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Why and how I track every minute of my life

It’s 2015, and my workplace was exploring different tools for resource management. It started when the team lead wanted a way to “sell” our services as an in-house team (and I’ll be honest, I’m not sure that quantifying time spent was the way to do it but that’s a story for another day), so we went through a few, finding the pros and cons of each before settling on Harvest. I think it’s because it was the cheapest per seat, maybe?

But that whole exercise of finding a tool and figuring out what worked and what didn’t also led me to think about my own hours, outside of work. I hadn’t come across Laura Vanderkam‘s content at that point, so it was trial and error on my part to figuring out what I was tracking.

I remember polling my friends and colleagues about my information architecture — or really just categories or buckets of time, occupational hazard aside — and trying to see if I was being too pedantic about some things, and too general for others.

So… I guess the question begs: Why do I track my time?

It started out as a way for me to find out where I was spending (wasting) my time — back in 2015, the time I took to commute was definitely an issue on my mind, and I feel like being able to clock that time made me aware of 1) how much it was, and 2) where it ranked amongst my other ‘smaller’ activities, like going to the gym.

More than that, I figured that if I knew what I was doing, and for how long, I could in theory optimize my time and productivity. I also remember thinking a lot about what that tipping point would be, for me to use money to buy time, instead of spending my time to get money instead.

Things I should know with common sense, but instead knew for sure:

  • I spend way too much time beyond my 40 hours a week for work
  • (That isn’t counting the work-adjacent activity, which includes things like training, development courses/classes that are specifically applied at work, and as of 2021, mentoring sessions)
  • Meal prep is a really effective time saver, even though the upfront cost of it seems high (I spend about 45 minutes every Sunday doing it, compared to ~25 minutes a day)
  • Being lazy in bed is an actual bad habit of mine
  • Sometimes I chunk a lot of activity under “Internet”, even though I have specific buckets for media consumption, reading, fandom stuff etc. Pretty sure that’s indicative of a bigger problem, which is that I (falsely) think I can multitask

That said, Toggl — the app I’ve been using since 2015 — had a functional error over the weekend, and it’s thrown me off the loop as I keep trying to open the app on my phone. Hopefully that gets resolved soon.

Let me know if you try out tracking your time, even if just for a week, and if you see any surprises in there!

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