Time log analysis

I’ve been tracking my time on weekly spreadsheets since April 2015. At the beginning, I did a lot of time analysis. For the past two years, I’ve done a lot less. I view the logs more as a record of my life. I could go in and analyze after the fact, but it’s not my main focus. (As a side note, I’m not using the spreadsheets as true spreadsheets — I don’t code activities exactly the same way so the spreadsheet can tally them up. I view them as semi-narrative and then I do the math myself.)

However, if you’re new to tracking time, I definitely recommend figuring out how many hours you’re devoting to life’s major categories. Sometimes it’s eye-opening — in various ways! Things that seem to consume a lot of time might not. Things that you don’t think about as much might take more time than you imagine.

(I feel that way whenever I get Apple’s “screen time” report on my iPhone…)

Anyway, I ran a Time-Tracking Challenge last week…or at least tried to. A reasonable number of people who signed up didn’t get their emails, which are going out this week. This week is fine to track too — there are no typical weeks. This may especially be true when we’re tracking (or tracking publicly in my case). I was better about doing interesting things because I knew I’d be writing about it.

So, how did I spend my 168 hours?

I worked for 31.5 hours. I knew it would be south of 40; the big kids’ virtual/hybrid schooling means they’re around more, and so I tend to take much longer lunches than I would if they weren’t here. I have been doing most of the activity driving. Nursing takes time, and I’ve given up doing anything but scrolling around on my phone while doing that. During the time that I am “on” with the baby, there is no possibility of doing much but watching him, so weekend/evening time is less available too. While I did do the “split shift” this past week most nights, some of that was a bit meta, in that I was writing blog posts at night about my time during the day. In any case, this volume of work hours seems to be enough for now. I made my income goal for 2020, so I’m just not going to worry about it.

I slept for 50 hours during the week. This comes out to 7.14 hours/day, which is in the range of my past long-term averages (7.3-7.4 hours/day). It felt like less, because it was so disjointed. But I seem to have a pretty strong catch-up impulse. If I had a bad night, I’d go to bed the next night at 10 rather than 10:45. I took a short nap on Sunday when that was a possibility. I managed to get the baby back down in the mornings sometimes and catch another 30-60 minutes of sleep then.

If I worked 31.5 hours and slept for 50, this leaves 86.5 hours for other things — not a small number. What did I do with this time?

I spent 2.5 hours of it at art museums. I will admit that this was definitely a function of public tracking — I wanted to be sure I did some cool stuff during the week. Seeing the Anne Wyeth McCoy doll house (and some Andrew Wyeth paintings) and then all the Renoirs, Cezannes, etc. at the Barnes counts as cool in my book. So I planned a Tuesday adventure of going to the Brandywine River Museum of Art and then on Saturday my husband and I went to the Barnes as our date. I also spent about 3 hours driving to and from art museums!

I spent 2.75 hours building Lego creations with my kids. This allowed for some one-on-one time with the 11-year-old, the 9-year-old, and the 5-year-old. How this usually works is that I find the pieces in the bags, so they can do the steps efficiently. Astute readers may recall that I marveled at an engineer’s 2 hours of Legos with her kids on an I Know How She Does It time log. Guess I’ve now topped that. I didn’t do any of my puzzle, but I’ve now spent about 2.5 hours on it this week and finished it yesterday, so I guess I was just substituting one thing for another.

I ran five times. Three of these were morning runs, and two happened around mid-day. I’ve been semi-following the Many Happy Miles training plan from Another Mother Runner, and so two of these were higher quality runs than I might have done on my own. On Monday morning I did some hill repeats by a nearby park to start off the day. And on Friday, I did speed intervals on the treadmill. On Sunday morning I ran to the new house, circled the yard and ran home. It’s fun to go see the place and imagine what it will be like to live there (when this gigantic renovation is over…)

I played the piano for thirty minutes at the new house — that was definitely out of the ordinary, but something I’d like to do more often.

I aim to spend some one-on-one time with all of the kids. The baby gets his time just by virtue of being little and needy. I read stories to the 5-year-old all seven nights of the week. Guess we are consistent! We did some driveway scootering and went to the playground on the weekend too. I had some chats in the car and before bed with the 9-year-old, in addition to Lego time. She also will keep me company when I’m watching the baby in the baby area. I did some Legos with the 11-year-old, and we went on two walks together. I also took him to the park to meet a friend. I don’t see too much time with the 13-year-old on my log for the week. I know we ate lunch together one day, and sometimes we’ll chat before bed, but he’s the one that I probably need to aim for more time with.

I read seven chapters in War and Peace, and did my free writing ritual and strength-training ritual all seven days. I did some cooking and cleaning, though not as much as it felt like.

