168 Hours Time Tracking Challenge – Day 2

Last night started well. After working until about 8:30 p.m., I got kids snacks and showers, read stories, and put them in bed by 9. Then I read in my room, mostly uninterrupted, until 10:15, at which point I went to sleep. My husband stayed up late working — or possibly watching the football game — which then meant he pleaded exhaustion when the toddler was up and shrieking at 3 a.m. I got up, and got him back down at 3:30, but had trouble falling asleep, and then the toddler howled again at 4:10 or so, just as I had nodded off. It was a brief waking though, not requiring my presence. I was probably back asleep at 4:30. I heard the toddler again at 6:20, and I dozed until he was really, truly up at 6:40. His waking up at 6:40 is great, but being up for 1.5 hours of the night just sucks. Fortunately, tonight should not be my turn. Here’s how the day proceeded after that:

6:40-7:10 – feed toddler, make coffee, read

7:10-7:30 – shower, dress, back downstairs, find husband and 9-year-old making pancakes

7:30-8 – take over pancake making duty, get other kids up and fed, make/eat my breakfast

8-8:30 – G here, work, mostly email.

8:30-8:40 – bus stop with boys

8:40- 1:40 – work: 3 calls about booked and potential speeches, one interview for the book, reading some papers on time perception for the book, looking for sources. I ate leftovers during this. Possibly a cinnamon roll too.

1:40 – 2:20 – ready, then run on treadmill: 5k@29:07. This was a solid workout, and speaks to the power of getting on one’s running clothes and saying you only need to do a mile, which is the bargain I made with myself. I was convinced, up until about 8 minutes in, that I would only do a mile. But then, once I hit a mile, it was easy enough to do a few more minutes, and then to keep going.

2:20-2:30 – email, etc. at desk.

2:30 -3 – toddler up from nap. G went to store, so I played with him.

3-3:20 – various personal maintenance: doing hair, getting a snack. Not working. Say hi to 5-year-old.

3:20-4 – realize I need to buckle down and get some stuff done, so I do. Tie up loose work ends.

4-4:12 – boys home, get 9-year-old ready

4:12-4:30 – drive to karate studio, chatting w/9-year-old

4:30-5:05 – read during karate (Bad Religion by Ross Douthat – I am getting a wee bit bogged down in various ecclesiastical debates about a third of the way in)

5:05-5:25 – drive home, chatting w/9-year-old

5:25- 5:45 – work

5:45-6:20 – eat dinner (taco salad) + clean up

6:20-6:30 – drive 7-year-old to wrestling

6:30-7:30 – read during wrestling (still on Bad Religion)

7:30-7:40 – drive home

7:40-8 – sit with husband while he eats dinner

8 – posting this now, hopefully get the kids to bed soon, then do some more reading, and hope for an uninterrupted night.

A few observations on my day: I made a conscious choice to do the kid sports runs, and then used their practices as an opportunity to read. Because of that, I fit in about 90 minutes of reading time, and that number will go higher by the time I go to bed, possibly by another 30 minutes. I clearly have time to read in my life. I also have time to run. I will hit a total of at least 2.5 hours of leisure on a Tuesday that featured pretty much full-time work hours and a middle-of-the-night wake-up. Lots of things can fit in a life.

I can see, again, that I need to focus during the 5-6 hours of work I can do during the hours my kids are at school. After that, the work will be fairly disjointed. Not a bad thing, necessarily. I hung out with all four kids at various points today. Just reality.

I’d love to hear what other people have found from their time logs!

In other news: I will be doing a Facebook Live chat tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. eastern. You can find my page at Facebook.com/lauravanderkamauthor — please join me!

19 thoughts on “168 Hours Time Tracking Challenge – Day 2

  1. All of those wake-ups!! It doesn’t seem FAIR at this point – I really hope he gets over this hump soon!

    (We still have our share of night interruptions here but it sounds like yours are much longer & more persistent 🙁 )

    1. @SHU – yeah, it doesn’t seem fair. But I do keep telling myself it can’t last forever. And last night was pretty good. Of the various cards I could have drawn with 4 kids this one is not so bad.

      Here’s to more sleep in the future!

