Nearing the end of my 8784 hours

IMG_0546In late April last year, inspired by the time logs in I Know How She Does It, I decided to start tracking my time continuously. I am still at it now, just shy of a year later. Since the goal was to get through a year — normally 8760 hours, but 8784 hours with the leap year — I am almost there. I printed up most of the logs this morning and started what will be the last full week I need to record for this experiment.

It has not been onerous. I take a minute or two a few times a day to write down what I have been doing. It is fairly high-level: work or read or kids or clean up, that sort of thing. While part of me wishes I had been more detailed on my work entries, so I could figure out how much time I spent in my inbox, or on the phone, or working on my blog, any time-keeper inevitably faces the tension between capturing details and not turning time-keeping into its own huge time suck.

I will be doing the full analysis of my year soon (and because it is my own naval-gazing blog, I will post the results!) But as I printed up the logs this morning, I could already see a few things.

First, my baby slept pretty well in April last year. He got worse as he got older. There were some fairly atrocious stretches within these time logs. The spreadsheet format makes that clear. I can see night after night of being up in the middle of the night, often multiple times. On some level, I am surprised it was as productive a year as it was. I think I have been doing a lot of muddling through in something of a haze. Thankfully, all of this has gotten better in the last 2-3 months. This lifting haze explains why I have been relishing my sleep of late.

Part of the relishing: an early bedtime. I have convinced myself that going to bed early is how grown ups sleep in. I have been able to convince myself of this because I have also noted that I am seldom doing much of consequence before bed. If I am busy I will work, but the work ebbs and flows. I fill my late night puttering time with magazine reading. It is my equivalent of TV. I should start reading some better literature. Some of the magazine fare is interesting but I do not need to read another story on how air popped popcorn is the perfect low calorie snack.

There was a lot of breastfeeding and pumping over the year. I have just finished this, which in its own way is momentous. I have been pregnant or breastfeeding for the vast majority of the past decade. While the end of that might be a cause for melancholy, I am also intrigued to think that I am starting a new chapter of my life.

Overall, though, two things strike me as the key takeaways. First: how much space there is in my life. In theory, I am busy. A quick glance at my logs reminds me of the sheer volume of travel this year has entailed. Then there are the four kids, and their associated activities. But the busyness ebbs and flows too, and the nature of writing is that it requires open space for thinking and creating. I have been pretty good over this past year at making sure that space still exists. Maybe not as much as I want. But it is there.

Second, even as there is space, I have an amazing and full life. The logs make me grateful for that. There is the professional stuff, which has been fun, but I enjoy seeing what we have done as a family too. My kids went to Disney World and Disneyland in one year! They went to the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago and Six Flags outside Washington DC. They saw the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. Whenever I worry that they spend too much time playing video games, I am going to remind myself of the sheer volume of experiences they have had in their young lives. I think it will turn out OK.

16 thoughts on “Nearing the end of my 8784 hours

  1. another great post!
    I am very fascinated with your observation : ” the nature of writing is that it requires open space for thinking and creating.”
    I am very interested in finding time in my own life to ‘create’ but when I am looking at the schedule before me it always ‘feels’ as though I don’t have a big enough open ended chunk of time. I am finding out that most things on the schedule don’t take as much time as I imagine, (chores, exercise, kid activities), so I over estimate the time commitment and when I have more time than I imagined I tell myself ‘it’s not enough time to ‘be creative”, or I tell myself ‘I need time to just do nothing, like watch a show, read a magazine, scroll through facebook.’ Since starting read your blog, articles, and books I am realizing I have a greater need to make more of my time count towards something.
    P.S. Reading your blog is one of my favorite parts of the day!

    1. @Angela – thank you so much! I appreciate that. I agree that one does not need huge chunks of time to be creative. I just finished reading The War of Art, and the author claims that this thought that you need huge blocks of time (which will never appear) is just Resistance — the force that keeps us from living the lives we want. It will never be the perfect time. We will never be in the perfect mood. We just have to start anyway.

      1. That makes absolute perfect sense! I’ll have to check that book out.
        That reminds me of Gretchen Rubin’s ‘Begin Now’ that she encourages in her Better than Before. Elizabeth Gilbert touches on it too In Big Magic. We tell ourselves a lot of stories on a daily basis!

  2. I’ve been logging my time consistently since October 1. Funny, though – beside a casual glance at it at the end of each month, when I staple my timelogs to my paper calendar and file them, I don’t do a lot of analysis. I tend to use them for accountability and daily course correction. I’ll often be tempted to scroll Instagram or read every blog ever but reminding myself that I would have to include it on my timelog helps me to be more disciplined. Any tips on analyzing 6 months worth of timelogs without it taking days?

    1. @Maggie – maybe just choose one week (there are no typical weeks, but still…) and analyze that. My guess is that the basic rhythm of life does not change too much week to week, at least on the major things. I like to start with sleep because it’s easy to figure out. Then work, since that seems to be the other big thing. Then if there’s something else you find interesting (car time? TV? housework?) try that. It doesn’t have to be exact. It’s more for general pattern finding. And then ask what you like and don’t like about the schedule – because that’s the important point.

