Adventures in Time-Tracking

July13Who here feels they have all the time they need to do everything they want?

Yeah, I didn’t think so. I know it is possible to feel this way, but I also know that most people don’t.

I’ve been unspooling my subconscious thoughts and beliefs about time for a while now, which you can see in these posts:

So You Think You Don’t Have Time for You
Make Time for Your Soul Work, Protect It With All You’ve Got
There Is No Such Thing as Too Late
What If You Stopped Squeezing Things In?
What If You Stopped Rushing?

It all started when I read The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks, with a seemingly random chapter tacked on to the end titled “Einstein Time.” I then read some other time management books that honestly didn’t strike me as particularly illuminating or helpful, and then I discovered Laura Vanderkam’s books—168 Hours and I Know How She Does It.

I know Laura from my freelancer days, when we’d see each other every year at the annual conference of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. At the conference that occurred when my daughter was three months old, Laura and I had a conversation in the hallways that literally changed my life. We chatted about how work was different now that we had kids, and I told her how I had been resistant to pony up for a steady babysitter because of the cost—I seemed to know a lot of other freelancers who were publishing everywhere with more kids than I had and very little childcare. I kept thinking I should be able to work while the baby napped. (Hahahahahahahahahaha.) And Laura said, “Saying you can’t afford a babysitter is like saying you can’t go to college because it’s too expensive.” That one comment made me see that it wasn’t about subtracting the weekly wages of the babysitter from however much I could make in a week, but that paying a sitter was really investing in my career and in myself. It expanded my view.

(I ended up hiring a nanny for 32 hours a week and proceeded to have my best year ever as a freelancer in the first year after my daughter was born. Thank you, Laura!)

Laura’s mind works in a very practical, tangible way, where my thinking tends to be a little more loosey-goosey. But we both agree on the power of awareness and clarity to create change. Which is why I asked her if I could interview her live on a teleclass—and it’s happening tomorrow! If you are interested but not signed up, here’s the link to join us and to submit a question for her to answer at the end of the call:

In her books, Laura advocates tracking your time for at least one week—any week, as “there are no typical weeks.” Once you can see where your hours are truly going—and you’re probably sleeping more and working less than you think you are, she says—you can make better decisions about how you want to spend your time going forward.

In prep for tomorrow’s call, I analyzed how I spent my time during the week of July 13, 2015. Here’s my week broke out:

Sleep                           56.25 hours
Family                         47 hours
Me                               22.5 hours
Work                           31 hours

During this week, my brother-in-law came to stay with us for two nights and we hosted pizza night—an event that only comes around about once every 4-5 weeks. So it was somewhat atypical, but there is always something a little out of the norm.

Here, in no particular order, is what I learned from not only jotting down how I spent my time each day, but then also tallying up the hours:

  • Tracking your time takes time. It doesn’t take a lot of time, but it does take about 10-15 minutes a day to get it all down and then I spent about a half-hour adding up all my totals. It’s not major, but it is something. Knowing that going in will help you see it through for a whole week and then long enough to get the results.
  • Categories are fluid. Some things are hard to classify—like, going to the farmer’s market. Technically, I’m getting groceries, but I’m also getting a walk, spending time with my kids, and socializing. I called it me time because I enjoy it. A few nights a week, I’ll spend an hour or doing a few different things on the computer while my husband and I watch a couple of episodes of Some is work, some is me time (shopping Nordstrom’s Half-Yearly sale online), some is time with my husband. How to slice and dice that? There’s a lot of that – in the mornings, I’m hanging out with the kids but I’ll also do some kitchen yoga. I tried to parse it all and assign small amounts to different categories, but that felt fussy. On the other hand, lumping it all in to family time felt like I was giving myself short shrift. It just proved to me that a lot of my life is de-compartmentalized, and unless I’m undergoing an exercise in categorization, that melting away of mental categories feels really good.
  • There’s always more time available than you think. Even though I tracked my time in 15-minute increments, my weekly total—156.75 hours—is a little over 11 hours shy of 168, which is how many hours there are in a week. That’s over an hour and a half per day! Think of what you could get done in those 90-or-so minutes if you took them consistently. You could write a book, train for a marathon, get in crazy-good shape, make a quilt, read the classics. Whatever you are telling yourself you don’t have time for, it just isn’t true. You’re just not wanting to do it on some level.
  • It’s time to book more babysitting. My weekend days are nearly all “family time” with a little snippet here and there of “me time” – reading for an hour in the morning in bed, running personal errands. I have been feeling like I’m busier on weekends than I am during the week, and my time log proves it—I am with the kids nearly constantly. I know this will change as they start having more sleepovers and activities where I don’t need to be present. But a couple hours on a Saturday afternoon for me to use how I please would go a long way toward making those weekends feel more restorative. And my family time total hours would still be plenty high.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, I hope you’ll join Laura and me on the phone tomorrow! Here’s the link again. (And if you can’t make this time, sign up anyway, I’ll send out the link to the recording so you can download it and listen on your commute or while out for a walk – more fluid categories! Or if the date of the call has passed, you can still sign up and the link to the call will be automatically sent to you.)





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2 thoughts on “Adventures in Time-Tracking

  1. Thank you so much! I feel like I find particular topics and posts of yours right when I need them the most! This is super relevant right now!

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