I’ve been a fan of time management expert Laura Vanderkam ever since I read her book 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think. (Read Susan’s post about outsourcing to make life easier, also inspired by 168 Hours.) Her research challenges the conventional wisdom that people, especially mothers, do not have enough time to be professionally successful and do other things that matter in life. Laura is a strong proponent of tracking your time, ideally for a week (168 hours), to find ways to spend time more productively.
After years of working mostly from home, I recently started a new job where I commute to an office downtown every day. Adjusting my already busy schedule to add activities like getting ready every morning and commuting presented a significant time management challenge for me.
To help me adjust to my new routine, I decided to follow Laura’s recommendation and start tracking time. I managed to log an entire month of my time and this is what my time allocation looked like, averaged across a week:
Here are a few of the insights I gleaned after tracking time and analyzing the data:
- Errands and housework take much more time than commuting. I averaged six hours a week driving around in the car by myself – less than an hour a day. However, I spent more than 12 hours a week on housework, errands and cooking, almost as much as the quality time I logged with my family. Since tracking my time, I’ve tried to cut down errands and housework time by trying things such as outsourcing some errands to the concierge service at work and decreasing the complexity of the meals I make.
- Meetings suck up a lot of my time. I averaged about 47 hours a week working and 19 of those hours were spent in meetings. My job requires a lot of collaboration so meetings are a necessary evil but 19 hours seems excessive. I am trying to be much more vigilant making my meetings as efficient as possible. My team has also adopted a “no meetings Wednesday” practice that has helped us all free up more time for thinking work. I adore Wednesdays.
- I get a lot of sleep. When I started commuting into work, I began waking up at 5 a.m. most days to give myself time to work out (I averaged 3.5 hours of exercise a week). I have always been more of a night owl so I thought waking up at 5 a.m. would result in less sleep. It didn’t. I averaged eight hours of sleep a day because I’ve naturally started going to be earlier. Maybe I am really an early bird!
- Social media is the new TV. Although I don’t watch much TV (I average about two hours a week), I spend four hours a week on social media and email. I only averaged 2.5 hours a week of reading and I would rather use that time to read more.
I would love to know if you have ever tracked your time and what you learned from doing it.
5 thoughts on “4 Things I Learned After Tracking Time for a Month”
As a project manager at a softer company, I track software developers’ time. Not only does it help the management have an idea on which products and overhead tasks are sucking up a lot of the time, it also shows the developers where their time is going. They used to complain that they are getting a lot of meeting time which keeps them from getting more product development done. With tracking, we found out only 5% of their time in going into meetings… to everybody’s surprise. But then (!), we also found out that as a company, we have no idea where 30% of developers’ time is going because they don’t track it. This is most likely hanging out, chatting, or doing unscheduled and unimportant things… All this is fine (!), but 30% is a bit excessive. I’m a big fan of tracking time, although I don’t do it for me. I should though. Great read! Thank you!
Umeda, Thanks for your note! Yes, time studies are frequently done in many workplaces to identify ways to optimize productivity, why shouldn’t we do the say to help us optimize life as a working mom? Let me know if you decide to track your time and what you find!
Tracking time once in a while is a good way to get insight on how you spend your time. I made a mistake of overtracking and overscheduling which completely blew up on my face. I no longer found joy in simply not doing. And constantly ‘doing’ broke my soul. I’m a complete Type A, but I also have the wild bird inside and my recent focus has been on balancing the needs of both.
Thanks so much for sharing! I love the visual reminders of what you ‘should’ be doing on your list. For the first time in memory, both of my kids have activities at least four days/week, so I’ll get a few minutes of time to myself! Woo-hoo!!
Great post! How many moms are aware that Leonardo daVinci and Thomas Edison and many other super achievers practiced polyphasic sleep? That’s where you drastically reduce time asleep by taking multiple naps during the 24 hours…but don’t try this off the cuff! Has to be carefully prepared, but for many it is the Golden Answer. See Ubersleep by Puredoxyk. see http://www.puredoxyk.com/index.php/2009/01/04/the-ubersleep-book/