The first time I heard about time tracking, I thought it was weird. You can, you know, actually use your time productively instead of spending it tracking stupid things.
Sometime later, I was going through an unproductive spell, and I was running of things to try to get out of it. So I gave time tracking a go. These days it’s an indispensable tool in my writing productivity toolkit.
My biggest arguments against this exercise were its perceived pointlessness. Surely, I know how I spend my time. How will clocking in and out help me with anything? Well, as it turns out, your perception of how you spend your time can be vastly different from reality. In the frenzy of everyday life, it’s easy to let hours slip by unnoticed and still feel that you have absolutely no time to spare.
I use time tracking as a sort-of diagnostic tool. Every time I start feeling that my schedule is a bit loose, and I’m not able to get as much done as I would like to, I will start writing down exactly how I spend my time for a few weeks. I don’t use any apps, just plain pen and paper (I did try a couple in the past, but I’ve found that fiddling with timers and logging precise distracts from the actually important things.).
For most people, merely remembering when you start and stop doing something so you can mark it into a notebook later will be precise enough. The critical part comes at the end of the day or week when you’ve collected all the data and take a good look at them.
I use an A5 notebook — one page per day. I mark blocks of time and what I was doing at the time and review them the next morning, trying to figure out where the gaps are and make adjustments.
Nothing exposes your priorities better than a snapshot of the way you spend your time. You want to be a writer? Does the snapshot you just got reflect that? Frankly, it can be a pretty disheartening experience looking at hours and hours of your life wasted away.
As the observer effect theory) states — a mere observation of a phenomenon changes it. When you’re logging another hour of mindless scrolling on Instagram into your time journal, chances are that you will feel bad about it earlier and perhaps make the next session shorter.
Tracking your time for a few weeks gives you an objective assessment of what’s going on. And once you know what the problem is, you can take steps to improve no matter how bad your situation seems.
What I Am Reading
I’m about half-way through the biography of Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson. A fascinating account of a polymath who became the embodiment of the Italian Renaissance. Walter Isaacson has a delightful style which makes for a great reading experience.
I also started reading a collection of short stories called Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami. The stories are short, but somehow, the author manages to immerse me in the narrative every time. I’m a big fan of Haruki Murakami’s style.
I read the following short stories this week:
- I, Row-boat by Cory Doctorow
- After the Siege by Cory Doctorow
- Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami
- Birthday Girl by Haruki Murakami
- New York Mining Disaster by Haruki Murakami
- Aeroplane by Haruki Murakami
- The Mirror by Haruki Murakami
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