Time tracking: Getting into the weeds

5062499236_d021243c49_zI’ve been tracking my time this week. My next book, Mosaic, will be full of lessons from time logs, so I need to get back in the habit of logging my own hours.

I always tell people attempting this for the first time that it will be instructive. That’s an incomplete statement. It’s instructive even if you’ve done it dozens of times.

The first thing I am reminded of is just how hard it is to log long hours. On Monday this week, I was working at 8:10 in the morning, and at 10:10 at night. I had a sitter from 8-5:30; the kids were in their rooms after 8:40 p.m. But I only managed to “bill” 8.75 hours. That’s because I ran during the day (50 minutes) and had lunch with the kids (20 minutes). I also had a coffee with commenter Rachel, which meant I had to shower after running (hi Rachel! You’re probably glad to know that). I cut out a bit before 5:30 to get organized for the kids’ dinner before my sitter left.

Tuesday my billed hours were even lower. I spent an hour going to celebrate my son’s 4th birthday at his preschool. I had lunch with my kids and we lingered for a while — plus my toddler specifically wanted me to put her down for her nap. So I did. Then we celebrated the 4-year-old’s birthday at home once the 6-year-old got off the bus. Even though I worked 2 hours at night after the kids went to bed, I only “billed” about 7.5 hours.

There’s not much to be said about that. All those were my choices in the pursuit of having a full and meaningful life. I like being able to eat with my kids — something that won’t be an option in another 4 years or so when they’re all in school full time. If I didn’t run during the day, I wouldn’t get to run (I’ve been a single parent more often than I’d like these past few weeks — but that’s a matter for a different blog post. Or not). I totally enjoyed reading The Boy Who Loved Math to my son’s preschool class. I see no reason that 4-year-olds can’t hear about prime numbers and negative numbers and the crazy life of Paul Erdős. Nonetheless, if I feel that making progress in my career and doing a good job on projects I care about requires working 45-50 hours per week, this explains why I always wind up working on weekends.

I’m also trying to get granular on how my evenings go with the kids. The evenings are finally starting to be a bit more fun now that the baby is about to turn two. I can have conversations with all the kids, and there’s less screaming. I was solo for both of these evenings.

Here’s Tuesday (J = 6-y-o; S = 4-y-o; R = 2-y-o):

5:20-8:50 – full on kid time. (5:20-5:30, watch TV, do puzzle with R; 5:30-5:50- cook, back and forth to living room while kids watch TV; 5:50-6:10 dinner; 6:10-6:25- clean up, dishes, unload dishwasher; 6:25-6:45 – play outside; 6:45-7:05 – play Hungry Hippo in basement; 7:05-7:10 – get R a cupcake. 7:10-7:30 – put R to bed — bath and stories; 7:30-7:40 – some work, boys want me downstairs, so give up on that; 7:40-8:15 – play with boys – puzzles, Hungry Hippo; 8:15-8:25- ice cream with boys; 8:25-8:50 – stories – Boy Who Loved Math plus Big Book of Why)

Here’s Wednesday:

5:25-8:55 – kid time (5:25-6:25 – make dinner, eat dinner and cupcakes, clean up from dinner; 6:25-7:25 – mostly puzzles with R – do Barnyard puzzle 4 times; 7:25-7:45 – put R to sleep, 10 minutes of stories in there; 7:45-8:15 – play with boys in basement – puzzles, Hungry Hippo, etc; 8:15-8:35 – boys’ bath; 8:35-8:55 – read to boys and get them in bed)

I seem to be spending a lot of time doing puzzles. That’s because I don’t mind them. They’re less exciting to do with the 2-year-old because they’re not mentally challenging for me. But the older kids do the 200-piece variety, which I find reasonably engaging and relaxing.

I wish doing the dishes after dinner took less time. My general feeling is that if you’re in a family and you cooked dinner, someone else should do the dishes, but while the kids bring theirs to the sink, I haven’t figured out how to teach them pan scrubbing yet. The 6-year-old may be getting close.

