I started tracking my time in 15 minute intervals.
Previously, I had skimmed through a book by Laura Vanderkam called "Off the Clock" which recommended this practice, and like I do with all good advice, I took it to heart and promptly forgot about it.
Until last week, when the same mortal fears which drove me to pick up "Off the Clock" in the first place guided me back. And this time, more resolute, and perhaps less intimidated after previous exposure to the idea, I'm happy to say I succeeded in tracking my first week - or 24 x 7 = 168 hours.
If time tracking sounds unbearable to you, know that I first thought it was pretty terrible too. Tracking your time is something the boss man would make you do, why would you do it to yourself? Why inflict beauracracy on your own life?
Well, because there are benefits. After one week, this is what I'm seeing:
So to recap - I'm more present with how I spend my idle item, I'm less likely to jump on a task (so long as it gets done in the week), I can optimize the micro, and strategize the macro.
All of these were previously goals I wanted, but adopting this practice has given me a way to tackle them all.
For time tracking, I use a copy of Laura Vanderkam's 168 hour worksheet (link to her Google Sheets template). I've added some conditional formatting so there's some color and personalization (which increases my sense of investment in this worksheet):
When I'm at my computer, I make entries about once an hour:
When I leave my computer, I'll come back in 2-3 hours and try my best to fill in what I did for that chunk of time.
Sometimes a 15 minute block will contain multiple items. Vanderkam mentions that she often records all of them, separated by commas. I don't - some items simply get lost in the sands of time.
Sometimes, I can't remember what I did and I'll simply write "???".
Some tasks also don't like up perfectly with the 15 minute increments (although I find myself intentionally lining up tasks so they wrap up in 15 minutes).
It's not perfect, but that's not the point. Just having rough record of my time is sufficiently useful for me to get all the benefits I outlined above.
And forcing myself to make entries (with a lot of copy paste), just makes me so much more aware of how this entry stacks up against the greater "portfolio of investments" I'm making this week.
Over the coming weeks, I'm sure I'll learn much more about this practice - for example, if it's valuable to do for more than just a few weeks.
But for now, I wanted to write about it and encourage everyone to consider it. The benefits are plentiful, the implementation is straightforward - and all I think you need is a push.
So check out Laura Vanderkam's time tracking templates (15 min blocks or 30 min blocks), make a copy, change the colors and get tracking!