You know that nagging feeling that you’re not spending enough time with your kids? Or that you’re spending too much time at work? A sense of guilt hovers over you because you feel like you should be doing more of (blank). Tracking your time and having cold hard facts can put an end to the uncertainty. Here’s my first attempt at time tracking and the benefits I gained from doing it.
168 Hours in One Week
I finally did it. I think this was on my monthly intentions list for over two months. I tracked my time in 15 minute increments for a whole week! The book that made me want to do this was 168 hours by Laura Vanderkam. The subtitle tells you why you should do this: You have more time than you think!
She breaks down our time in a very no nonsense way:
- We all have 168 hours in a week.
- We can struggle with feeling like there is “not enough time”
- If you work 8 hours a day for 5 days a week, that’s 40 hours. (168-40=128 hours left)
- If you sleep 8 hours a night for 7 days a week, that’s 56 hours. (128 – 56 = 72 hours left)
- That leaves us with 72 hours a week, 8 hours a day during the work week, and 16 hours during the weekends!
- The question is, what are we doing with that time?
As a person who works outside the home three days a week, and trying to grow a blog and business, I can feel stretched and that I don’t spend enough time with my family. Tracking my hours for a week let me see that I’m actually spending quite a bit of time with the family. It also helped me answer how many hours a week I spend on my blog and business (at least for that week).
The How To of Time Tracking
Aside from Laura Vanderkam’s book, Jenny Shih’s article and podcast on time tracking really helped encourage me to finally track my time. Shih has a time tracker you can download on her website, and it’s the one I used to track my week:
It took a lot of intentionality to actually carry this around with me and jot things down, but I managed to do it every day except Tuesday night. I’m really not sure what happened that night, but it very well could have been a “I’m so exhausted I’m falling asleep and staying asleep all night while putting my youngest to bed.” Do you ever have one of those nights?
Recently my friend Tanya shared how she tracks her time for greater productivity. She tracks her time every week and color codes the categories of time. I decided to try that as well. I clumped my time into 6 different categories:
- work (outside the home) [ORANGE]
- family time [RED]
- household work (including meal prep, cleaning, laundry) [BLUE]
- blog and business [GREEN]
- personal care [PURPLE]
- sleep [YELLOW]
When I counted the hours in each category, here are my rough estimates of how much time I spend in each category:
- work (outside the home) = 24 hours
- family time = 28.25 hours
- household work (including meal prep, cleaning, laundry) = 15.25 hours
- blog and business = 25.5 hours
- personal care = 16 hours
- sleep = 42 hours
For those of you really good at math – that adds up to 151 hours. I’m not sure why it doesn’t add up to 168, but I’m not going to try to figure it all out. I got a good general idea of my time and that’s good enough for me!
The Benefits of Tracking my Time
Tracking my time helped me in several different ways. The most important way it impacted me was to increase my awareness of how my time is spent (duh, Angela – wasn’t that the point?) That may seem like an obvious point but seeing the blocks of color makes it obvious that:
- my sleep schedule is irregular
- the majority of my focused family time is on the weekends
- my morning routine takes about an hour
- my blogging doesn’t have a set schedule of time
- blog posts from start to finish with images, etc take 1.5-2 hours
Tracking my time also helped me to focus more clearly on the task at hand. If I was with my family, I didn’t try and do other things at the same time. I was present with them. If I was writing a blog post, I was focused on blogging and nothing else. Tracking my time helped me to keep it “uncontaminated time” or free from multitasking and trying to do many things at once.
It also helped reassure me that with the long view of time, my priorities are getting the attention they need. Life changes on a daily basis, so trying to measure my priorities and time within a 24 hour time frame isn’t an accurate measure. If we look at our time, however, by the week or month, it’s much more likely to reflect our priorities accurately.
It’s also not as much about how many hours I spend on something or with someone, but how focused I am during that time. 15 minutes of being fully present is better than one hour of multitasking work and family time.
The Next Step after Time Tracking
So now that I’ve tracked my time, it’s time to try time blocking and plan how I’ll use my time before the week begins!
The reason behind this is simple. Creating success on your own terms requires that you be intentional. That means you have to take yourself off autopilot and be mindful of your choices.
That means, if you value sleep, plan it. If you value exercise, plan it. If you value picking your kids up after school, plan it.
Jenny Shih, How to Dominate Your Day
Tell me – have you tried tracking your time? What insights or benefits did you gain from doing it?
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