This past month I decided I wanted to really know how much time I was spending on different activities. I have read Laura Vanderkam's Blog for a few years. She wrote the book 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think. The idea of 168 hours in a week (24 hours x 7 days) Is intriguing when you realize at the same time it seems like many hours as well as a limited resource. At first it can make you feel a little guilty about how much time you may waste in a day let alone a whole week or month. But then I decided to look at it from another vantage point. You track your time in certain activities and see it as knowing what you actually accomplished during the day which then allows you to relax knowing you have done enough. You get a sense of completion for the day. Then the good news is that the rest of the day is for whatever you feel like doing.
Some days you feel like you have worked all day with very little to show for it. Other days things just seem to get accomplished with little effort. Everyone wants days like the later. I am thinking tracking my time might help me get some data to help figure out what days feel effortless in their unfolding of productivity and what days feel like a slogfest. Maybe there is a pattern.
I started thinking about time tracking when I found an app called IFTT. It basically lets you connect two different apps. The premise is, if this then that, hence the initials in the app name. I found one function where you tapped a button to start and stop a clock and it put those times on a google spread sheet. It was unwieldy and I would forget if I had pushed stop and then had to keep checking google sheets. I decided it was not worth the effort anymore. I deleted the app thinking it had became a burden.
My interest was rekindled when a Facebook friend asked for a recommendation for a good time tracker app. I decided I would just search the App Store on my iphone. I decided to test drive an app called HoursTracker.
I used it for the past four days and really like it. It does not feel like a burden but a useful tool. I can track different tasks separately as jobs. For now, I have set up different type of activities as jobs entitled Studio Time, Studio Notes, and Fine Arts Commission. The app is super customizable. You can keep it simple or load it up with specifics of your job Iike pay rate, taxes, deductibles.
I keep it simple. I just tap on the job when a start that particular activity and hit stop when I am done. It records how much time I spend on each job. Then I write in the available notes what I actually did in that time.
You may be thinking...what a burden. I understand since I was reluctant at first myself. However, for a few minutes a day of effort, I feel a sense of completion. I have a written log of what I did and how much time I actually spent writing Studio Notes, creating in the studio, etc.
It gives me the facts and data to use in decision making. Do I have more time available to spend in the studio? Are my Studio Notes taking up too much time? Can I really say I am way too busy when the time tracker shows the opposite? Or can I feel good that I really spent enough time on all the things I care about throughout the day and move forward with a sense of completion for the day.
Some readers may think this is crazy. It might be easier to say 9-11 am I am in the studio and 2-3 pm I write my Studio Notes article. In the past, this system has worked for me. In particular, this summer with all our kids back at home, it is hard for me to say I will have this block of time to do this and another to do this. With the time tracker, I know what I have to do and just track the time I spend doing it. I get small tasks done in between other things in my day. All this time adds up.
Self-knowledge can be an wonderful thing if done from the standpoint of using the information for a gentle reminder not a hammer of guilt and frustration. So in my case, I think it is useful to keep track of my time. Perhaps after a few months of doing this I will no longer feel the need. But for now, I am enjoying knowing I am spending time doing the things I want to do.