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.
I'm keen to make a start on tracking my time and am currently weighing up whether to use pen and paper or some software. The ability to analyse the data and look for correlations is something I am keen to do, and I'm leaning heavily towards a computer based solution for that reason alone.
In practice I think I will do both. Since I carry a notebook with me pretty much all the time, keeping a record on paper is just a matter of getting into the habit of noting down the time spent on tasks in a reasonably consistent form. On the computer side, I am starting to enter the totals for major categories as well as other key metrics for the day into a spreadsheet which over time should allow me to do some analysis of trends in and correlations between these values. This should only take a minute or so each day.
I'm hoping for a compromise that give me the best of both worlds - the ease and immediacy of noting things on paper, together with the data mining and analysis capability that an electronic solution makes available.
There is a catalyst for daydreaming that many great men used. It's a pocket notebook. http://artofmanliness.com/2010/09/13/the-pocket-notebooks-of-20-famous-men/
I have begun using one myself during times of pause. "Anything of value". It did break my habit of goofing around and playing games (more precisely, that habit is crumbling as Hiroshima did when the bomb fell).
I still have to use it more before I grasp it enough to discourse.
Updated my daily tracking template since v5. The basic idea is, I fill this out every day - it doesn't take that much time, and I get a heck of a lot out of it.
If you're new to the site, you might want to check out "The Evolution of My Time/Habit/Life Tracking" which describes the basic idea of what's going on here, and "Two Videos on How to Do Time Tracking" if you're looking to try this out yourself.
This post will mostly look at the differences between this one and my last version, so start with Evolution or those videos if you're new to this.
Okay, here's v6 -
------------------------------------------- START OF DAY ROUTINE: Time awake: Total sleep (hours/minutes): Appointments today: Other time-sensitive things: Key habit today: What assets could I build/improve/acquire today: ------------------------------------------- TOP PRIORITIES: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Gym today?: Current Top Creative: Current Top Enterprising: Explore today?: Today's target procrastination: Current book(s): Anything crucial on my to-do list?: Email in box, start of day: Time complete: ------------------------------------------- DO BEFORE GOING ONLINE: Vitamins (C, Fish oil, Calcium/D): Piracetam: Drink Water: Stretching: Brush/floss: Breathe: Borderlands (+Solo): Gratitude: Review Life Goals: Time complete: ------------------------------------------- ACCOMPLISHMENTS
Almost everyone I know is busy as hell. Running companies, contracting, doing creative work, and keeping a huge mix of projects going on.
Keeping busy is good, but sometimes it turns into a tragedy where you've got your head down doing work and duties, but you never get some of that real juice out of your life that you're wanting.
And many of the busy people I know -- myself included -- periodically have a day where they snap back to reality and really feel it for the first time in a while. "Oh god, I'm out of shape, my energy is low, I feel like crap, I'm not doing some of the key projects I love, I'm passing up a lot of really big opportunities stuck in the grind, I'm neglecting my hobbies and what I want to train... and for what?"
This applies just as much to entrepreneurs as people on salary, maybe even moreso. It's very easy as an entrepreneur or executive to get caught up in running around, getting stuck in the "errands" of business, dealing with what's on fire, and really neglecting the really expansionary projects that aren't urgent, your health, and maybe worst of all -- forgetting to have fun.
Is there an answer? Read on...