I started tracking my time continuously in April of 2015. There was no one event that precipitated it. I’d had a baby in January, and had a book coming out in June, and I knew it would be a full year. I wanted to see where the time really went. I wanted a record of what life looked like in a way that my journal wasn’t necessarily proving to be (I had a hard time keeping up with it). I also thought I might be able to write about the results on my blog. (I wound up writing about the first year here).
Anyway, I am now about 21 months in. I use a spreadsheet that covers a week — 168 hours — in half-hour blocks. The spreadsheet starts on Monday morning at 5 a.m. This has created a new ritual every Monday morning. I fill in what I did Sunday since the last time I logged. I hit save and send that week to my back-up. I open a new blank spreadsheet, fill in what I’ve done since I woke up, and then save with my initials and Monday’s date.
I have done this now about 90 times. As I was calculating some numbers for something else I was writing, I looked at my life expectancy. At birth my life expectancy was 78.0 years, but since I seem to have made it through childhood and adolescence, my odds are some months north of 83 years now. I forget the exact numbers I used, but the result was that if I keep with this habit, I have about 2380 more Mondays of opening a new spreadsheet to go.
For some reason that number felt more real to me than any other number: years left, hours left, days left, whatever. Maybe because time tracking makes the weeks feel very concrete. When I start, the spreadsheet is blank. By the end of the week, it is filled with something. There will be many somethings on those spreadsheets. Last week began in California with a ride over the Golden Gate Bridge. It ended with the trip home from Montreal. Many somethings! But not infinite somethings. A little memento mori, courtesy of Excel.
Photo: KJ Dell’Antonia created this bracelet, which says “Design your mosaic.” The mosaic reference is an artsier way of looking at a time-tracking spreadsheet. If you enjoy my writing, you’d probably like hers. You can check out her writing here (or in her professional capacity as the Well Family editor at the NY Times).