Time Tracking — I Do How Much of What?!

I tracked my time in February. This came about because I was feeling overwhelmed after returning to work. I had no time to do what I wanted! Last week, I explained how I prepared the time tracking data for analysis. This week is the fun part—digging in to what it can tell me about myself. If you’d like to dig into my data for yourself, you can play with the Tableau graph.

The Big Picture

First, let’s take a high-level overview of how I spent my 3 weeks. This is slightly skewed, as I had 2 Fridays off during this time.

Time Tracking Daily Time by Category Bubbles
Work and sleep, work and sleep.

I play Dungeons and Dragons on a Friday night. Normally, work would have outstripped this as well. Looking at those bubbles, on Fridays I spend more time on DnD than sleeping! I did say that was one rare activity I actually give up sleep for.

Treemap of how I spend my time.

Over a more average period, work would take up a higher percentage than we see above (Week 2, when I did work the Friday, I had 32% sleep and 28% work. That’s a more normal week).

How Much Do I Work?

Overall, I slept a third of my time, and worked a quarter. However, if I look at Monday—Thursday (the days I worked consistently over the period), it’s a very different story. On these days, work+travel+getting ready accounts for 46% of my day (!) and sleep for 30%. That’s pretty huge. No wonder I suddenly felt the loss of all my time.

Work related hours.

How Much Do I Sleep?

I love sleep. Anyone who knows me, knows this. I’m adamant that I’m an 8 hours a night woman, and I definitely suffer if I get less. I am averaging 7.6 hours sleep each night, but this is not distributed evenly throughout the week. I am sleeping less on working days, and making up for it with extra naps on weekends. During the week, my average is 7.2 hours, whereas on the weekends it is 9.3 hours. The jury appears to be out on whether you can really make up sleep debt. Overall, it seems that sleeping extra on weekends may go a small way to making up sleep, although it will never have the benefit of getting that night’s sleep in the first place. I’m still within the 7-9 hours recommended for adults, but I’d like to increase my weeknight sleep a little more.

Total and weekly hours of sleep.

Right. Now we’ve dealt with my two biggest activities (and arguably, the ones I have the least control over), let’s look at how I spend the rest of my time. I’d like to say “leisure” time, but there’s still responsibilites.

Responsibilities

Unfortunately, part of being an adult means… adulting. Housework, cooking, feeding ourselves and the furballs, searching for that darned bill that I’m sure I paid or did I set it aside to double-check what we were being charged if only I were more organised I would be on top of this

How Much Time Do I Spend on Food?

I was very interested in this one, now that we are meal planning, grocery shopping and cooking. I enjoy meal planning, Mr. ETT and I grocery shop together at Aldi. Aldi has less choice, which means a faster shop. We split the list in half, and both go our separate ways. Overall, I spend 4.3% of my time planning, shopping, preparing and eating. That’s the same amount of time I spend reading blogs, and just slightly more than socialising. Given that we are saving money and eating more healthily than otherwise, I’m happy with this allocation.

Time Tracking Bubble Graph of Adult Responsibilities.

What About Housework?

I spent 4% of my time doing housework/yard work and random life stuff like paying bills etc. That’s almost as much as I spent socialising. This comes as a huge surprise to me, because I am a terrible housekeeper. That’s my laziness kicking in again. Or maybe, I’m finally growing up. Who’d have thunk it?!

The Fun Stuff

How Much TV Do I Watch?

TV. The epitome of time-wasterage. Mr. ETT and I watch TV while eating dinner, and some on the weekends. It’s mindless downtime, but I also enjoy the shows we watch.

Breakdown of how much TV we watch.

Big surprise – not as much as I thought. I average 42 minutes a night, which sounds about right based on the shows we watch. Even on the weekends I averaged just over an hour a day. Not bad, Mrs. ETT, not bad.

How Does My Reading Stack Up?

I love reading, but I don’t feel like I read enough books. Pre-internet, and even for years afterwards, books were my primary medium. That has changed significantly. Over the three weeks, I spent 38 hours reading—that’s an entire work week! The problem is that I am spending too much of it reading blogs, and not enough reading books. I could also do with reducing the amount of time I spend on the internet. Some of that is the Sydney Morning Herald (basically the gossip magazine of news), some is Bored Panda, and the rest is following random interests. I confess, I do enjoy going down those rabbit-holes.

