Welcome visitors! Plus an update on tracking my 8784 hours

FullSizeRender-6Long-time readers know I spent the past year, April to April, tracking my time. I had mentioned a few weeks ago that I was nearing the end of my project, and I promised a series of naval-gazing posts on the findings. I assumed I would write about the findings here because I was not sure they would be of much interest to anyone else.

In happy news, it turns out I was wrong! My essay on my 8784 hours, “The Busy Person’s Lies,” is online at the New York Times now, and will appear in print in the Sunday Review section this weekend.

(Are you interested in tracking your time? You can sign up to receive a 168 hours time-tracking spreadsheet by entering your email in the box in the header that says “enter email.” There is no need to do a whole year! I find that a week, or even a few days, is enlightening.)

My basic findings: I work less than I think (shocking, no?) My average for the year was 37.4 hours/week. Subtract the vacation weeks when I worked much less than usual and this rises to 40 hours/week, but still, it was just 40.

I slept 51.81 hours a week, or just a little under 7-and-a-half hours per day. Subtract those two numbers from 168 hours and we get 78.89 hours for other things. Some of it was spent on housework and errands (9.09) and some in the car (7.84) but there was plenty of time for reading, and exercise, and some TV, though not much (a grand tally of 57.5 hours for the year, which is just a little over an hour per week. By contrast, I read almost an hour a day. I am proud of that ratio, if not the literary quality of what I read).

It was a full year and a year with plenty of space. Looking at the whole of my 8784 hours has convinced me of that.

We may have some new readers here this weekend and early next week with some other media I’m doing. If you’re just arriving, welcome! Please have a look around. Comments are always welcome as long as they are not attacking other readers. If you don’t feel like commenting publicly but have feedback or questions, you can contact me at lvanderkam at yahoo dot com.

34 thoughts on “Welcome visitors! Plus an update on tracking my 8784 hours

  1. Laura,

    I appreciated your inclusion of a pastor in your article. What is difficult to log for many professionals are the hours we spend thinking and processing. For example, the pastor expressing that she won’t get anything done during a funeral week is quite universal especially when the funeral is of a close church member. The 5-7 hours spent at funeral homes and a service would also need to include the hours of preparation, writing, and coordinating. (Not to mention the effect of grief on our own productivity) Perhaps the key is making sure we’re logging hours in those activities that rejuvenate our souls and renew our relationships with our dear ones. Thanks for the article, it has made me think and perhaps do a bit of counting too.


    Rev. Allan Purtill

    1. @Rev. Purtill – thanks for your comment. I agree that mental load is hard to track. What I have noticed is that people only attribute it one way. That is, if we are thinking of work outside of work hours, we want to attribute it to the work tally. But if we spend half an hour stewing about a fight we had with a friend while at work…that’s still counted as work.

  2. I liked the article. Is this your first time in the New York Times? Just do yourself a favour, though, and don’t read the comments. Yikes…you’d think admitting you have a nanny and got a few massages is equivalent to confessing you kill small animals for fun. People are nasty sometimes!

    1. Ugh, yes they are nasty! But I only read a handful and some of them were obnoxious, others seemed to get some benefit from her article. I couldn’t comment bc I don’t have an account, but what I wanted to tell those people is that Laura’s observation of the narratives we tell ourselves mold so many of our decisions, for women this may start early on- I want to have a family but I can’t pursue a big career because I wouldn’t have time for my family. She fiercely argues that you CAN have it both ways and not just bc she says so, but bc it has been proven time and again that we really do focus on the negatives, and exaggerate things (amount of time worked, slept, lack of time with self and alone). And she also advocates that when women go for the big careers they can afford more that will make things easier. when I started Reading her blog and then ‘I know How She Does It’ I really started looking at my time differently, especially with my children. That has been so very valuable.

    2. @Rinna- nah, I’m not reading them. There are certain words (e.g. “nanny”) that just set people off on fits of indignation, though I don’t truly understand why. Are people supposed to leave their children home by themselves while they work?

      1. “Are people supposed to leave their children home by themselves while they work?” No. But most people can’t afford a nanny. What do they do? They use daycare or after school care. They rely on relatives or friends. They find a neighbor who is willing to let their kid sit and watch television in their living room. They schedule evening or night shifts so that one partner is always available. They rely on older kids to look after younger ones. They work fewer hours even if that might not be a good economic choice in the long run.

        It’s fine that you have a nanny, but this comment does seem a bit like you don’t understand that it’s a privilege that most people don’t have.

        1. @b – thank you for your comment. I’m quite aware of the various care options. I’ve used day care and at various times help from family. I have found that no matter what sort of childcare option I mention some people will criticize it. So it goes.