  2. Hi Laura

    I wonder what tool/format you use for loging your time, now that I read you have been doing this for more than a year? Are you still doing it in the excel you provided or are you using another tool, allowing you to analyze as well? Thanks!

    1. @Monika – I’m still using Excel. I find it very straightforward and lets me see my life at a glance, and it is not too onerous to keep up with. When I do the analysis, I just look through my old spreadsheets and add up categories (manually). Since it’s only one person, it’s not too hard (and since it’s me, I’m inherently interested in it…right?) If I were doing a large time diary study of like 1000 people I’d need harder categories and need to code them as something in order to do this.

  3. Well, my time log from yesterday wasn’t quite as detailed as Monday’s. I was on my second sick day, as my toddler’s stomach bug had now spread to me and my husband. Since I was the less sick of the two adults, I ended up doing all the childcare for the day. All I was able to do yesterday was keep my toddler safe, fed, and clean. Given the circumstances, I call that a win!

  4. Good morning Laura. I have made it past day 2 and i am starting to see patterns as you said and its starting to improve my daily planning. As you know, I am trying to get deep work sessions in but yesterday i was not able to due to back to back calls (I work as an Engagement Manager at Deloitte Nashville), doctors appt, etc but i have no regrets. I was productive with what I did, did not think about work during the personal time.

    I do appreciate that you share you daily progress as posts so Thank you for that, and to piggy back on it I plan to do the same but as a eow post to reflect on what I learned from this challenge. I hope that you will have a chance to read it and chime in.

    With that, on to Day 3.


    1. @Raj – excellent! Deep work is good, but so are good calls with clients. Given your line of work, the people management aspect is a huge part of it. Keep in mind that Newport spends a lot of his time doing research and writing papers, so that’s a different kind of work, and he needs more deep work hours than you probably do in managing teams and interacting with clients. I look forward to your EOW report!

      1. Yes, absolutely. My deep work blocks have been deliberate after reading Cal’s book, to involve whiteboard sessions or no email/no distraction thinking and planning sessions during which I am not reactive to anything. With this I hope I can do more reading and writing and blogging which is what I love to do. I also have a business which I cofounded that needs my attention as acting CTO. So if I continue as I used to by being reactive and lazy, I don’t think I will be successful to my full potential. 2017 is off to a great start though.

  5. Day 2 was more mixed for me – work got derailed by last minute problem solving, but I did finish outlining the new book by adding a little evening work while the husband was swimming and the daughter was at Brownies, and once the toddler was in bed. Plus I managed a hot chocolate date at the cafe while running errands with the daughter after school, and lots of play and story time with the toddler before his bath.

    I haven’t managed ANY reading this year so far, which is very unlike me, so your reminder about the kindle app is most welcome. Must go download more books from my reading list to it…

  6. I turned my day 2 around by the end of the workday – at what is normally the low point of the day (4pm) I finally did my top 3 work priorities for a solid 1 1/2 hours. Then realized I needed to go for a walk-only 8 minutes but something. I meditated 10 min before heading home-stopped by to see my mom. supper was in crockpot so i got to cleaning up right away. another 30 min bath while reading Katie Crouch again.did give in to an hour more tv this night than last night (but leah remini was on!)spent 30 quality min with husband before bed at 10. did not get up during this night! woke up a few times-especially when the dog got up out of bed and jumped on floor and proceeded to throw up (she ate the red rind from a piece of bologna-prob nosed in the garbage can to get it-and she threw up all of her dog food which of course I did have to clean up when I woke up at 6:55-very unpleasnt). I took her to the park for a 30 min walk before getting ready for work. stopped at a clients on my way to work since I had been putting off the problem for a month and of course the resolution was simple.

  7. After just two days, I’m finding that I’m terribly distracted at work (I’ve been at my office these two days) – and that’s knowing that I’m tracking my time and I’m trying to be better than I usually am! I change focus doing lots of little things while I should be doing “real” work – checking email and shooting off a few replies, checking the weather (big storm coming this weekend and my mom is scheduled to visit), “quick” check of facebook (grrr social media rabbit hole), read your site/posts about tracking time, tracking time itself – the latter of which I know will become more efficient as I continue to do it. I have a couple of big projects that I HAVE to get started on so I think procrastination is a big piece of it but even without those projects, I can’t seem to focus on anything for more than 5 min! I do think I need to prioritize better – working on the important things first thing.

