What I learned (again!) from my time log

I spent the past week tracking my time. I’m still drilling down into the details, but I had a few broad insights from the experience.

1. It’s really hard to work long hours. I did work on all 7 days. I worked after my kids went to bed 6 out of 7 nights. I went into NYC one day and was doing work on the train until 10:30 p.m. But I still could not honestly “bill” more than 50 hours. My total for the week was pretty much 50 hours on the nose.

2. I need to be better about protecting my time during the work day. This week, the particular culprit was (believe it or not) personal care. A few days this week I worked out during my normal 8-5:30 childcare hours, but then I needed to look presentable to go somewhere. Showering, getting dressed, and doing my hair would eat up chunks of the day, partly because I’d do it in bits and pieces. I also need to not do errands during the workday. Now that I’ve seen how precious my workday time really is, I know that if I keep getting this distracted, I’ll be working a lot of nights and weekends.

3. To that end, I should be more judicious about what projects I take on. It’s nice to be in demand, but some stuff takes more time than it should.

4. I sleep less on weekends than during the week. This is the complete opposite of most people. I wind up staying up later with my husband on weekend nights. But the kids don’t really sleep in.

5. I slept about 7.4 hours per night, on average. This is pretty close to the 7.5 I think I need, so I’m OK with that.

6. I spent a fair amount of time on weekdays with my kids. I ate lunch with my two youngest ones every week day. I set foot in both my 4-year-old’s and my 6-year-old’s schools.

7. If I add it up, I get a reasonable amount of personal and leisure time. Most notably, I ran more than 25 miles, which fills a few hours. I counted some time walking through NYC on Thurs night as personal time. I went out to dinner with my husband on Saturday night. We watched some Jon Stewart. It’s not as much personal time as I’d like, but it’s not nothing either. Keeping a time log helps me see that even if I spend a lot of time working and with my kids, there is still space for other things.

7 thoughts on “What I learned (again!) from my time log

  1. Thanks for posting this, it’s really helpful to me. Like you, I’m a mum who writes from home and I NEED to protect my workday hours! Writing in the evenings is tiring and I can’t do anything when the kids are home… Yet I use my workday hours to work out, clean, meet friends, shop… Argh!

    You need a quick look for speedy getting-ready. I love BB cream (moisturiser/concealer and foundation in one), some powder and blush, one eyeshadow palette in lights and darks so You can highlight and line all in one go. Done lipgloss and a nice quick up-do (I love chignons cos they’re quick to fake) and you’re done. This should/can take 15 mins, tops.

    Glad you had a date night! You were sounding grumpy about your husband last week, so I’m glad you two had some proper time together.

    Thanks again – this has inspired me to sort out my timetable. (She says, from the sofa, watching tv at 10am.)


    1. @Kate – it’s so true. I do errands during the day, because I can do them solo and hence more pleasantly. But that takes valuable work time. I need to rethink that. I am thinking I may need a treadmill in my basement too, to be able to exercise in the early AMs. I wish I could run outside but that’s not always going to work with my life right now.

  2. #1 is true for me, too, and its not related solely to time, but also mental energy/motivation. Even during an 8 hour workday its impossible for me to work 8 hours straight unless I’m really good about switching up different types of tasks (thinking/writing/actual physical lab work/phone calls). Also #4, this weekend was particularly terrible because we had social things Friday and Saturday night that kept us up past midnight (!!) and yet had the usual 6AM wake-up. I went to bed at 8 on Sunday and feel much better now!

  3. I love reading about the time logs and how life changing it can be (especially in our attitudes about where time is being spent). I really need to do some time logs but have been afraid to as I know I have some major time wasted in my days.
    I started a new role in my job which is an exciting opportunity but is a brand new role with few guidelines. This role requires many discussions with coworkers which can easily get off track and eat up major chunks of my work day. I also teach and need to be prepping and marking as well as being in the classroom. This will definitely be a learning experience in teaching me to protect my time and keep discussions on task as much as possible so I can do quality work in all areas of my job.

  4. If you do your time log in Word, I’m curious about how the actual process works. Do you jot it down as you do it… so before your run, you go to your computer and write your start time for exercise, then run, then come home, and “clock out” on word? Just curious how nitty gritty you get in recording it. Ha. I love details.

    1. @Archer – my usual line in speeches is “write down what you’re doing, as often as you remember, in as much detail as you think will be helpful.” I tend to remember every few hours, and reconstruct what I was doing. It’s not perfect — I probably lose some of the granularity — but it’s a lot less disruptive to normal life that way. There’s the saying that the act of observing something changes the thing being observed, and there’s some element of that with time tracking too. For starters, you’re more cognizant of distractions. But also, writing it down takes time. If I have to write it down, I open my computer more often than I might on weekends, too, and I have to check email while I’m there…

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