I've been tracking my time daily since October 2011, having seen a few articles that Sebastian had written about the idea. Here is a recent one that Sebastian wrote.
Time tracking has been immensely helpful in general, and like Sebastian's time tracking, mine has gone through many changes since I started while looking for whatever is going to be the most useful stuff to track for my life at that moment. Another nice benefit is that it serves as a memento for nostalgia purposes - I quite like looking back and seeing what I was doing 2 years ago.
You don't need any fancy tools to do this effectively - I've exclusively used a plain text file on my laptop, which I can edit with (for example) Notepad++.
(1) The basic format is always a diary where I list everything important that I did that day, and for my first month that's /all/ I included. Starting off simple is important to ensure that you can get into the habit of actually filling it out. Here is a sample from October 2011:
Mon 17 Oct
(2) The first thing I tried bolting onto this was a list of things I intended to do that day, and then recording the % completed. Subjective, but effective enough. At the time, had no structure in my life, so planning time in advance was super useful. Indecision is a time-killer. Intentions are in the lines above the date:
(3) Next month, I tracked the number of hours for which I was doing fun or useful things, because I felt a lot of my time was getting wasted. However, this was useless as I didn't really care what numbers I would write down at the end of the day, so my behaviour didn't change and I abandoned this within a week.
(4) In January 2012 I tried tracking a couple of lifestyle factors each day:
My diet, exercise and sleep schedules were poor, so I wanted to work on these. Little did I know then that tracking these would revolutionize my health.
I kept on tracking these for several months, in various forms, and over time I saw changes that seemed like direct results of the tracking:
A key aspect of this was that I would write down a target (e.g. conform to diet rules on 80%+ of days this month) and take that target seriously. Over time, I'd make the targets harder so that I was continually improving until I got to a stage where further improvement wouldn't be important.
(5) When I was still lazy about exercise, I tried a couple of hacks to motivate me into doing more:
(6) In November 2012, to discover what my then-worst habit burdens were, I made a note at the end of each day of the worst choice I'd made that day. Looking back, they were mainly about poor food choices and time-wasting. This showed me that I should experiment with tracking something to help me avoid time-wasting.
(7) To combat time-wasting, the first step was to determine what I should be doing with any spare time. I consider the following to be good uses of time:
I had (have) a full-time job, but I felt that most days I should be able to spend 60 minutes doing something expansive. Some days I might be too busy or too tired, but generally it should be reasonable about 80% of the time - so I tracked this.
This has been somewhat successful at getting me to use my time better, but I now think that a more important problem to solve is of ensuring that you always have projects/activities *that you want to do* available ready for diving into.
(8) Other experiments were to list each day something that I'd done that day "with full participation", or "outside comfort zone". The problem with this is that it seldom motivates any change in behaviour during the day, so I stopped this soon afterwards. Perhaps it would be better to have something at the beginning of the day to prime your mindset to think a certain way - I know Sebastian has some ideas on this if you read his articles. [viz. "borderlands" etc.]
(9) My current preferred time tracking system is hat I used in February - note names have been changed:
>> super productive morning, then mostly waste after 2pm
The main things done each day are split between those help with specific things I'm actively working towards - in italics - and everything else. Here we have some exercises for gymnastics, some practice for learning Spanish, and a few minutes' work on being ambidextrous at handwriting).
For tracking time spent doing expansive activities, I'm now tracking multiples of 30 minutes, which are small enough that I can nearly always get started, and large enough that each one does constitute a significant chunk of usefulness.
At the end I include any comments about the day that might be useful when looking at this later.
Hopefully some of the insights here will be useful to readers in a similar way to Sebastian's comments on this topic. Has anyone else here experimented in a similar vein?
Fantastic. Lots of good stuff here. Hard to a single out a specific thing, it's all pretty much best practices and good processes. This in particular I think is very important:
> active rest/recovery (if tired - mindless internet surfing etc. doesn't count)
Very good all the way around. Thank you for sharing.
A very good guest post by Matt Mazur - if you enjoy this (and I think you will), then you can find his blog at mattmazur.com. He currently runs two business apps: Preceden.com, a tool for making timelines, and jMockups, a high fidelity web design tool. Here's Matt -
Nine Tips for Getting Started with Life Tracking
Inspired by Sebastian’s posts about the benefits of life tracking, I decided to try it for myself. After several false starts, I’ve now been doing it for almost two months straight and have had some great results. In this post I’ll explain how my current tracking system works and I’ll share some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way.
How it Works
Every Sunday morning I print an eight page document that I use throughout the week to track various aspects of my life. The first page is an overview, which I will fill out at the end of the week to summarize my results. The remaining seven pages are devoted to each day of the week.
My goal is to sit 1000 hours of meditation in 1 year. Accounting for holidays and days when my schedule won't permit, I'm working to a schedule of 3 hours per day. The 3 hours per day will be broken down into 7 sessions of 25 minutes each - 4 sessions in the morning before work, and 3 sessions in the evening. It's an ambitious target, and may require some adjustments (e.g. fewer sessions during work-days and making up for it at the weekend). This blog will be my way of tracking progress in terms of hours logged and noting thoughts and observations about zazen itself. My belief is that meditation is one of the most important and useful things one can do for oneself. I'll expand on that idea later.
This morning I woke up at 7am and did 2 sessions of 25 minutes. It's a good start, and I'll make up the extra 2 sessions at lunch time today.