Welcome to the 168 Hours Time Tracking Challenge!

I hope everyone had a great weekend. For those of you tracking time this week, welcome! The 168 Hours Time Tracking Challenge starts this morning (use that link to get daily emails from me). If you need a time log, you can download one (Excel or PDF; 30- or 15-minute versions) here. You can also use any commercial time tracking app (e.g. Toggl). Or just walk around with a little notebook if you want to look all artsy. Or pay your very own Boswell to take notes for you?

The tool itself doesn't matter. What matters is that you do it. Time tracking is tremendously useful to the cause of time management. After all, how can you spend your time better if you don't know how you're spending it now? We all have blindspots on time (more on mine below!) As for a time tracking challenge, I know that many people ("obligers") like to know that other people are paying attention and counting on them to do something. Several hundred of us will be tracking our time this week. If you'd like to figure out where the time really goes, this could be a great opportunity.

I will be posting my time logs here. Since it's still pretty early on Monday, not too much has happened. I'll write the full post later tonight. We had a pretty full weekend: date night dinner at Cerise on Friday, where the chef (a friend) told us that he had spent all day prepping for Bryn Mawr Day (a local festival). We had sort of forgotten that was this weekend, but decided to go on Saturday. The kids had fun at a little petting zoo, and getting to ride the firetrucks (well, sort of. One child got to sit in the front of the fire truck, and the others did not, and the others that did not were SO UPSET about their brother getting the front seat that one child claimed the fire truck was a least favorite part of the weekend, even though getting to ride on a fire truck is objectively awesome. Ah, the human condition. Any wonder is not wonder enough if anyone else has just a little bit more!). We grilled steaks on Saturday night, my husband and daughter made an apple pie, and then we lit a fire in our fire pit after the 2-year-old went to sleep. S'mores! On Sunday we went to church for "Rally Day," which is the Presbyterian thing where kids move up to the next Sunday school class. There were bubbles and hot dogs and all was mostly good except the 5-year-old's balloon animal popped (in just a small part! It was actually still functional) and she screamed and threw a temper tantrum that was so over the top I heard some other kid ask her mom "Why is she being so bad?" The mother shushed her child. Nice. Later on Sunday, we took the 3 big kids to Nanuet NY for a friend's kid's Bar Mitzvah. It was kind of a long drive, but we had a really good time on the dance floor. We made it home at 10 p.m., the kids were showered and in bed by 10:30, and then my husband and I had dessert together.

This morning started way too early. The 2-year-old started shrieking at 4 a.m. I ignored him, and fortunately he shut up. Then he woke up again at 5:15. That time I went to him. He was yelling "I want you to read me a little story!" I read two stories in the bleary semi-darkness, and got him back in his bed by 5:40. I dozed off, and then he was up at 6:10 - but that was all my husband's turn. He woke me up at 7:10 so I could shower. We had breakfast in waves. G came around 7:45. We had a small crisis with the 10-year-old having forgotten to give us a list of additional school supplies requested by his math teacher (they have separate math from their normal teacher). He was very concerned that it was due today, which would be surprising given that she gave him the list on Friday, but it was hard to get him calmed down about it. Anyway, he and I also practiced his lines for a community musical audition he has today. I wrote three notes to three teachers about dismissal variations. I got the kids started on the shoes-and-backpacks process at 8:28. We were out at the bus stop by 8:33, where we were soon joined by the four other children who get on the bus with us. I did bus stop monitor duty, and got everyone on by 8:40. G and my 2-year-old were out the door by 8:45.

I have been working since, mostly email answering (and typing up this). I'll do the full post on the day tonight.

Anyway, if you've read this far...what have I learned from tracking time?

I spend more time in the car than I think. Now that I am aware of this, I'm more conscious about downloading podcasts to listen to during solo trips.

I have plenty of time to read. My reading frenzy this year is partly about recognizing that I was reading a lot, but little of consequence. Now I use reading time for actual literature.

Exercising doesn't take much time. Even with my running streak (200+ days in a row!) I still average around 5 hours/week. Exercise only takes a lot of time in our explanations for why we're not doing it.

What will you learn by tracking time? Let's find out!

In other news: My podcast co-host Sarah wrote a Hurricane Irma update this weekend. They are safe and trying to make the most of the "vacation" (ha) that results from an ordered evacuation.

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9 Responses to Welcome to the 168 Hours Time Tracking Challenge!


  1. Scott says:

    Any time I do a “Drucker analysis (of time)” I find that I perturb the activities as I work more quickly and in a more focussed manner because I’m writing it down (the work equivalent of the observer effect in physics). I’ve already done in 30 minutes what I would normally do in 90 (so posting this is “free”).

    • @Scott – I am with you! Focused work gets done a lot faster. And then we can take real breaks (to, say, post comments on blogs) in the saved time.

  2. Phil says:

    Thank you for organizing this for us. probably the push I needed to really commit to recording instead of having a vague idea of how I am spending this most precious resource…

  3. Ethen says:

    Let’s start this, it’s good to know that a more detailed descriptions are encouraged.

  4. Meghan says:

    Sounds like a great weekend! I spent yesterday putting the finishing touches on my podcast and helping my husband moving all the outdoor furniture into the garage to prep for Irma. I was so surprised by how much we have!
    I love your advice that there is no such thing as a “typical week” and to track anyway — so far, the kids’ schools are canceled today and tomorrow because of Irma (I’m in west-central Georgia, right in the path but far enough inland that it’s just a tropical storm]. My husband is home from work, and I’m doing as much work as possible in case there’s a power outage.
    I have an index due Friday, and this morning I’ve already relearned the same lesson I learn *every time I do this challenge*, which is: I can get a lot done relatively quickly if I just sit down and focus. There are enough “natural” interruptions to my day; why create new ones? So I’m about to close my browser and have already quit my mail program and get back to work.

    • @Meghan – yes, there are many natural distractions. No need to create extra ones.
      Good luck with the storm — and that’s smart to move the furniture inside!

  5. Gary says:

    I am in France so my day is now over. I remembered to start recording my time around 2pm, by that time I had been working for 4 hours with the tv on with focus mainly on the tv screen instead of the laptop. This is somewhat out of character but recording it just highlighted how much time was wasted. Not a good Day 1 as I was up late after a late night. My main problem is self discipline, I have started to plan sessions into my day to ensure that I do my job (I work from home) and start working on my own business (which will hopefully get me out of my job) but I rarely stick to them. I’m hoping this exercise will really help to identify how I can move forward. Think I just need to take the whole thing more seriously if I want results!

  6. Carlos says:

    It was great. I was so excited that each time I finished an issue I rushed to update my timetable.

  7. Barbara says:

    Our United Methodist Church also has Rally Day at the start of the Sunday School Year. For ours we have a service for families the first Sunday with no Sunday School. The Sunday School starts the next week. In the afternoon, the church rents out Downers Grove’s old fashioned movie theater to show a free movie to our church members and the community. This year the movie was “Sing”. I enjoyed watching it with my husband, my sister’s family, and my parents.
    I am continuing the time tracking from when I did it previously with you. I don’t get everything recorded but at least I get the important things recorded.

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