What is a typical week?

I’m on vacation this week, and so I’m re-running some posts from the archives. This one ran in summer, 2010, shortly after I’d had many people keep track of their time for a “168 Hours Challenge.” — Laura

When people ask me for my best time management tip, I always tell them this: try tracking your time for a week. If you’re on the fence, just try logging your time for one day. I guarantee it will be eye-opening. One of the reasons it may be eye-opening is that you’ll re-consider your definition of “typical.”

When I asked people to keep time logs for 168 Hours, some people asked to start over with a different week, because the week in question had some outlier event. The kids were out of school that week. Or they were visiting their grandmother, so the childcare tally went way down. That was the week the contractor replaced the floors. The person took a half day on Thursday.

All well and good. But the thing is, unless you will never take another half day in your life, these things do add up. One of the reasons we think we work more than we do is that people don’t figure half days, errands, summer Fridays, late arrivals, etc., into their tallies. We tend to remember the nights we didn’t sleep well, and discount the many when we do. We think of our lives as crazed because we remember the week that our kids had six sports practices — not the other weeks when they didn’t. And really, we meant to exercise that week, and we “typically” do, but things got out of hand. Right?

There are never typical weeks. If you value exercise, you will bring your running shoes to your conference and stay in a hotel with a treadmill. If you value interacting with your kids, you will make time to call them/write them even if you’re on different continents. Logging your time will help you see if the way you are spending your hours matches your priorities. Even if your 168 hours are crazy.

What makes a week typical for you? How does typical differ from ideal?

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