The majority of the reading I am doing is short-form. I really miss discovering an amazing story, and going on a journey with the characters. I miss the depth. Comics are great for stories, but it’s not the same. I also think I am reading blogs out of habit. When you first discover a new topic, there’s so much to learn. I devoured page after page. But after 2 years, much of the content is the same. I enjoy what I read, and occasionally I find a gem that makes me change the way I think. It’s more difficult to find those now. I’m ready to move on.

Time Tracking of What I Read

Blogging is a Great Hobby, But Takes Time…

Sometimes, I’ll be hit with a flash of inspiration, and get the bulk of a post written in an hour. Most of the time, I have research involved with my posts, so preparing them takes longer. Then there is the formatting, building graphs, finding and inserting images, editing and proofreading. I spent 28 hours on blogging activities, or about 9 hours a week outside of reading blogs. Again, in this table, reading takes up too much time. I want to comment more. I also enjoy Twitter and would like to engage with more people.

Time Tracking of Blog Activities

Priorities

Miss Balance suggested I look at how the priorities I’d defined for myself stack up.

  • Work and sleep includes getting ready and travel time, but doesn’t include 2 Fridays I’d normally work.
  • Priority 1 includes Dungeons and Dragons, cooking/eating, and writing blog posts.
  • Priority 2 includes socialising, volunteering and exercise.
  • Priority 3 includes all other activities.

Time Tracking Priorities Graph

This graph clearly shows that there is a mis-match between how I want to spend my time, and how I actually spend my time. This is particularly obvious for priority 2. My volunteer work has a natural ebb and flow as to how much time it takes. I recorded during a lull, so the wedge would be larger if I were recording now. Long time readers know, however, that it is the exercise portion of this wedge I need/want to increase. If I stopped reading blogs altogether, that would give me an extra 7 hours a week, or 4% of my time back. Even if I halved the amount, that would still be 3.5 hours—infinitely more than I do now!

Activities and Transitions

I thought I would look at not only what I do, but how I structure my day. This was an eye-opener. Over the three weeks, the number of distinct activities I do on any one weekday is only just less than I do on a weekend. This is despite work taking 11 extra hours out of those days!

Weekday 12.3 activities

Weekend 14.5 activities

So during this period of recording, work took up 30% of my week but I only reduced the activities I did by 15%.
Time Tracking Activities by Day

This leads on to transition times. Much like my short form reading, it appears I don’t spend long, in-depth time on any one activity (outside of work, sleep and DnD). On average, I change between activities 23 times per day during the week, and 28 times per day on weekends. It’s too much. I’m flittering and multi-tasking and that doesn’t make for good concentration.

Number of transitions between activities.

Time Tracking Insights

Colourful graphs are one thing, but knowledge is another thing entirely. Here’s what I’ve learned from my time tracking activity.


Problem: I fill up my time, which leaves me with little leeway for pursuing new interests, or staying on top of things when the unexpected happens. It only takes one lost evening before I’m stressing about not having enough time. This occurs even when I’m invited to something fun. How silly to think “Well there goes my plans for checking email,” when a great social opportunity has presented itself. Who does that? Um, me?

Solution: Schedule in empty time. This could be catch-up time so I don’t feel overwhelmed, or it could be interest/going down the rabbit hole time.


Problem: I try to do everything, everyday. I want to get into deeper work, instead of chopping and changing so frequently. There’s a sense of rush.

Solution: I can batch when I check email, or read a book, or volunteer. Hopefully this will bring a greater level of satisfaction as far as accomplishing tasks goes. Likewise, if there is some slippage, then I don’t necessarily have to skip doing something altogether. Maybe it means I do less of it that day, then catch up in one of my scheduled catch-up times.


Problem: I spend too much time on non-priorities.

Solution: Pretend it’s like personal finance, and pay myself first. Schedule in my priorities (like exercise). Then, once I’ve done that, the rest is left for me to spend as I wish.


Problem: Work takes up too much of my time.

Solution: Stop work! Ha, no. We are still spending $70,300 a year, after all. Work is on the cards for the next 15 years, as we build financial independence.

