I've talked about time tracking a lot, most recently in "Daily Tracking Template v6."
One thing that's a mixed blessing is I do all my tracking by hand. I write it all down by hand, I add it up by hand, and I calculate out the results weekly by hand.
I do this for two reason - first, it makes my tracking very flexible about mixing notes in with times, changing/updating categories on the fly, and otherwise not locking me into a fixed format. Second, since I'm doing it the long way, it keeps it in the forefront of my mind. Almost always, automatically generated reports/numbers get less attention than going over them slowly by hand.
Additionally, trends about how the days ebb and flow start to emerge by going over them slowly. It only takes a few minutes a day, and I really think it's time well spent.
One downside, though, of doing it by hand - I don't have any nice way to find correlations. No fancy automatic output graphs or visualizations. If I want to see if there's some sort of correlation, I need to come up with a hypothesis on my own and then go dig through past records.
One correlation I just picked up - "daydreaming" correlates pretty highly with doing really interesting, high level stuff later that day or the next day. Here's my current categories -
--> Subtotal Excellent:
--> Subtotal Good:
--> Subtotal Okay:
--> Subtotal Bad:
See, I've got two thinking-based categories. "Thinking/planning" which I've got in the "Excellent" category - I like spending time on thinking and planning, and I reckon almost any amount of time there is time well spent. (In practice, I spend about three hours per week planning - I'd actually like that number to be higher.)
Then I've got the "Daydreaming" category, which is where I just zone out and my mind wanders. I almost never try to daydream - I try to relax, I try to think, I try to socialize, or I go out walking. But usually daydreaming just happens, it's never something I'm trying to do.
But it correlates pretty well with success. I'm not saying it generates success, but it does correlate with it. My theory as to why?
When I'm spending time daydreaming, it means I'm not jumping onto the next task on the stack immediately. Now, usually I do that. If I've got unanswered mail, I'll usually open up my inbox and start emptying it if I've got free time. Or I'll look at errands or tasks I need to do, and do those.
Thus, usually when I'm daydreaming, it's because I'm organized and on top of my basic commitments and maintenance: It means the easy stuff that requires effort but not necessarily creativity is all done.
Then, it also means I'm not immediately surfing the net. I zone out rather than jumping onto stimulation.
Time seems to pass slower on days that I daydream - time spent in lower stimulation seems conducive to the feeling of time passing slowly than time on higher stimulation activities (surfing the net, taking action, etc).
Now, correlation isn't causation. I don't think I actually want to try to spend more time daydreaming - I'd rather explicitly relax, go to nature, socialize with someone I like, or do some explicit thinking and planning on a particular topic.
Rather, I think I want to create an environment where daydreaming naturally happens. That means having all my low level effort-based tasks completed quickly so they're not on my mind to be done, and be one step removed and disengaged from stimulation-chasing like surfing the net.
I love time tracking, by the way. It's cool to be able to look at logs of days of my life and figure out what activities promote other good activities, etc, etc.
Not-surprisingly-but-interestingly, socializing with people actually correlates extremely highly with good creative and enterprising work getting done too.
If you haven't tried it out yet, you can read see my latest time tracking template (v6), go read the original "The Evolution of My Time/Habit/Life Tracking" which has some instructions on it, and I also made two videos on how to get started with it.
I enjoy it a lot and get a lot of time tracking. My newest conclusion is creating an environment where daydreaming happens, and then using that to do more creative and enterprising work.
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