Time Tracking

30 June 2017
30 Jun 2017
4 min read

I have started listening to the fantastic Cortex podcast on Relay.fm. Recently, the two hosts talked about the idea of time tracking. CPG Gray has been tracking his time and has convinced Myke to start. The main takeaway from this episode is Gray saying that by tracking all of your time, you can better understand where it’s all going. Humans are great at fooling themselves, and having accurate measurements about how long tasks take helps when planning out your week.

As an example, Gray told a story, where he would tell his wife that he would be on his way home right after he completed a routine task. However, this task would take Gray the rest of the afternoon, which his wife knew! After tracking his time, he now could recognize that his assessment of how long this task would take was wildly inaccurate, and he now could give a better measure of when he would be finished with this task.

Another focus of this episode is hiring. Both Myke and CGP Gray are in the process of hiring an employee. By measuring the time specific tasks are taking, Myke and CGP Gray know how many hours they can pass off to their newly hired employee. I thought it was a very smart way to go about the hiring process. Time tracking will allow you have an accurate measure of the time you can be saving, and is the perfect way to find out if hiring an employee is worth it or not.

Practical Tips

From here, I’ll talk about how I got into time tracking, along with some advantages that I’ve seen from starting to track my time. Because I’m just starting, I didn’t want to get crazy with web automation (using a tool like Toggl and Workflow). I found an app for my iPhone called ATracker PRO. This app is exactly what I’m looking for: I can hit a button and start a new timer.

Initially I set up various timers where I think I spend most of my time.1 I tried to go big picture and then give myself room for improvement. By starting immediately, I can find out where my initial plan falls short, and then I can create another timer to cover any activities that I had missed.

The Productive and Unproductive Split

One tip that I have is to set aside two timers for relaxing: productively and unproductively. A typical situation that I find myself in is that I’ll be writing a blog post, and then I’ll flip to Clash Royale and play a quick match. To me, that is unproductive relaxing; however, if I am watching a movie while eating dinner, that is productive relaxing.

Similarly, I have an unproductive reading timer and a productive reading timer. The unproductive reading consists of science fiction and fantasy. The productive reading could be nonfiction books, news articles, or other readings that educate.

Sleep Woes

One category that I may remove is the idea of tracking how much sleep I track. The idea of tracking sleep has always been interesting for me; however, I don’t know if this app is the best place to do it. I could see myself breaking that out into a separate app, along with better information on how well I slept that night. Currently my sleep time is (deservedly) overwhelming everything else. For ease of comparison, I may stop.

Clear Benefit

One benefit that I am already seeing is that by being honest with myself about tracking time, I already want to limit how much time I’m spending on my goofing off category. It’s so funny how by measuring something, we improve it. By just being aware that all of my time is being tracked, I want to spend it in a ultimately better way.

Concluding remarks

Overall, I think that time tracking has plenty of uses for all types of people. From office workers to students, everyone can benefit from a more mindful approach on how they are spending their time. I think that the statistics are going to be interesting to see, and I’ll be sure to note any fun visualizations that result from seeing how I spend my time. Overall, the main thing to remember is to not beat yourself up for any mistakes. As an example, I’m still not sure where I should put twitter! No matter what, any improvement is better than no improvement.

  1. Eating, class, writing, etc ↩︎

Want to know more?

I spend a ton of time thinking on how to work smarter, not harder. If you'd like to be the first to know what I'm thinking about, sign up to the list below.

Four More Interesting Links

How to fix a S3 RequestTimeTooSkewed bug