  3. Great piece! I always enjoy your writing, here and elsewhere (I first found your site either though FastCo or the Grumpies 🙂 ).

    Have you ever considered tracking time with a different population (vs affluent professional women)? Most of your work seems focused on that particular target, which certainly isn’t a bad thing–just was curious if you had ever thought about expanding your studied cohort to further test the idea.

    1. @MidA – Thank you! I did a time diary project on SAHMs with Redbook that is supposed to be released digitally in June – it was a very diverse group economically, and the ways people spent their time differed by household income to some degree, though not hugely.

  4. Congrats on the NY Times piece–I’ll head over there next.

    I’ve tracked my time on several occasions and always found it enlightening. My biggest takeaway has been that I keep myself very busy, but not always doing the most important things. I also watch more TV than I’d like, but I tend to do it with my husband when he comes home from work and then get sucked into watching longer than we planned to.

    I’m going to keep tracking my time periodically, perhaps for one week every quarter to start. Such a useful tool!

  5. Thanks for the article. I loved it: as usual, you made me laugh and think. I always appreciate the distance you cultivate about your own choices and this really helps me not to judge myself too hard (when I’m choosing to read Outlander instead of War and Peace). I think that you have come to a sain balance between awareness and acceptance. That is quite an achievement! Since I’ve read your book, I regularly go back to tracking my time and even for a few days, this is always helpful.

  6. I think you could write a follow up piece to the comments section calling out the lies many tell themselves when it comes to affording things. Of course, I understand the mother who is working 2 jobs just to put food on the table, but I’m talking about the middle class. The other day a woman I work with “called me out” on having a housekeeper and taking my family to the ballet and theater. She just couldn’t understand how we could afford it. The truth is we spend money in different ways. We don’t have cable or satellite ($100). We don’t drink sodas or buy junk food regularly. I don’t wear jewelry and for the most part my wardrobe is simple classics, not fashion pieces. This particular lady spends over $200/month on new clothes just for her, not counting her children. I do not. The differences in our spending habits show the difference in being able to afford a housekeeper or tickets to see Lion King for 5. One way is not better than the other, but don’t feed the idea that you can’t afford something unless you are willing to look at how you spend.

    1. LVK should also address that one person’s “nanny” is another person’s “babysitter”. I think some people hear the word nanny and think of some kind of 19th century governess who gives up her life to live with a family full time and be on call 24/7 like Mary Poppins 😉

      1. Agreed! They are essentially the same, but I guess connotation … I say I have a housekeeper, not a maid. Even though it’s the same job. I have a babysitter, but I don’t say nanny. I was reading Tina Fey’s Bossypants and she says the same thing. She is hesitant to use words like “nanny” because of how they are received. But the truth is, it’s a fear of being perceived a certain way. Maids and nannies are for wealthy successful people, and women are hesitant to describe themselves in that way.

      2. While undoubtedly people use terms differently, to my mind nanny is a full-time childcare position while a babysitter is what you hire for 2 hours on occasion. Often paid differently (weekly vs. hourly).

        1. @gwinne- this is true to my mind too, but I also know this is why many people with nannies call them sitters. It implies it’s just an hour or two here and there and many people are still uncomfortable with admitting they use any sort of childcare — possibly because of the reactions that follow. Tina Fey made a joke about doing this herself in that book, Bossypants.

          1. Some of it might be a function of age and geography. My senior citizen parents referred to my kids’ primary caregiver at center-based daycare as “babysitter.” They also referred to the woman who cared for me as “babysitter.” Today we would probably call that set up an illegal in-home daycare.

    2. ✋I am definitely guilty of being judgey about the word nanny. Growing up I did not know anyone who had a nanny, my only familiarity with the term was in books or movies/television. I suspect this molded my impression of the ‘types of people ‘ who had nannies, and I likely would not be one of them. Now as a parent In need of child care it has come up as an option twice. Yep. Another reminder to not judge people or things that I really don’t know anything about.

      1. Yep, I knew no one growing up who had a nanny (it was either center-based daycare, older sibling, or a neighbor SAHM taking kids in, etc). But I was surprised to find that with 2+ kids where we live, a nanny was actually more cost-effective in some cases depending on your daycare/preschool choice.

  7. Your article came in the NYTimesNOW app (which features a handful of articles that you can read through the app as a non-subscriber) so I suspect its been getting a lot of buzz! (also, thankfully, can’t read comments through the app). The title was so ominous-sounding (LIES!). I really liked the article, congrats.

      1. I know, I need someone who works in media to help me title my grants & publications. my titles are always so Zzzzzzzzz.

  8. I would love to receive a copy of the tips and spreadsheet for time tracking. I’ve entered my email several times but nothing has come through.

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