I also spent a lot of time scrolling around on my phone — deleting email newsletters, checking coronavirus case counts and the number of people vaccinated, looking at the news ten minutes after looking at it before. I did not use my time in the car at kid activities particularly well. I didn’t do any of the house projects I hoped to (organizing kid clothes and the mudroom). I wish I’d had less disjointed sleep, because it puts me in a bad mood, even when the day is going pretty well. The weekend in particular suffered from this phenomenon.

If you tracked your time last week (or this week!) feel free to share any of your findings. Or let me know about being a potential Reader Case Study!


22 thoughts on “Time log analysis

  1. I know that this has been suggested before (by myself and others) but…sleep consultant?!!? H is baby #5 so this is obviously not your first rodeo, though you’ve also mentioned that some other children have been mediocre sleepers. Maybe time to ask for an outside expert opinion? I feel like the worst that could happen is…status quo. But what if it got better?!

  2. Congrats on the strength training habit! I recall a recent BOBW podcast you wondered if that was a priority for you since it hasn’t quite stuck – 7 days is definitely better than your goal of 3 days. I just started a running training program based on FIRST method and I’m realizing I really need to add strength training to stay injury-free while I’m adding miles. So, my question is how did you get it to stick last week?

    1. @Michelle – by setting the bar very very low. I just have to do *something.* So if I swing my kettle bell around 8 times — great! Do 12 squats, awesome! I am just trying to build the habit and then I will see about getting more serious. Already I have found myself thinking “hey, maybe I need a heavier kettle bell” so that seems like forward progress!

  3. Using kid activity time well is such a tricky one. Sometimes I run nearby errands but depending on the activity- the kids often want me there, even if I don’t have to be actively watching. I tried working through a “how to draw” book which has been hit or miss. I don’t want to start knitting, but I see the appeal as something to do while waiting that can be productive/fulfilling/allow for watching kids. My work really is best with two monitors so bringing a laptop has never felt particularly efficient. Usually I read on my Kindle app and look like all of the other zombie parents staring at our phones…

    1. @Calee – agreed this is so tricky. Of course, I’d also love to see you bring two monitors and try to really set up a work station on the sidelines 🙂

  4. The time I’ve spent in transition and getting this ready for the next task is crazy. I’d love to be a reader case study!

  5. “During the time that I am “on” with the baby, there is no possibility of doing much but watching him, so weekend/evening time is less available too.”
    I think that sounds very normal and totally fine. Being on with the baby is also a worthwhile use of time. And as you said, you reached your income goals. Sometimes I think the 40 hour mark is just…a number.

    1. @Maggie – it is just a number, especially with working for myself, where there are fewer inefficiencies (I am never, ever in a meeting that is unrelated to my main projects!) Of course, there’s also a continuum here — I don’t think I could work 20 hours a week long term and make as many advancements as I would at 30 hours a week. Probably if I put an extra 10 hours a week into career development I would see more motion too. But…I’m tired.

  6. I have been noticing that if I’m not careful, it can actually be very easy to spend VERY little “real/quality” time with my boys, at their ages. (11, 12). When they are little, you have to be involved with every little thing they do, but as they grow up, they are so much more independent… sometimes I realize at the end of the day that I barely spent any intentional time with them at all! Sad. I feel like when life is more normal and we are driving to/ from so many activities, school, etc. a lot of car time/ talking/ waiting naturally happens. But when we are home so much now, it can be easy to kind of just all do our own things now that they don’t need me constantly. Overall I know I do spend plenty of time with them, but it’s something good to be mindful of. They need us more in the pre-teen/teen years than we know, I’m sure!

  7. My morning sickness has been top notch this past week so reading these logs have been a nice distraction. My days have been pretty depressing as my doctor advised me to just stay home. I try to help get the kids ready for school (dressed, lunches packed, breakfasts etc) and then pretty much crash. Work has been slow so I tend to work for a few hours in the morning and then honestly watch a movie or nap in the afternoon. I can’t stomach cooking right now, and my husband doesn’t cook, so there has been a lot of delivery and spaghetti as of late. Bedtime hits just after the kids are settled (around 8). Hoping I feel better and my days can be more eventful soon!

    1. @Sam – I did all those things, but didn’t find them interesting enough to write about. I cooked three dinners, went to the grocery store, and did some calls re kid things. Took my daughter to an educational evaluation. My husband took the baby to a doctor appointment.

      1. Ah, gotcha. I suppose I’m always very interested in how much time others spend on chores, errands, and life admin!

        I’m curious: with such a full career, several kids, marriage, do you guys hire maid service for cleaning? In your book, I Know How She Does It, it seems many of the women you profiled hire maid service to off-load cleaning.
        I used to hire a maid service before the pandemic, but even then it was so expensive (4bdrm/3bth house) so I only had them once every 2 months, which means I still did a lot of cleaning to do on my own. As a result, I haven’t missed them at all since the pandemic began when I stopped having them come.

