekends, etc.
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I started trying to do some sort of time tracking toward the end of last year in similar mind set. I didn’t like that I was defaulting to tv a lot of times in the evening. I try to jot down in my planner a quick note of what other thing I choose to do /end up doing instead so I can have a record of my day. My planner already kind of tracks my time so I just add there. I don’t care to have a record of granular work things so don’t bother recording that stuff. It has been nice to look back at the end of a month and see what I wrote . So far it seems like just enough to jog my memory for a monthly reflection. Like Katie said, I like hearing about your experiments and habit tracking!
I also don’t care about granular notes about work. Occasionally I’ll put a specific task or who was on the phone with, etc. but generally I just put “work” for those. I really like being able to scan back over my journal pages at the end of the month! Sometimes I do a recap blog post too where I list highlights and activities, etc from the month, based on what I recorded in my journal/ planner.
I used to keep a journal just like yours, including the BLDS section! However, I found that I would get behind a lot and then I would try to go back and recreate it and then it started being a chore and then it kind of petered off. When I did do it, it was very satisfying, but once it fell off the wayside, it was more tedious to keep it up.
I do jot down things from time to time in an online format now, but I am not very regular, so I wonder if something like this would make more sense for me. I think a one line a day would also be good as the commitment is not huge but you still get some kind of reward as well as past data for memories.
Yes, exactly what was happening to me! This winter/spring I kept finding that I’d have several missing days, and then I’d try to go back and fill it in, which took too long, or I would be annoyed about the blank pages. I started this format during 2020/ covid times, so I am thinking that I was actually just less busy then and had more time to sit and doodle in my journal page. But now life is fuller and busier, so it has kind of become a chore. I do love the data though, so that’s part of why I wanted to try the digital format. I do have my phone always with me, so I should easily be able to quick fill in any missing lines. I can’t always just update my journal page because it’s home in my office! But with the Google Sheet, I can even just fill in while waiting for one of my kids, or while waiting for tea water, etc. More convenient! I like the idea of one a day too, but I am not decisive enough or concise enough I don’t think to narrow it down to ONE line! haha.
I did a much better job on mine during the pandemic too! I think that you are right in that we were trying to fill our days and now they are just full and so those things are not taking precedence. I would guess that a one line a day does not have to just be literally one line, but I don’t do one so I am not sure. However, you have inspired me to put a little notebook in the bathroom and I am going to try to jot down something (one line, more than one line, one word…anything!) each day.
I can see how this is much faster/easier than doing it in print. Like you, I can type way way way faster than I can write things down. Besides when I do the time tracking challenge, I don’t record details of my day anywhere. I’ve never had a journaling habit so it’s not something I’ve been drawn to. When I do the time tracking challenge, I want to add up the hours and I use sumif formulas in excel so that means my data is not descriptive/granular. Instead I enter the main thing I was doing at that time. So I might have checked my phone a few times, but if I was mostly working, I wrote down work. So it’s a completely different exercise from what you are doing but gives me a sense of how I spent that week.
Right- I can see using this format to track certain things, if you made sure to always use the same term so you could sum it. Overall I struggle with how to classify the multitasking time periods, so I feel like if I tried to sum mine it would be confusing. Or at least, pretty inaccurate for me, based on how I record on it. But I think it is at least good to look over and see general trends!
When I did it, I did mine this way too; it is much easier to come up with a handful of categories and then plug them in and let Excel do all of the work!