My work limit

PadlockI kept track of my time over the past 2 weeks. I figure if I’m asking other people to log their time for the Mosaic project, I should scrutinize my own logs as well!

A key part of logging time is figuring out how many hours I work. And the answer — at least with my current set-up — is surprisingly consistent. The last week of September and first week of October were quite different for me. In one, I was mostly working in the home office, and did a full half-day of work on Saturday while my husband took the kids. In the other, I traveled to San Francisco for 2 days, and spent the weekend camping, thus taking work off the table for much of the time. I’m not sure either would count as typical, though the first would be more typical than the second.

And yet I wound up logging the exact same number of “billable” hours. Not just similar. Exactly the same. As in 49 hours and 50 minutes the same.

This seems utterly improbable. Perhaps somebody else might have calculated the weeks differently — perhaps counting time in the car driving somewhere for work to be work, or time at a work-related reception to be work (I elected not to count that as work in one case, because I felt off the clock. In the other, I was gathering leads, so I did count it). That might have made the weeks come out differently. But I erred on the side of not counting things, and came up with 49 hours and 50 minutes both times.

I suspect that, sub-consciously, 50 hours feels like what I can put in. In week one, I was off more during the day, because of running, and some things at the kids’ schools. So I made up the time at night and, when I sensed I hadn’t completely made it up, I asked my husband to take the kids on the weekend. In week 2, I put in some seriously long days due to travel. I worked 5 hours on the plane to San Francisco, then worked much of the day there, making Tuesday close to a 14-hour day. But by Thursday I was fragged. Coming off the red-eye, I took a nap, worked in the afternoon, then puttered around at night. My total for that day was a mere 6 hours and 15 minutes. A 6-hour day and a 14-hour day average out at 10. And 5 10-hour days is 50 hours.

I think this is good to know. Whatever I want to do each week, professionally, I’ve got 50 hours to do it. If I work 47 weeks per year, that gives me 2350 hours. I see from my time logs that I have less ability to stretch this than I think I do. There is a work limit, and now that I know what that is, I can try to optimize the time within it.

What’s your work limit?

In other news: Wandering Scientist writes about her work limit in this post.

Photo courtesy flickr user stebulus

5 thoughts on “My work limit

  1. Thanks for the shout out! Your work limit is a bit higher than mine. I max out at about 45 hours of productive work per week. With my new Tungsten Hippo project, though, I’m discovering that I can sneak a few more hours of useful things in if there is no pressure and they are sufficiently different from my main workload. I should perhaps start a time tracking exercise to see if I can tease that apart more, but my history tells me that this time of the year is a bad time to focus on productivity. Instead, I just focus on getting through goal setting, budget setting, performance reviews, and the holidays with my sanity intact! Then in the new year, I “tune up” my work practices with a few weeks of time tracking.

    1. @Cloud- In my case, I consider blogging part of working, since it’s related, so that goes in the 50 hours. I’m not sure what my work limit would be if I wasn’t writing. But yeah, at some point I’m just done. That’s what happened in week 2, when I’d put in 3 long-ish days and an overnight flight at the beginning. But I’m also fascinated to see how I manage up to the work limit — figuring out ways to do an extra shift when I’m feeling behind.

  2. I used to keep track of my time down to the minute when I owned my own business. 50 hours was about my limit too. There were weeks where I worked 60 hours and one awful week of near 70 but when that happened I found I always paid for it the following week by feeling sluggish and unmotivated. The difference between 50 and 60 was huge for me. (Nothing like the difference between 40 and 50.) 50 hours was a number that I could maintain over the long haul and still have a life. Any more than that and I felt like I was at my breaking point.
    Another thing to note – although it is doable, 50 hours still feels like a lot to me. Some weeks I kept a running total and other weeks I didn’t total it till the end. When I didn’t total it till the end I would try and guess based on how it ”felt”. You would think I would learn but I was almost always 15-20% off. Overestimating my hours of course. 🙂 

    1. Did you keep track of other factors that happened during the week that might make it feel like it was a harder week?

      1. @WG – I think travel, especially long haul, or flights involving sleep time, can make a week seem harder. On the other hand, when I’m traveling, I get more me time than I do when I’m taking care of the kids in the evening. So it’s a tough call.

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