Experiment Log No. 6 — Recording How I Use My Time

This is an experiment in time logging. That means I will record how I spend all of my time, by writing down the current time and activity whenever I stop doing one thing and start doing another.

The purpose is to discover what habits are responsible for my poor productivity, and what habits I will need to adopt in order to triple or quadruple my current productivity.

It will commence when I wake up on April 21 and will end when I go to bed on April 27. At that time I will tally up the data I collect and show you the gory details.

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The Log

Wednesday, April 21

Well it’s on. 10:08 right now.

I’m already getting an idea of how this going to be. The first thing I notice is that I have to stop to think all the time. Each time I finish doing something, I have to stop and actually decide what to do! I didn’t realize that this is not the normal way I function.

I feel a perpetual awareness of the ticking clock, which does spur me to productivity, but also makes me a bit nervous.

More later.

Thursday April 22, 2009

Well day one went by with no slip ups, and I’m pleased. I thought this might be extremely difficult, but because I have to whip out the pad so often, it’s already become habit. Standing up, sitting down or arriving somewhere triggers the recording process.

I’m noticing a few things so far:

  • As I said yesterday, recording your time prompts you to decide what you are going to do next. We don’t always think like that. Normally I might open my computer, knowing I will check my email and Facebook and Twitter. I might end up reading an article someone Tweeted, or maybe responding to comments on my blog (of which I’m notified by email) or something else. But logging time makes you state your intentions right there. So I stay more focused, because I am only logging on to check my email and social media, so I don`t let it lead to recreational activities or other tasks. If I do, I have to write down the time again along with the new activity. This has prevented a lot of wasted time.
  • Some activities are highly beneficial and only take a few minutes, while others are not that beneficial and take a long time. It only takes five minutes to go into the common room and have a little hey-hows-it-going chat with somebody, and it can produce great dividends for little time. I spent four minutes cleaning my shoes today, and they look so much better. Way better use of time than the 43-minute-total walk into town to have a coffee. This is the 80-20 rule at work.
  • I am suddenly aware of how long certain routine tasks take, so I can make more accurate time estimates. It takes thirteen minutes to walk to town, so that`s a twenty-six minute “tax“ on whatever tasks I do there.

Sunday, April 25

The experiment continues with no major slips. I’ve had some minor ones, but I’ve always been able to remember how the time was used.

I’ve noticed that once I’ve written down what I’m going to do right now, I am able to engage in it without any nagging feeling of “Maybe I should be doing something else,” because I’ve already consciously decided to do it.

I am waiting until the week is over before I tally up and analyze the time usage, so I don’t have a lot to report yet. My “time sinks” are becoming quite obvious, and in the post-mortem I will decide which habits to axe.

Tuesday, April 27

Well the last day is here already. I haven’t looked back at my logs yet.

The biggest difference this week has been that suddenly all decisions about how to spend my time are conscious and deliberate. For me to even write down (8:20 — Surf the web) I can’t help but ask myself “Do I really want to spend my time like this?”

I haven’t tried to be any more productive this week than usual — that’s not the point of this experiment — but I certainly have been, because I cannot escape the knowledge of where my time is going. Suddenly I feel more responsible for the outcomes in my life, because they are all results of conscious choices, rather than unconscious habits.

I’m eager to tally and analyze my logs, but I don’t want to do that before the observation period is over.

April 29, 2010

Well the week flew by, but I know exactly how I used it. I’m currently tabulating and analyzing how I used my time, and I’ll post a final report next week.

{ 7 Comments }

Tom K April 20, 2010 at 10:42 am

Hey, Dave. A suggestion: record the time before you start your annotations and the time when concluded. That way, when you’re casting about, attempting to preclude an “unaccounted for” entry, you’ll have a meta-record of time spent writing/thinking. Just a thought, but you may find it interesting to see how much time was taken up by just the annotations themselves.

{ Reply }

David April 20, 2010 at 6:06 pm

Well I am rounding to the nearest minute, and usually writing things down doesn’t take more than a few seconds. I am not worried about nickel-and-diming my time here — it’s only about seeing where significant pieces go. There will always be a bit of “bleed” between activities but that’s okay. If I make 80 entries in a day, I’d guess it only takes about ten minutes of time in total to make my records, so I’m willing to accept that margin of error.

I do write down things like “sit and think about what to do next,” and so far the time spent sitting and thinking is not insignificant.

{ Reply }

Stacey Haas April 21, 2010 at 10:23 pm

I think this is a wonderful idea and I’ve decided to do it too. I’ve grown so weary of the general sense of malaise underlying my every day. I have an abundance of “free” time right now. I don’t start classes until the fall and work only part time at the library. I should be seizing more moments, they’re all we ever have. Thank you for sharing this!

{ Reply }

David April 21, 2010 at 11:20 pm

Good luck Stacey! Stick with it, I’m seeing it pay off already.

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Liane Carter July 17, 2013 at 1:40 pm

OOOOH. Thank you. I am loving these experiments ideas. Well done, you, for applying yourself to them all. I’m so excited to do two of them tomorrow and started one now – ooh feeling soft keys under fingertips and breeze on my arm. Ying tong. Thank you. :)

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Liane Carter July 17, 2013 at 1:40 pm

OOOOH. Thank you. I am loving these experiments ideas. Well done, you, for applying yourself to them all. I’m so excited to do two of them tomorrow. Thank you. :)

{ Reply }

Taidin Suhaimin October 15, 2013 at 11:12 pm

Great Work! Good stuff for Time Management Training. Thanks Dave. Keep it up.

{ Reply }

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