I’d like to get the older boys into bed slightly earlier. The 4-year-old needs it. Then again, getting them into bed doesn’t help if I’m not willing to enforce silence. Last night the boys played together in their connected rooms until 10, which was sweet, but they all paid for it this morning.

How are you spending your evenings these days?

Photo courtesy flickr user ksyz

17 thoughts on “Time tracking: Getting into the weeds

  1. I straight up bribe the 4yo to not bother us at night 😉 She can watch TV or have her daily treat in the morning when she gets up if she stays in bed all night and doesn’t make us come in there to stop the shenanigans. It has made our lives SO MUCH better, considering the baby is still only about 30% sleeping through the night.

  2. “My general feeling is that if you’re in a family and you cooked dinner, someone else should do the dishes”

    Heck yeah!

    And the 6 year old is perfectly capable of loading the dishwasher and doing an imperfect job of pot scrubbing.

    Wait a few more years. I remember my sister, who is 7 years my senior and whose youngest kid is older than my oldest, telling me “your time will come”.

  3. A shout-out! Awesome. 🙂 Thanks for showering for our coffee outing – I appreciate it.

    My daughters are still little so they are in bed by 7pm, which opens up my weekday evenings quite a bit. One evening a week I like to go out with a friend or networking. One to two evenings a week I like to spend with my husband — just talking or watching some shows or something. And the other two evenings are spent doing work, professional development, or laundry. 🙂 Feels rather full to me!

  4. Our evenings are fairly similar. We can usually get the 2-year old to bed by 7:30, but the 3.5 year old is up for another hour after that, playing, getting ready, loooonnng books for bedtime stories. Thankfully, once he’s in bed, he’s exhausted and stays there (not the same story for the little one…). Once they are asleep we either read, watch shows together, or do work. I am adamant about doing something relaxing on the days I don’t have work I NEED to do. I just need that down time.
    My little one hasn’t figured puzzles out yet. He seems to be on the slower side for most things. He still tries to eat the pieces. My older son LOVED them at this age and has actually lost interest. It was his absolute favorite thing, so we have shelves stocked with puzzles! I like doing puzzles, too. I prefer that to playing with legos or blocks—I let my husband do that, he loves it.
    On another note, I’m finding time tracking to be harder than I thought. I keep starting and then forgetting to keep it up! I will get it done, though!

  5. Yes – dishes take forever. Even for a meal that’s ready in 20-30 minutes, dishes will still take 10-20 minutes, and that’s with a dishwasher. I still don’t trust my kids (8 & 10) to properly wash dishes. They can rinse their dishes and load the dish washer (and then I make sure to reorganize everything in it before actually turning it on). Scrubbing heavy pots is a challenge, so we do all of that. They are able to do a mediocre job of wiping the table, sweeping the floor, and packaging leftovers, so I will have them do those jobs. Even as a group effort, clean up still takes 10-20 minutes – it’s hard to get around it. I do remember doing full loads of dishes (by hand) as a child, but I don’t remember at what age I could do a decent job of it (definitely by 10-11). It will be nice to fully delegate the responsibility a few nights a week.

    1. Doing dishes just KILLS me! I agree — I have my meals down to 15-20 minutes cooking time, but then we have to hand-wash the dishes (no dishwasher in our house) and this takes more than 20 minutes every time. Looking forward to the day when we have a dishwasher. 🙂

  6. Like Ana, I find it hard to remember to keep up with time tracking or more than a day. I have tried so many times. But the attempts have at least caused me to look a little more closely at how many (or how few) hours I have to get work done, which definitely helped me reset my expectations for what I should be able to accomplish in a given timeframe.

    On a side note, I am so happy to learn that there is a kid’s book about Paul Erdos!

