Seeing the whole picture: My time log analysis of a week in February

photo-128I logged my time last week, Mon Feb 10- Sun Feb 16. As I’m asking numerous other women to keep logs for the Mosaic project, I figured I should join in the experience. I wish I could just put the spreadsheet up here but I can’t seem to figure out a way to make the formatting work.

Anyway, it was a full week, but showed a lot of the nuance inherent in a real life — in this case, my life.

My husband and I were both traveling for part of last week. I was in California and he was in France. Attending the MAKERS conference meant I had some awesome entries on my time log: walking on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, laughing at four stand-up comedy performances (all women), seeing Gwen Ifill interview Sheryl Sandberg, etc. It also meant I was on a plane for about 12 hours. While traveling, I try to work a lot, so there were some long work days.

But there was also a lot of downtime, and kid time. We were buried under a foot of snow on Thursday and our nanny couldn’t get here, so the kids and I spent all day together in the house (and in the driveway building igloos). My husband’s flight did land safely that evening, which I was grateful for, because the kids and I had kind of had enough of each other by bedtime. I’ve gained a new appreciation for the trials of the Ingalls family during The Long Winter (at least we had food).  

It was a week of weather contrasts. I ate breakfast outside on Wednesday morning in California, then drove home that night from the PHL airport in the first hours of the blizzard. All told, I spent 2.25 hours shoveling snow as a primary activity during the week. I also did it as a secondary activity while playing in the snow with the kids. No wonder my back and shoulders feel like they got a serious workout. (As for other workouts, I ran twice at the YMCA: 2.5 miles Saturday, 4.0 miles Sunday, and went swimming on Sunday with my 2-year-old).

I had an unusual number of fancy dinners during those 168 hours. There were two at the conference, but then back in PA my husband and I went out to eat for Valentine’s Day, and spent Saturday night at the American Heart Association’s Philadelphia ball. I did some cooking myself: I baked cookies on Sunday, and also made my guacamole with jalapenos, which meant it had a bit more of a kick than anyone else in my family liked. Oh well. I liked it.

I’m unsure how to count my work hours. I know this is something I will struggle with while tallying up the Mosaic participants’ hours. Under the strictest definition of work, I logged about 40 hours. But I read for 7 hours on my plane flights. How should I count this? I’m traveling for work and I’m getting fodder. But it’s not strictly work reading (I read The Economist for entertainment!). Under the 40-hour total, I didn’t count my dinners at the conference, but I was talking to people who might be professional contacts. If we count those two dinners and count half the reading time, that puts me at 49 hours. As long time readers know from my previous time logs, this is my exact work set point. When I’m on track to work less during a week, I feel behind and start working more at night and on weekends to make it up. When I’m on track to work more, I start goofing off during work hours. (I did not count time driving to/from airports in these totals).

I slept 52.5 hours, which is also right at my set point — averaging out to 7.5 hours per night. My children slept in to at least 8 a.m. on the weekend mornings, which was heavenly. It made it possible to stay up until midnight and not be cranky all weekend. The 2-year-old has pretty much given up her nap. Nonetheless, she’s able to watch TV now, and play independently. That meant I could get a little bit of work in on Thursday, the snow day, and on Sunday when I had her all day (my husband tried to take the boys skiing, but there was such a long line for rentals and lift tickets that they came home — too bad!)

On one hand, you could view the week as intense. Our nanny spent the night two nights, and we had some other sitters too. Indeed, if I were given to writing “Maxed Out” or “Overwhelmed” narratives, I might describe my fretting there in LAX as flight after flight to the east coast was canceled. Our nanny had to get home to feed her cats so she’d handed over the reigns to another sitter who’d now be stuck overnight with the kids and…well, life management, like chess, is about thinking a few moves ahead. I’d already warned her that could happen and she’d brought her toothbrush. As it was, I walked in the door around 11:30 pm as planned. But with the snow day — a not atypical occurrence for this winter! — I spent a whole weekday with my kids. I got way into the Olympics and managed to watch 7 hours of TV that week, plus some time watching kid programs with them.

Is the scene at LAX my life, or is baking cookies my life? Or, perhaps, is sitting on the couch drinking a beer, zoned out as my kids play Mario Kart my life? They all are really. Life is a mosaic, and keeping a time log lets you look at the whole composition.



7 Responses to Seeing the whole picture: My time log analysis of a week in February


  1. gwinne says:

    FWIW, I like reading these bits of your life summarized rather than charted…more holistic.

    I’ve been thinking quite a bit about Ma Ingalls too…just finished rereading The Long Winter as bedtime reading.

    • Laura says:

      @gwinne- it’s kind of intense bedtime reading! I found myself thinking the same thing Laura does at some point — there are a few days left in January, then February is a short month and March will be spring. In their case it was a false hope with blizzards until April. Let’s just hope that’s not the case here.

      • Ana says:

        Noooo. Don’t even say it!!! (but even if March isn’t quite spring, there are only FOUR WEEKS until official spring!!)

  2. Sarah says:

    I just picked up your book at the library and then was surprised when I stumbled upon your comment at Modern Mrs. Darcy.

    I’m enjoying the book so far. The idea of approaching time as a finite resource to be budgeted just like I do with money resonates with me. Looking forward to reading the rest!

    • Laura says:

      @Sarah- thanks for picking up the book! Welcome, and I hope you stick around :)

  3. Cara Marcano says:

    Life sounds good when you put it this way. I practice your time management strategy for weight control aka weight watchers.I am a huge fan of their program and what it does for folks in our culture who have trouble with food and weight. I do NOT know how you can track your time so well. HOnestly I have tried several times to keep the log and I cannot finish a whole week. I did do one day or two here and there but I honestly don’t seem to be able to do it… maybe it’s b/c I already do it for food etc. or b/c my life is super full and busy and this feels like another to do but frankly I have been surprised at how hard it is for me to do… maybe there is another way.. I am not having good 7-day success at it over any 7-day period of time… will try to engage you about it more

  4. I love the idea of life being a Mosaic. It really does consist of diverse pieces that fit together.
    This is important to remember, especially during those crazy times that often stress you out! I prefer to minimize those crazy moments, but they are just as much a part of life as the wonderfully blissful moments! Thanks for the reminder.