I got a good question On Twitter from @Carole_Fabre. She wrote:
@sebastmarsh Are you not afraid to fall infinitively in the mirror with all these mesures ?
@sebastmarsh and have you already mesure the time you spend mesuring ? :-)
She's half-joking, but it's a good point. Here's my thoughts -
1. Tracking should serve you, you shouldn't serve it. Your system should be lightweight and easy and fun to use. You should get much more results out of it than you put into it.
2. If you are getting much more out than you put in, it can make sense to keep putting in. I keep seeing more and more gains from my tracking. My health is improving, my energy is improving, I'm doing more enjoyable and more meaningful work, I'm more connected to people I like and respect, I write more, I spend more time on art... all very valuable.
3. But again, don't track for its own sake. If some category has become useless or isn't producing results, delete it or stop tracking or get rid of it. The tracking can be a rough map, your life is the territory. It can be very worthwhile to spend time looking at the map and planning, but don't forget that the end goal is to navigate the territory.
Abraham Lincoln: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
That's how I feel about tracking, planning, and goal setting. It sharpens the axe. But really, it doesn't take so much time even. How much do I spend with it? About five minutes in the morning, a minute or two here and there throughout the day, and then a weekly review that takes between 20 minutes and an hour once a week. But I get much more back from knowing what I should be working on, never missing or being late for appointments, getting all my deliverables done, not missing opportunities, recognizing patterns, saving money, making money, etc.
How much time do I spend with it? Well, not so much compared to all the time I get back. Time I would spend worried or confused or not knowing where to go disappears, and I get good insights and learning from the numbers. Helps me stay disciplined, and keeps me from having to remember everything I need to do. I can trust my tracking and notes, and keep my head clear and focused on the current moment. I enjoy it and highly recommend it.
As always, good questions and comments are welcome.
This comment is not a direct response to this post, except that it does have to do with time-management.
When I read the quote by Lincoln, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe", I thought, "Geez, that's a long time to spend sharpening an axe", which caused me to think perhaps "Honest Abe"'s quote could be used to demonstrate "Parkinson's law", which says that "work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion." I wonder if he had been given three hours to chop down a tree, and if he spent the first two sharpening the axe, if he would have still done a good job, in half the time. I'm teasing a bit, here, but the Parkinson's law is nevertheless useful to know for time management.
Yesterday, I put up an image Daniella sent me on Ben Franklin's Time Tracking.
After that, we got into a bit of a good discussion on the topic. We shared some thoughts on chaos and structure, and I wrote this -
Re: time tracking, it took me a few attempts and a few false starts before I started doing it. I've gotten a lot out of it, but I'm a big believer that your tools should serve you; you don't serve your tools. Track as much as makes sense for you so you get gains out of it. I'm naturally an unstructured person actually - I try to build structure and routine in the areas that I think it benefits, while letting creativity and chaos reign where it does well. My blog is actually more on the chaotic-just-let-it-flow side - I don't have an explicit pattern or schedule for posting. I just write something every day based on whatever I'm thinking or reading or corresponding about. I try to add more structure/order in areas where it helps a lot - even after doing it for a long time, I still forget to breathe and meditate a little at the start of my day if I don't refer to my time tracking. Likewise, tracking food and spending gives me a pretty good idea of what I'm eating and where my money is going, which adds a lot of value to my life. But again, it should serve you. Try it a little if you want to improve an area, make it work for you, make it yours. If it's not serving you at that time, discard it. I don't know if I'll track forever, but I'm still seeing big gains from it.
D writes back -
Thanks for the quick reply! Have to run to a concert now, but a question did pop into my head as I thought about the unstructured person living a semi-structured life and read your response. I guess I maybe resisted time tracking because it felt like I was self imposing structure on my daily life, which would "bind" me to it in a way. I'm the type of person that naturally resists structure but when I do have it, I do my best to succeed at it.
I have a favorite type of hand in poker. I like it because it makes up a huge chunk of my winnings at poker, is good solid play, and looks idiotic to bad poker players. It's the kind of hand that pulls hundreds of dollars in your direction, and sometimes a couple angrily-thrown cards from your opponent when he's beaten, too.
Technically the hand would be called a plus-EV underdog draw, or something like that. In plain English, it's a long shot where you have the right odds to take it.
An example might be if I have four cards to a straight and I'm missing one from the middle. So maybe I have 4 5 6 8 of various suits. Let's say that there's still one more card to come. There are forty-six remaining cards (just trust me on this one), and only four of them, the sevens, will help me. I have less than a ten percent chance at winning the hand.
And yet, sometimes it's worth calling to see the next card. If it costs me thirty dollars to see it, but there's six hundred dollars in the pot, then mathematically I'm way ahead.