    1. @cmwp – it is hard to keep track for more than one day. That’s one reason I’m developing a survey that will allow for one day logging (e.g. yesterday) – that will help me get lots of data even from people who can’t do a whole week. I’ll probably try to collect data from lots of different groups and see what I come up with.

  7. I never eat anything other than soup or salad when I’m home alone in the evening with my 9-month-old. He has the patience to be in his high chair while I cook OR while I eat, and I’ll take the latter, thanks very much. I wish I could get a handle on evening time, but it seems like what I do depends completely on the baby’s needs/mood, which seem like they change from second to second.

  8. Laura, no offense, but you cannot be a single parent for a few weeks. You might *begin* to get the sense of what it’s like to be one but there needs to be better language to characterize it. Even “parenting solo for a few weeks” has a very different ring to it.

    That said, our nights–me, a 9-y-o, and an almost 2–look very similar to the ones you describe. But when 8:30 rolls around and I have both kids in bed (not asleep, just in bed!) I’m too tired to do much of anything productive. Thinking seriously about trying to do some art–not painting which would require too much stuff to clean up, but perhaps drawing–as a way to wind down. Doing housework, doing intellectual work, phone conversations, most tv shows, all rev me up too much to be able to sleep easily..

  9. I might be in the minority here, but I actually enjoy doing dishes. I find it to be a great time for creative thinking. Like exercising or showering, it’s a good opportunity for your mind to wander, and I often come up with ideas for blog posts or tweaks to characters in my novel while my hands are soapy. In this way, household chores can also be working time- or at least brainstorming time- and I think combining the two tasks makes them both more pleasurable. (Although I don’t know how I’d time-log it.)

    1. @Leanne – I think there are some chores we all enjoy more than others. I have on my list this weekend to declutter part of my bedroom and office. I also plan to bake the savory pie discussed in a previous thread. I’m looking forward to those things. My husband would spend all weekend working on the yard if he could. I guess the key is knowing what you enjoy and find good for thinking, and what just ticks you off. Dishes fall in the latter category for me!

  10. Re: teaching kids to do pots and pans; get a Scrub Daddy. Its a nifty little sponge-type thing we saw on Shark Tank. Smiley faced in shape, bright yellow and actually does a nice job of cleaning while being safe for non-stick cookware.

    1. @Judy- fascinating! I think I’m going to start with loading the dishwasher and slowly advance to the scrubbing. I think we can get there….

  11. One of the reasons I love reading blogs such as this, is the realization that children, especially under the age of two require a lot of our day hours (and many nights too). My youngest just turned one today and I have a 3 yo as well. Over the summer bedtimes have slid to 9 or 9:30pm before both kids are asleep. With the weather turning colder it’s easier to get them to bed earlier, last night was 8pm! I usually wait upstairs (often turning on the TV) until I know both are asleep and that saps any motivation to do something productive with the rest of the evening.

    With the earlier bedtimes back my goal is to plan ahead for each night so that I get something done instead of mindless TV watching.

    1. @Shelly- that’s a good goal. I love the idea of using evenings mindfully — having something in mind, hopefully something pleasant — and doing that. I wish I could get there 🙂

  12. That’s about what our evenings look like, only with my husband home, we do bedtime for the boys simultaneously. He takes the 3yo, I take the 6mo (since he’s still breastfeeding). I usually take 30-45 minutes to put dinner together while he plays with the boys, though I end up with the baby more often than not, and we eat as a family, then it’s straight to bath and bed if the 3yo didn’t nap. He gets to play a bit after dinner if he does nap, but bath time is as close to 7:15 as possible. I’m the last one out of their room, between 8 and 8:30, and my husband and I try to get one last hour of work in before tackling the dishes and the laundry, then it’s one more feeding for the baby around 10 or 10:30.

    Have you introduced your kids to speed puzzle yet? It’s a super fun way to make puzzles exciting — make it a race! Each person gets a puzzle, and the first one finished wins. Gentle trash talking makes it even better.

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