Here’s what it looked like:
I guess I’m a bit of a sleepy hedonist.
Let’s break it down a little more to see what else we can find out.
There are two categories here that I would label as “free time”: intentional recreation, and loafing. One of the earliest goals of the time tracking project was to minimize loafing and maximize my free time spent intentionally.
Time where I can give the recreational activity my full attention is inherently more valuable to me than time I spend spaced out, not really present with the world. Think about the difference between a fun D&D game with your friends versus scrolling an algorithm-curated feed that only wants to keep you mentally engaged enough to read ads.
Fortunately, it looks like the project was a success in this regard! This is a graph of my loafing which tells a rather decisive tale:
I attribute this completely to the time tracking. When I’m forced to press a button to declare how I’m spending my time, I’d much rather press any button other than the loafing button. Bored and too braindead to do anything super engaging? May as well clock into Household Maintenance and sweep while I listen to a podcast! Seeing too much loafing on the graph this month? Guess it’s time to block Reddit (maybe the single best tech decision I’ve ever made).
Alone or with friends?
I also tracked separately whether my recreation was solo or with friends. It came out to 414 hours solo, 1282 hours with friends, and some uncategorized hours before I started marking the difference.
Frankly, I already knew that I’m horrible at entertaining myself. My partner and my brother will both attest to the extent to which I hound them for things to do together. In general, I want to get better at entertaining myself. There was a brief (60 hours total) interlude where I tried to take up sewing but that’s a bit too intensive to do every day. How much I envy people who can lose themselves in video games and in books!
Planned versus Unplanned Health Maintenance
Like recreation, I tracked Health Maintenance in two different categories: planned and unplanned.
Planned, I hope, is pretty self-explanatory. Regular workout routines, daily walks, scheduled therapist & doctor visits, brushing my teeth at night, basically all the things I could have told you were going to happen in advance.
Unplanned is a little more spicy. That was where I hit some mental or physical threshold where I had to drop what I was doing and take a little bit of time to take care of myself. This could be something benign like taking a nap after pushing myself really hard at work. It could also be something dangerous like an injury, illness, or mental breakdown.
Overall, there’s always going to be some amount of unplanned health work. The only way to reach 0 hours of unplanned Health Maintenance would be to be completely unforgiving of myself, never taking breaks when it turns out I need them, never allowing myself to cry. It’d be a recipe for calamity.
Still, I do want to guide my time toward planned health maintenance. Better to plan to spend 1 hour a week with the therapist than surprising myself with a 3 day long mental meltdown.
So how’d I do?
The split was 422 hours planned, 194 hours unplanned. Not bad, not necessarily good. Like recreation, tracking the difference did guide me towards choices that helped me affect the balance. It turns out a daily walk goes a long way towards keeping the demons at bay.
This is the graph of unplanned Health Maintenance:
What can I say? Times are tough. We’re one week into May and I’ve already clocked in 10 hours which puts me well on track to a record setting month unless something changes (don’t worry, it has!).
I think this is where this kind of data becomes extremely valuable. A sudden bloom of unplanned Health Maintenance is my canary in the mine that tells me something in my life has become unstable and there’s probably a loose bolt somewhere ready to fly out and rip everything apart if it hasn’t already.
Conversely, we can see a relative period of stability in October - January where unplanned health events were at an all time low, intentional recreation was high, and loafing was low. It’s probably worth looking into replicating what I did to create those circumstances in the first place!
A Tale of Two Jobs
In September 2020, I quit Job 1 (which lines up with another bloom of unplanned Health Maintenance in the graph above? Fascinating). The decision to quit was, as it so happens, guided by my time tracking data.
The fall of Job 1
Job 1 was originally a nice gig where the pay wasn’t great but I was good at it, got to work from home, and didn’t think about work for more than a minute past when I clocked out. Then I got a promotion and my responsibilities skyrocketed (pay did not skyrocket of course), and the stress was unbearable. I remember some of those unplanned Health Maintenance minutes that I just spent crying the moment I got off the clock.
What was so fascinating was that the time tracking showed me the ripple effects the promotion had in my life. One extra hour at Job 1 wasn’t just one hour not playing D&D, or one hour not working out. One extra hour at Job 1 made a couple hours of unplanned health maintenance. It was 20 minutes shaved off sleep on a regular basis. It was more time loafing because I was too tired physically and emotionally to do something fun. So Job 1 had to go, and it did.
What about Job 2?
Job 2 replaced Job 1. It was a part time job where I felt challenged but not overwhelmed. I was doing fulfilling work but I wasn’t ditching sleep or time with friends to do it. Funny how that lines up with the October - January period of stability, right?
So where are we right now? Well, there was a bloom of unplanned Health Maintenance from March - Present so that must tell you something happened. Basically I transitioned from working from home to working on-site with a whole host of new responsibilities that became a little bit too much for me to handle. Doesn’t sound too dissimilar to the promotion in Job 1, right?
In the future I’m going to look long and hard at promotions because a little bit more money and prestige isn’t worth it if the new work destabilizes things to the point that your life starts falling apart!
What can I say? I shoot for 9 hours every night. If you’re just getting into managing your time better, I’d highly recommend starting by blocking out sleep on your calendar.
I like coffee.
Always a good place to reallocate time if you feel like you’re at a loss for what to do with yourself. A clean home is vital to a healthy body and mind. Read the introduction to “Home Comforts: The Art & Science of Keeping House” by Cheryl Mendelson.
I also track time spent maintaining personal relationships as part of maintaining a healthy household. I do this as the highest form of respect to those people. Even if I don’t live with them, my parents are still part of my home.
For when I’m too much of a zombie after a flight to even loaf successfully.
Setting up task manager apps, time trackers, GTD weekly reviews, “systems.” I’m really proud that the time I spend doing things eclipses the time I spend theorizing about doing things!
1 hour, 45 minutes. Intentional Recreation, Solo ⏱