What I learned from tracking my time for a week
Time management is a constant challenge for my sideways brain. I don’t believe in airtight planning. There have to be gaps and spaces in a day to let creativity flow, just as as a building needs openings for fresh air. But I’ve been feeling like too many of my hours are getting sucked out of my days, and I wanted to see where they were going.
So last week, I downloaded a little app called TimeJot, and used it to keep track of almost everything I did for seven days. Kind of the way we began our diet makeover–but counting minutes instead of calories.
The results were hardly scientific–there were hours that went unlogged because I forgot to set the app, and irregular activities like a doctor’s appointment, which don’t happen every week. But it was still illuminating.
Here’s some of the things that jumped out at me:
- The thing I do most (besides sleeping) is spend time online. I didn’t slice and dice this wedge too finely, and a big of chunk of it is arguably tied to my writing. For example, reading articles and blogs, engaging with my platform through twitter and Facebook (as opposed to engaging socially–is there a difference? Does anyone know anymore?), even just surfing, are all part of my work as a writer in new media. But a lot of it is idle time, hitting the refresh button, procrastinating, or just getting stuck in the feedback loop as my sideways brain is prone to do.
- If you add up the first five activities, domestic management takes up 26.5% of my waking time. And probably more, since a lot of it gets squeezed in, and went unlogged. If you walked in my house, you’d wonder if I spent any time at all on it. Which proves Betty Friedan was wrong about housework expanding to fit the time available. It will constantly exceed it.
- Writing is what makes me come alive, so I’m pretty happy with the time I spend on the blog and book promotion, though I’m ready to shift some of the latter to writing the next book. And cutting into my online time to do it.
- The part-time job I spent 8% of my time on (4-8 hours a week) is ostensibly to cover my membership at the fitness club. Do you see a wedge for time spent exercising at the fitness club? Me either. Hmmm.
- It was shocking to see just how little dedicated leisure time I spend with the people who are most important to me. 1.5% with Patrick, and (gulp) .1% (a 30 minute run to the donut shop) with my children, and ZERO per cent with all five of us. As opposed to 10% with my friends. Part of the issue here is that Patrick and I work at home, and thus are around each other and our children a lot. And that counts for much, in terms of our overall family well-being. But it doesn’t replace the need for intentionally hanging out with each other as a couple and as a family. I’ve known this is something that’s needed to be fixed for a while, and maybe this will give me some authority to address it.
I’m all about alignment these days. I want my actions in line with my intentions. My energy in line with my values. My reality in line with my dreams. I recognize that this is a privileged position, this question of how to spend my hours, the fact that I even have a choice. Most of my time fits comfortably in the upper layer of the needs pyramid. I’m grateful for that. All the more reason not to squander it.
I think I’ll continue to audit my hours, periodically. Life’s not much of a journey if your eyes are always on the compass, but it’s good to take your coordinates now and then.