  3. I too am curious to see your analysis! I have tracked my work-time in Excel since 2010 – by project and client, sometimes with more detail. Mostly I analyze it by # of hours worked vs target and $/project (on a custom dashboard!), though I have also looked at hours worked by trimester (I work less and less each trimester). I also track my sleep, and I found it too stressful to track the rest of my time — it felt like I was constantly writing down what I was doing.

    1. @Katy- I do think that tracking is a skill, that getting the balance right. You’ve clearly figured out a good system at work. I think it’s possible to figure out a good system for the rest of life that doesn’t feel too onerous but if there’s no real reason to, then why bother. I am interested in it, and hope to write about it, so that’s why I did it!

  4. When I tracked my time for a week I was pleasantly surprised by some things (I watched under 5 hours a week of tv/movies) but shocked to realize that I also spent 18 hours driving in that same week either commuting to work or driving my 3 kids to activities. I also found I was getting much more sleep than I thought. It was worthwhile and eye opening for sure but I don’t know that I’m up to tracking a year, especially since the week I tracked was a fairly typical one. I’m interested to read about your year.

    1. Yes! The driving time is crazy. I spend 2 hours a day just taking kids to/from school (they’re in separate schools). I’ve started blocking that time off on my calendar every day so I have a more realistic idea of how much time I actually have to get other things accomplished. I do enjoy the time with my kids, and we talk or listen to audiobooks, but I would rather not spend that much time. They’re only 3 and 5, too, so I know it’ll just get worse before it gets better.

    2. @Natasha- ugh, 18 hours in the car. I’m pretty sure most of my weeks will be within a fairly tight range. I don’t think anyone needs to track a year, or even more than one week really. A week is eye-opening enough for a good sense of what life looks like. I was just curious, and I’m a bit of a freak about time (in case that isn’t obvious from this blog!)

  5. “…going to bed early is how grown ups sleep in.”
    Maybe it’s because it’s one of my biggest struggles, but that’s one of the most brilliant observations I’ve read in a long time. I only have two kids, 7 and 2, but with a husband who typically works very long hours, and after getting home from a full day at work and an hour of commuting/kid pickups, after the loooong process of getting both kids fed and to bed, the only time I can find to do what *I* want to do starts at 9:15. I really need to be going to bed by 10:00 or 10:30 but it inevitably rolls into midnight many nights.

    I have recognized how much more productive I am with a bit of planning for that time and a list of things I can accomplish when I’m tired and I am trying to take small steps in that direction. But sometimes junk food TV wins out.

    I have a huge project for work due in a couple weeks and it was a great insight to the current season I’m living when, last night, having my husband offer to pick up the kids and let me work late at the office, followed by a last minute but kid-free stop for diapers on the way home felt like luxurious “me-time.”

    1. @Shelley – isn’t it funny how going to the drug store by yourself can feel luxurious? I had that feeling sitting in the Target parking lot once while my husband had the kids in the store (I had one sleeping child with me). This is my calm me-time!

      I am inclined to late night magazine reading (my equivalent of TV) and if left to my own devices would keep reading until all hours. But by telling myself that going to bed early is something indulgent I’m doing for myself, as opposed to the mindset of being a kid forced to go to bed, I find it slightly easier.

  6. I have to say that reading 168 has brought a smile to my face. I just resigned as CFO of a publicly traded company, 3 kids, church, charity work, running etc etc. There has always been enough time, it just didn’t always feel that way. I love “it isn’t a high enough priority” vs. ” I don’t have enough time”!!! It has become my mantra. Your book gave me a bit of epiphany, I was curious how many hours I have left to live. I know this sounds morbid ( my kids (23,21,11 yrs) had some visceral responses to this little project) I turn 50 in July and assumed a completion date of 80 ( as opposed to a death date ….feel better kids? ) I have 263,688 hours left to achieve my goals. Of this 263,688 hours I will sleep 86,824 hours leaving me 176,864 to get it done!! I’ve omitted leap year days, there is bound to be a sick day or two along the way. I can’t begin to tell you how inspirational this is!!
    I have now read all your books ( I’ve been off for 1 month to the day). I really want to say thank you! Your work is wonderful!

  7. I am really moved for accepting the fact how you have explained the importance of time in way that is in my mind since yesterday.
    Honestly I would accept the fact that the way you have described is like my grandmother telling me a story that I should remember every second,minute..honestly.
    True to oneself to retrospect the time he has elapsed in his life…how beautiful his days would have been if ,but only if…he has managed time..
    I agree with you, that capturing time during the task I deliver everyday at job front goes into my schedule as a top priority, like wise I need to do the reverse engineering in my personal front. I am really bad.. I accept.
    Hard goals and will power are the two criteria you have called out in your book,,
    Thanks for finding a good read. Will share my journey soon!
    Best Regards,
    Bakthavatchalam

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