168 Hours Time-Tracking Challenge – Day 1

I hope everyone’s time-tracking is going well! Today was a fairly ordinary winter Monday for me. I woke at 5:45 a.m. when the baby started calling. My husband took yesterday’s wake-up at 3:45 a.m. (I kid you not) so it was my turn. For anyone new to my saga, I have four children, ages 9, 7, 5, and almost 2. Due to our plethora of evening kid activities, coupled with my husband’s and my travel schedule, we now have childcare 8 a.m – 8 p.m. M-Thurs, and during the day on Friday (this is split over two people, one FT, one PT). If I’m home, from about 4 p.m. on it’s as much about having an extra set of hands and an extra driver as it is about working; I aim to get most of my work done between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. (if possible). Anyway, with those explanations, here goes!

5:45-6:20 – up, toddler asks for bottle (and tries to make his own, meaning he’s probably too old for a bottle). We snuggle for a while in his rocking chair, which is nice because I can close my eyes.

6:20-7:05 – downstairs, make coffee, watch Peppa Pig and PAW Patrol, read on my Kindle app (Bad Religion by Ross Douthat – I am on a tear on my Kindle app. This is book #6 of the year! Putting books on my phone makes it really convenient to read when I’d otherwise be scroling through headlines.)

7:05-7:25 – give toddler to husband, shower, get dressed.

7:25-7:40 – husband has made breakfast (mushroom omelette and bacon!). I put cinnamon rolls in oven for kids. My husband and I eat breakfast together (with little guy running around everywhere).

7:40 -8 – get kids up, get them breakfast. Nanny (G) arrives around 7:50.

8- 8:15 – do hair/make-up. I normally wouldn’t bother at this point, but I had a surprising number of video calls today.

8:15-8:30 – quick post on the blog.

8:30-8:40 – big boys ready, out door, to bus, back inside (it’s cold!)

8:40- noon – work. Pretty much straight through. Work on the book first (8:40-10) then do calls at 10, 10:30, 11:30. Some emails and such in between.

noon-12:30 – eat lunch (frozen meal), book hotel for spring break.

12:30-1 – emails/admin stuff

1-2 – work, including a Skype interview with Al Jazeera, and a call about a potential speech.

2-2:35 – quick change, then run 29:29 5k on treadmill downstairs. I’ll call it a tempo run.

2:35-3:00 – come up to find handyman there (G is dealing with it) to fix broken lock on toddler’s door — which is how he has been escaping of late. Pay handyman, play with toddler, drive to preschool to get my daughter. It is only about 3 minutes away!

3-4 – more work. Writing an article.

4-4:30 – boys off bus, some work interspersed with coordinating playdate w/neighbor mom for 5-year-old. Other girl comes over.

4:30-5 – some work amid kid supervision, getting hot chocolate for girls after they decide to play outside and then discover it is really, really cold. (G has toddler so I am mostly with older kids).

5-5:15 – chat with 9-year-old, then G takes him to swim (toddler tags along). 9-year-old wants to just wear flip-flops but I force him to bring socks. What if the car breaks down? What if he gets shut out of the building somehow? I have a very active imagination of what can go wrong in winter weather.

5:15- 6 – work, mostly thinking through book (plus start writing up log). Occasional check to make sure kids (5-year-old, 7-year-old, and neighbor) are OK.

6-6:10 – walk neighbor home from playdate.

6:10-6:25 – sneak in a bit of reading on Kindle app upstairs as phone is charging.

6:25- 6:45 – play with 5-year-old and toddler in basement (G cooks dinner — grilled cheese, tomato soup, Brussels sprouts; husband comes home after picking 9-year-old up from swim.)

6:45 – 7:15 – eat dinner plus clean up. Dinner is quite the affair with a toddler who will no longer sit in a high chair. Tonight he actually bit his sister on the chest. She was furious, which is understandable, though I do explain to her that three years ago, I heard from the now-7-year-old’s teacher that he had said in class for an example of sadness “Sometimes I’m sad when my sister bites me.” At least it’s only each other.

7:15 – 7:30 – email, start camp planning. The spreadsheet is coming out!

7:30-7:50 – read (while baby pounds on door — he is not happy that the lock has been fixed!). He’s really tired, so he passes out shortly.

7:50- 8 – chat re schedule w/G, she leaves. Now I am typing this up, and will probably spend the next hour hanging out with various older children, then reading, and going to bed, ideally by 10:30. I’ll report back tomorrow how it goes.

How was your day?


22 thoughts on “168 Hours Time-Tracking Challenge – Day 1

  1. Not as busy as yours! But it was a good, productive day. Mondays are usually one of my best days–I’m energized from the weekend, and I start the week with a tough workout class at a studio near my home. Highlights: I worked my first three-hour “strategic block” (from the book The 12 Week Year), read a book about writing a book, and did a few necessary household chores including making spaghetti for dinner for my husband and adult son. And the fact that I was recording my activities encouraged me to turn off the TV and read after my husband and I finished watching something we’d recorded.

    1. @Kathy- sounds good! Yep, the accountability of a time log does encourage some good habits. I probably kept off the internet a bit more than I would have yesterday! I’ve been tracking for a long time, but most people won’t see those logs.

    1. @Emily- the Kindle app thing has seriously been life-changing. I realized how much I had been scrolling through headlines on my phone. Now, it is just as easy to read a book, and I have my phone with me everywhere. Sometimes little things really do have impact.

  2. OMG! Our 3 yo is a biter. My older 2 children never bit. I took take heart in the fact that he has only ever bitten his older bother and sister. Still I wait for the day he bites the baby. If you find a solution other than tincture of time do share!