I could get a job closer to home. I tried that recently. While I wasn’t successful, and I decided it was more important to me to stay for the end of the project I’m working on, this is an option I’ll pursue in the future. I could gain around 2 hours a day in travel time. We have a sister office in my home town. I’ve let the manager and other influential staff know that I would love to work for them. We have a good relationship, which I continue to build upon. It may never happen, but I see no harm in planting the seed.

Another option is to work part-time; to pursue semi-retirement rather than FIRE. I will be doing this. I’ve already taken action by letting work know that when the project is completed, I’ll be wanting to go part-time. A couple of times in the past, budgetary constraints have been mentioned. I took the opportunity to approach the director and offered to save money by dropping to part-time work. Unfortunately, the project needs me full-time until completion, however, again I’ve planted the seed.


Problem: I’ve felt like this 2 years in a row now. The circumstances will be the same again next year—we have to take leave because the business shuts down. I don’t want to feel like this again. Strangely, I don’t get this feeling of overwhelm when I’ve chosen to take holidays. Maybe that’s because we only take annual leave when we are going away somewhere?

Solution: Not much I can do about the circumstances. I fought hard the last two years to be able to work, but was ultimately unsuccessful. I wonder if planning holiday activities would help? We don’t want to go away—it’s hot, crowded and expensive. But maybe we could go for drives, or visit museums rather than spending the time doing all the fun online stuff at home.


Finally, now I know. When I start to feel overwhelmed, I can prescribe myself some time tracking. I’ll instantly start feeling better!

What do you think? Do you have any insights you could offer me? How do you cope with feeling overwhelmed? All suggestions welcome.

6 thoughts on “Time Tracking — I Do How Much of What?!

  1. This is so freakin’ cool! I also started tracking my time. It’s shocking what you’ll find out about yourself. I found that I waste significant amounts of time trolling Facebook and checking email. As a result, I get sidetracked like crazy. Batching tasks is a great solution. I also started using Unroll.me to batch my blog subscriptions into a once-a-day email (instead of 100-a-day!).

    • I loved doing this. I could have kept going, but the post date was due, and I was already past 2.000 words! I knew I read a lot of blogs, but I didn’t realise it was taking up so much of my time. In one respect, it’s an easy way to claw some time back. On the other hand, I’m a collector. Even of blogs. It’s going to be as difficult to pick which posts I don’t read as it is for me to declutter 😩. I’ve also discovered side-tracking is an issue for me. I’m taking steps to make myself focus.

      Did you do a post on the results of your tracking? If so, can you link here?

  2. Getting enough sleep on workdays is a tough ask. I used to try get by on around 6-6.5 hours. But after 3 days or so you really feel like crap. The extra sleep really helps with mood and functioning properly, despite the loss of free time, so I’m with you there 🙂 No point having extra free time, but being too tired and grumpy to enjoy it, haha!

    Sounds like you found a good solution – bringing it back to priorities. Focus on those first, the rest can be secondary. At least you’ll feel accomplished, since you got the most important things done and it should make you feel good regardless of not doing ‘everything’.

    • I’d love to be able to get by on less sleep, because what I can accomplish during the week is limited. Of course, if I got a job closer to home, I could achieve the same outcome. #Choices.

      I’ve added some recurring tasks to my reminders, on different schedules. I do my volunteer work every second day, and check on email address once a week, and something else every 3 days. It’s working! Now I have to work on not immediately filling the extra time I have with new things…

  3. what an awesome tool!!
    and really impressed by the idea behind it and the way you have outlined.

    can you delegate some of the things you don t like to do?
    we re all the same (westerners) we do a lot and all at the same time: meditation is the answer to that (IMO). This has been a life changer to me.

    but man.. nice work you already know where you spend your time now. 99.99% of people don t including me. what a great place to start.
    and you have already done the analysis..

    • Thanks Grogounet! Do you know what – delegation has never crossed my mind. We already outsource the lawn mowing. I don’t think Mr. ETT wants to take on any of my tasks, but I will run my eye over them again and see if something could be possible. Thanks for the idea.

      I’ve half-heartedly tried meditation a few times, but never made the effort to get it to stick. Yet everyone who does it loves the benefits. How often do you meditate, and for how long?

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