A couple of years ago, I did an experiment, tracking my time for a week. I was motivated to do so after reading Laura Vanderkam’s fabulous book, 168 Hours. Tracking my time was a life-changing, and eye-opening experience and the lessons have stuck with me ever since.
The point of time tracking isn’t to squeeze the most productivity out of each hour.
I wouldn’t want to live like that, and I dislike the culture of busy that’s taken over the American consciousness.
The point of time tracking is to see how you’re actually spending your time. To gather objective information. Which can sometimes surprise you!
Another benefit of time tracking? It allows you to analyze if you’re spending your life in alignment with your goals and values.
The point of keeping a food journal is to see what you actually ate, not what your ideal-best-self plans to eat. After noting that every day at 3 p.m. you head to the pantry for hands full of chocolate chips and pretzels, you can instead plan a snack at that time, and stock the fridge with Greek yogurt and berries.
And so it is with time tracking.
Some examples from my latest time tracking experiment:
I realized that I am still affected by interrupted sleep. In the mid-afternoon when my youngest nurses for a nap, I often end up holding him and sitting on the couch for far too long. I’m happy that he’s still nursing, and don’t mind putting him to sleep this way, but I’m not cool with spending that much time sitting.
Armed with this knowledge, I can make some changes so that that time doesn’t just disappear. I can plan to put on my ERGO baby carrier and “walk” baby to sleep.
Or, I can plan a bit of exercise just before my energy slump. I can eat a snack or drink something refreshing to boost my energy.
But if I’m simply too tired to stay active, I’ll take a quick snooze. A 20 minute nap is a lot better than an hour-long couch fest.
Alternatively, if I don’t want to nap, I could plan low-energy tasks during that time, such as reading (a good book, not random scrolling on the cell phone), reviewing/updating my Bullet Journal, or reading aloud to the kids.
In other words, I can remember that this energy slump is a reality, and plan accordingly.
Just like last time, the time tracker shows that I spend a good bit of time reading aloud to my kids each day. I’m happy to discover that, as I want to develop a culture around books in my home.
I’ve also found that I spend 1-2 hours daily in “food prep” – meal planning, cooking. I’m ok with that, as I enjoy cooking.
However, I also don’t mind doing a bit of batch cooking or buying frozen chopped veggies (which is also a health bonus – the convenience of chopped onions and peppers in the freezer means I eat veggies with breakfast most days instead of not) to shave that down a bit.
One thing that has surprised me about tracking my time? I don’t spend nearly as much time cleaning house as I think I do. Another reason this is a valuable experiment. As Laura mentions in her book, we view tasks differently, and we spin a narrative about our lives that doesn’t always match reality. I have stopped grumbling about cleaning as a result. Definitely a positive!
Part two of what I learned time tracking is here. There’s a great lesson for stay-at-home-moms in this article!
If you’re thinking about trying it, Laura has a free time tracking spreadsheet you can download, and some suggestions here on how to analyze your time-tracking results.
And if this article benefited you in some way, please pin it. Thanks!