    1. @Gillian – lots of kids bite, it’s really no big deal, unless they’re a little older and in preschool and biting other children in the class frequently. Part of our problem is we’ve been weaning him off his “na na” (pacifier) and he wants to do something else with his mouth! We take him away from the situation, have him sit for a second and know that he hurt his brother/sister, and then come apologize. Other than that, yep, just time. They do grow out of it.

  3. Laura, How do you think about/categorize things like you 4:30 – 5:00 block (some work combined with some kid supervision)? I have a lot of things like that since I also work at home – my kids are older but my husband also works at home so there are a lot of personal interruptions and it doesn’t always make sense to separate things. Another example: driving kids around. It’s routine housework in some ways but it’s also sometimes very quality kid time. I guess I have a hard time coming to conclusions about how to categorize this mixed time in a useful way.

    1. @Sally – good question. I think it depends on what your goals are for time tracking. If you want a pie chart that shows exactly what proportion of time is spent on what, you’ll need to assign each time block a primary category. But if you’re just curious how much time is spent on different things, it’s fine to count something that is truly multi-tasked as both (think listening to an audio book while on the treadmill). If I’m going back and forth on an activity, and I’m trying to add up tallies, I might split it 50-50 (15 min work, 15 min kids).

  4. I was shocked to see how little work I actually did! No wonder I haven’t made progress on editing an article that I should have turned in last week or meeting word count for new manuscript. Grocery store during the workday while toddlers are in school to avoid taking them meant I lost a whole hour of writing time. Gotta suck it up and suffer with them next time!

    1. @Jennifer- or get the groceries delivered?? But yes, I agree. You can’t write with the kids around (or at least not easily). You can go to the grocery store with the kids. So probably that’s the best bet.

  5. Laura – I’m really curious how many hours per week of work you are averaging since your little guy was born. As you know, I also had a 4th (a few months after you), and I find it has kind of taken me over the edge in terms of my ability to work a full schedule. Maybe I’m being unrealistic with myself. I used to work about 45-50 hours per week (including some evening shift and weekend time) and still felt like I generally had lots of family/kid time, and even personal time (though not a ton, of course). But now I find I can barely make it to 40 hours before I’m strapped. Thoughts?

    1. @Rinna- I can definitely see that my work hours have fallen, though it is a few things. One is a shift in business model to speaking vs. article writing. I have also been between books for a while (longer than usual, actually) and my hours tend to rise when I am in the middle of writing. That should be reflected in my next few months. The little guy being a crappy sleeper means I’m having trouble working a split shift (or early in the morning – I can now read some while he watches TV, but attempting anything too focused is just not happening). But I think one of the biggest things is that I tend to do stuff with the big kids when they are home from school — driving to their activities, partly as a way to get some time with them. I don’t have to do this, but I’ve been choosing to for now.

  6. Also – as a complete aside, congrats on all the interview requests. (Though I have my own personal feelings about Al Jazeera being a pretty icky “news” organization, it’s quite cool that your name is really getting out there to various media.)

  7. I am loving the time tracking challenge so far. I’m a consultant, so not sure why I didn’t do this earlier…

    Already from just 1.5 days of tracking, I can see I’m spending a lot more time on certain activities & clients than I expected! Very helpful for my work story.

    1. @Jessica- do you need to track your billable client hours? For people who do have to bill time, the biggest upside in 168 hours tracking tends to be looking at all their time holistically – life outside of work. But sometimes we discover things during those billable hours too!

      1. Hi Laura – yes I track my billable client time for work. I don’t track my business development & practice methodology development hours closely. This happens to be a week with a lot of those activities and already I can see I spend more time on business development than I realized – & not enough on methodology.

        Plus this morning I realized hey, I’ve been on calls 6:30 – 8 am so I motivated myself to run before going into the office. I tend to arrive by 8 am but if my work day started at 6:30 why not take a quick energizing break?

  8. Whew! I’m tired just reading all that 🙂 I’m on what seems like day 900 of winter break with my preschooler, and my husband is out of town (just for 2 days, not several months this time), and I find my energy for anything just doesn’t exist. So I watched a movie mid afternoon while folding laundry and punted anything work-related to Weds, when preschool’s back in session (I’m lucky enough to be between clients right now, so work is admin and nothing deadline driven, and we did have a LOT of laundry!).

  9. I have a ? for an hour yesterday afternoon because I could not remember what I did during that slot. I was very focused yesterday even though 20 min late for work due to the snooze button-finished 1st, 2nd & 3rd work priority,resolved a problem,worked an extra hour to get overdue job done. Read 30 min during lunch (2017 goal), meditated 10 after work, took 30 min bath before bed and read a different book. I did not cook – brought home poboys – but I did prep crockpot for tonight’s dinner. I did everything I planned on doing on the homefront except bathe the dog.

    Today however has been opposite – everything is difficult. I didn’t get my top priority done first thing – i didn’t answer phone for first hour at work to try to get back on track. I did read 30 min during lunch. I had a 1 1/2 hr meeting that sucked. Student I read to in volunteer program was unmotivated.

  10. I’m always amazed at how much more I get done when I track my time. I think it kicks my procrastination guilt into action. Also, Monday was my first proper work day of the year, so I was excited to crack on with things.

    Page proofs, website updates, phone interview, and a new book half outlined. Plus time to read to the kids, cook arancini for a dinner treat and watch Sunday’s Sherlock. I think it’s because the toddler slept in until 6.30 for the first time in weeks, so I started out energised!

  11. What are your thoughts about apps such as LifeCycle?

    I’ve been using it for about a month with shocking / awakening results on how much time is spent where/doing what, and now that it knows my patterns, it’s pretty automated. The downside is that it doesn’t get entirely that specific. Nevertheless, the macro view of where my time goes in driving, and just “bumming around” did shock me!

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