    Question for you – how are you able to accomplish so many different things in what seem to me to be short time slots in your day, particularly with your kids. For example, you said from 8:30 – 9:00 the night before, you got your kids a snack, showers, reading and to bed by 9:00. With a 7-yr old and 2-yr old, I don’t see how it’s possible to do all that in 30 min!

    Finally, I struggle with slotting time to exercise and it seems a lot of my struggle is with the getting ready afterward. I don’t want to shower and do my hair/makeup in the morning and then have to do it again later in the day. I don’t care if I’m just going home and not seeing anyone but I sort of refuse to work out over lunch if I have to be presentable in the morning AND the afternoon. I work from home on Fridays so that’s not an excuse that day. Evenings are crazy with my kids and I’m also a night owl so morning exercise has never happened (I know this sounds like a bunch of excuses). Any tips?

    1. @Shelley- I definitely get distracted too. Partly it’s that I need to blog and do social media for work, so it becomes an excuse to…keep checking! I try to take the long term view. Today I did 3 interviews for my book — all of which I know I will use — and confirmed a speech. I will write a blog post. It’s OK if every minute isn’t spent perfectly as long as I keep making progress.

      (Sometimes easier to say than to do. I’m feeling guilty that I haven’t written another novel, that I don’t have much written for the book yet, just ideas, etc.)

      As for exercise — I agree it’s no fun to do hair/make-up twice. Maybe do it Friday, do it Sunday, and then pick one day during the week to either get up in the morning or get over the unhappiness about a second primp session? After all, if it’s only once a week, it’s not so bad. Then, hey, you’re exercising 3x a week!

  8. Hi, Laura, I’m not tracking my time this round but I’ve done your challenges in the past and enjoy reading others’ experiences! My question is, how do you manage such smooth transitions between activities, especially with kids involved? I feel that is where I always lose a ton of time, but you have examples of getting several kids snacks/showers/stories/into bed in only 30 minutes, or kids getting home/prepped for wrestling/into the car in only 12 minutes. In my house, merely the “kids getting home” part could suck up 12 (or more!) minutes on its own. Any tips?

    1. @Jenny- I’m happy that my transitions appear smooth. Sometimes they are better than others. A few things — first, we keep everything in the mudroom. Kid shoes, coats, sports equipment, etc. Each kid has their own basket and a few hooks. So we are generally not hunting for stuff. Second, during the day I have a second set of hands – if I’m grabbing my coat and the keys, G might be helping tie the karate uniform or some such.
      The showers at night – I think this one went fast because I’ve forced the kids to have quick snacks (like something little and easy) and that particular night I was only showering one kid – they often go in a rotation. The boys are independent about brushing teeth and getting PJs on (or not on, I don’t care what they sleep in). I usually read my daughter one short story.

  9. One thing I have noticed is that I get a TON of “reading” done with audio books. Running for an hour or so + driving for 2-ish hours (@#$# two different preschool pick-ups this year) plus 1 hour of random housework = 4 hours of audiobook “reading” a day. Plus it makes crappy chores (driving, cleaning up for a 2- and 4-year-old) actually pleasant.

    One thing I thought I’d mention based on an earlier comment you made about hand-totaling: if you pick a few key words for things you want to track and always use those in your time log, it’s super easy to have Excel calculator your totals for you and then do averages at the end of the week. I use wild cards so I can add more detail if I want to say what I was working on or what I was reading.

    One thing I wanted to ask you was about your physical stamina for writing. I find that after about two hours of typing my wrists and shoulders really hurt. Maybe it’s my ergonomics, but I think it’s partly being “out of shape”. Do you have any tips for being able to write for longer physically? (The mental part is tough enough on its own!)

    1. @Chelsea- thanks for the tip on key words. I’ve been a bit more “creative” in my word choice meaning I probably couldn’t do it retrospectively, but I could going forward.

      As for ergonomics, interesting question. I find I seldom actually *type* straight for that long. I’m often editing as I go, so I’m pausing to look back at a sentence or something, which would give my wrists/fingers a break. On the few occasions I have really straight up typed I definitely can’t do longer than 20-30 minutes without taking a break.

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