As part of a productivity practice recently I’ve been actively logging and tracking how I spend my time in increments of 30 minutes.
I’ve been doing this for over a month now, and wanted to share some results. The tracking is happening in a Google sheet, and looks like this.
The time tracking is below with color coded cells for each category. Some of the categories are: family time, productive time, sleep, essentials, writing, wasted time, etc. I have them in a bar graph that higlights the total amount per category per day.
In the top rows I also track my to-do list. These are populated based on Weekly/Monthly goals from a regular planning and retrospective practice. In a graph (shown at the bottom of the sheet), I analyze the number of tasks per day, how many I actually complete, and a rolling average of tasks.
Doing this was very unnatural at first but once I started I quickly looked past the inconvenience and got addicted to the data. It gave me an understanding of myself I didn’t have before.
A few insights I got from the time tracking data:
- I somewhat expected this when I started my parental leave, but now I have data showing parenting tasks take an average of 8 hours a day, or a full time job.
- The Daily visuals are a great reminder that time is a zero sum game, doing one thing means not doing something else. This improves prioritization muscles very quickly.
- I can really visualize how messed up my sleep schedule is by seeing the nighttime interruptions.
- Tracking with visuals helps to isolate trends very quickly and I find myself being able to change behaviours quickly with less effort than before.
- 30 minute increments create a natural pause for re-evaluating how I’m spending time. I find myself automatically spending less time on wasted activities like getting caught in the social media and news vortex.
- I still don’t have the ideal times for the daily habits I’ve committed to - writing, reading and coding.
A few insights from the To do Tracking data:
- I was completing tasks at the exact same rate. Whether I had 3 to dos or 10, I maintained a 50% completion rate. This might be consistent over commitment. As soon as I noticed this I tried to actively reduce my to dos and found an increase in the completion - but only by 10%.
- I noticed a dip in completion after days where I completed 100% of tasks. Either a subconscious reward mechanism or burnout.
- Based on this I will try a better structure for task sizing and see if that affects my rate.
This practice gives me a great baseline and also a great experiment framework for productivity - I can try new productivity methods and see their impact. I’ll likely continue this for the foreseeable future.
Update: I’ve stopped this exercise after 3 months. I stopped getting value from it, and found every day to be highly repetitive as a new parent. I may start it up again later.