No, You Don’t Have To Track Your Time Forever

Over at the Urban Muse Writer, Susan Johnston reviewed 168 Hours. It’s a great review, and I’m really thrilled with it, but one thing I noticed was that in the comments a few people said that the idea of tracking their time made them want to poke their eyes out.

You know what?  I agree. Just in case anyone wonders, I have not been keeping a running tally of the last 2 years. I’ve recorded roughly 5 actual weeks. (You can see two of them here, in June and September). I don’t particularly find it enjoyable to turn such a close  eye on how I’m spending my hours. But I do think it’s a useful exercise to try once or maybe twice. Here’s why:

1. Many of us have absolutely no idea how we’re spending our time. We think we work 50 hours a week (maybe?), and maybe sleep 7-8 hours a night (49-56 hours) but what are we doing in the other 62-69? In the review, Johnston mentioned she hadn’t tracked her weekend, which I understand, but this is also the biggest black hole for most people. You know your weekday schedule, roughly. The weekend can slip away before you even notice. Tracking weekend time (and “relaxing” is a perfectly great entry) helps us figure out how we’d like to be spending those precious hours.

2. Paradoxically, we think we’re starved for time. It’s funny, we have no idea where the time goes, yet we think we have no time. I’ve had tons of very, very busy people keep time logs and they always find that they have space somewhere. The truth is rough, but it also sets us free. Fortunately, you usually only have to track one week to figure this out.

3. The act of observing something changes the thing being observed. If you have to write down “Worked 5 minutes on main project then took 45 minute Facebook and web surfing break” you may be a bit less inclined to do it again, you know?

This constant analysis gets old quickly, unless you have a certain personality type (and you also track your spending, your calories, your exercise, etc.) But one week will give you enough information to make any changes in your life that you really want to make. If the idea still makes you want to poke your eyes out, try blatant bribery. Ice cream after dinner for every day you’ve successfully logged!

A personal note: Many of you read my BNET “168 Hours” blog as well. Thank you for doing that! I’m quite close to meeting a personal traffic goal for the month of March, so if you haven’t visited recently, I’d appreciate your stopping by. Here are a few recent posts:

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