        I read your blog post about cleaning during the week, rather than the weekends…I’m now experimenting with flexing my work schedule so I can leave by 1p on Fridays and get all my cleaning & errands done Friday afternoons/evenings, then have my Saturdays and Sundays free for quality time with my husband, friends, hobbies, and only have to worry about life admin.

        1. Like Sam I do find the time spent on household chores / life admin interesting. It definitely feels like this kind of work is infinite some days. I definitely am constantly looking for strategies for not letting chores be so consuming. One thing I discovered for myself was that I was spending a lot of time picking up the kitchen after each meal these days. So now I leave the breakfast mess and do one big clean after lunch- not sure if it is indeed more efficient, but I find I’m better at big block cleaning than small chunk cleaning. I guess it’s the same philosophy as batching your email. The downside is that I have to live with the mess until I get around to tackling it, but i’m sort of blind to mess to begin with. (Which could be another strategy…)

  8. I’d love to be a reader case study! I tracked time for a couple of months last year but my personality drove me to begin viewing the log as an ideal schedule to pursue rather than an account of time spent. I planned to take a break from the practice & reset my approach. Then I returned to work after 12 years of being home with my kids and, while the information gained from time tracking would benefit my daily & weekly planning & efficiency, I have yet to get back into the groove. I think it would be a great time to respond to the internal nugde to get back into the habit of understanding how my 168 hours are spent.

  9. Hi, wow, your week sounded amazing to me! I was wondering if you could share how much time you spend doing groceries, baths , cooking , cleaning and laundry ? I find it hard to fit it all in .

  10. I tracked my time for the past 2 weeks…I started week 1 but never got the emails. But I really wanted to know where my time was going so I tracked it then too. I have some work issues I’m trying to sort out along with goals and other things I want to do. I think I will keep tracking my time…it has helped me to realize where it’s going and exactly how much time I have been “wasting” on things I didn’t realize were taking a lot of time. Thanks for challenge.

  11. Ah yes, I was wondering if there shouldn’t have been some emails along the way.

    Just got around to make my own overview of my tracking. It’s not totally accurate, several times I found myself with 2 or 3 hours passed and forgetting to log anything. So I had to fill some blanks here and there.
    So here’s my highlight of this exercise:

    I haven’t been sleeping too wel the last two weeks, and also in this week I woke up 4 times between 4am and 6am. Sometimes being able to get back to sleep again, but other days I wasn’t.
    So I was surprised I still clocked in 8h 15min of sleep on average that week.
    But besides that I have been laying awake in bed around 85 minutes on average, totalling 9h 45minutes. Although both are a guess, and I clocked somewhat in favour of sleep.
    This is something I would like to look into, but I don’t know how yet as I do ofen have a slow heartbeat and sleep trackers have been tracking me as asleep even when I got up for a toilet break or grabbing a glass of water. And I feel like a digital clock might make me more anxious about laying awake. Maybe I could set my pomodoro when I realize I’m laying awake again?
    This had mostly a bad effect on my morning routine, especially the exercising. Instead of an hour a day, I clocked 2 hours for the whole week.

    Anyhow, onwards. My effective daytime job hours where quite below the 40 hours, which I kind of expected but it was even lower than I thought while at least some days I felt pretty productive.

    My time gaming on my tablet was pretty low I think, but that was also because I started both YNAB’s 34 day reset challenge and ABFoL home organization challenge. I got a lot done on the latter, but effectively it wasn’t even much more than 2 hours a day. And the biggest chunk was done on saturday, for a total of 16h 45minutes during the week.
    Same for twitter and news consumption, also pretty low.
    Even my time reading the internet was pretty useful, as it was mostly about budgetting and investing.
    This project did cut down my book reading considerably, I didn’t even manage 2 hours this week.

    Sunday I spend quite some time meal prepping, and ended up with 12 meals. But on average that was around 20 minutes a day. So that’s time efficiently spend I’d say.

    Now that I’m working from home a little more, I do have some strolls around lunch or in the morning. I walked around 4 and a half hours this week.

    I do feel this week has had a considerable impact on how much I did, while I might’ve otherwise spend that time staring at a screen. So I will probably do this again some time in the future when the lockdown is over.

  12. I’d love to be a case study! I always enjoy seeing these in your books. I’ve been working to squeeze things in but know there’s room for improvement.

  13. Excited to report that I’ve now consistently tracked 3 weeks of January! Thanks, Laura for providing the motivation!! The main thing I’ve learned is by trying to wake up earlier with a fancy alarm app, I mostly lose sleep over alarm anxiety, but I don’t get much more done in the morning. I have been a little more intentional about reading/listening to an audiobook, rather than passively consuming the news. Happy to also be a case study. Thanks again for the challenge!

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