So, I record my time tracking by hand, and later I sum it up and divide it out by hand.
It takes me about an hour a week. I regularly get the suggestion that I should get it into a spreadsheet or an application to cut that time down.
By doing it by hand, relatively slowly, I'm forced to turn the implications over in my mind of the numbers.
For instance, I slept 8.2 hours on average over the last 13 days.
If I saw that on the sheet, I wouldn't pay much attention to it.
But... here's how I got there -
6 + 11 + 6.5 + 6.5 + 11 + 6.5 + 2 + 12.5 + 9.5 + 8 + 10 + 8 + 9.5 = 107 /13 = 8.2
Note that there's only two days in there between 7 and 9 hours. Five days were under 7 hours and five days were over 9 hours.
That's probably not good, and I should work on it.
And actually, these numbers don't even tell the whole story - a lot of those large numbers are a 7 hour sleep and a 4 hour nap later - it's just my sleep-per-day count.
This is one advantage of going through numbers slowly, by hand, instead of on a computer. If I saw 8.2 while skimming a spreadsheet, I'd say okay, that's pretty normal. Instead, I see my sleep is all over the place, and I think I should structure my day a little more systematically to smooth that out.
Hmm. Interesting sleep data. Not so much about the deviations or the mean, but the actual amount slept - 8.2 per night.
I'm not sure how much an ideal amount of sleep is. I do know that I like 7.5 - 9 hours of sleep, averaging 8. I feel about guilty about all my sleeping but I can't take naps. I can't function well on less than 7 hours nightly sleep. But it still sucks that I can't cut sleep to increase production because productivity goes down so badly!
The hidden benefit in adding this all up by hand is that you also get better at mental arithmetic - an often overlook but very valuable skill to have.
If you don't have the associated standard deviation, a mean is generally useless.
Look at yours: it's 2.8. This indeed shows that your sleep pattern is irregular and that your mean does not make any sense.
If your data was 8, 9, 7.5, 6.5, 9, 8.5, 6, 10.5, 9.5, 8, 9, 8 and 9.5, it would give you the same mean but the stdev would be 1.25, which would show a much more stable dataset.
What's the use of tracking 'average hours' anyway? I think it would make more sense, especially in your case, to track deviations. Anything below 6:30 hours and anything above 9:30 gets flagged for night sleep; anything above, say, 1 hour gets flagged for day naps. Having a '8.2 hours average' doesn't say anything if you have as unhealthy deviations as the ones you demonstrate here. It is only justified to track averages in sleep hours if the deviations are small. I'm curious to see if you start tracking your sleeping goals in a different way. Of course, that also means *defining* them in a new way.
Keep us updated ;-)
I use Fitbit to track a lot of metrics, including sleep hours. It updates automatically and creates nice graphs for you to see.
I find 5 cycles a night (~7.5 hours) and a 20 minute nap ideal, at least for me; you might try aiming for it for a week to see how you do on it.
I see no benefit to manual tracking; all the data's visible on the spreadsheet too, not just the totals. Hell, the spreadsheet should show night sleep and day naps as separate entries, right? And as far back as you like....
I don't think this detracts from your point (manual review has its own merit), but it sounds like you aren't tracking the right things in your hypothetical spreadsheet. It sounds as though regularity of sleep (e.g. something like standard deviation, which is around 2.7 for your figures) is more important to you than mean average sleep (or is at least measurably important). Your central point that manual review can help us ensure we are tracking the right things is important, but at the same time, when we have identified those things that can be tracked there is no reason not to automate away metrics provided we don't obscure useful patterns in the process.
"What gets measured, gets managed." - Peter Drucker
There is so much power in this quote. If you've never tracked yourself, you don't even know how much power there is in tracking. I couldn't even explain it adequately. You wouldn't believe me. You'd think I was exaggerating. The simple act of paying attention to something will cause you to make connections you never did before, and you'll improve the those areas - almost without any extra effort.
I'm not a believer in "free lunch" and I don't think the universe vibrates things to you just by thinking about them. But the closest thing to a free lunch getting vibrated to you by the universe is writing things down as they happen.
Before I go any further, I need to give you one piece of advice - start small and build up, so you don't overwhelm yourself. This is just being pragmatic. You want to scale up gradually, as I wrote up in "The Evolution of My Time/Habit/Life Tracking." You want to build small wins, lock them so they become automatic, and then expand.
I'd have a hard time convincing you of the power of tracking, so I'll just show you. I fill this out every single day.
I have a whole book written that you'll probably never see. A third of a novel that I'll finish by the end of the year, but may never publish. Pages of rap lyrics I've written. Over fifty finished blog posts that will never see the light of day. Forty videos of me talking to the camera about the kind of stuff I write about it. Hours of travel footage from cool places like Iceland.
All that work, is, in a sense, thrown away. Some of it just never came together properly (like the Iceland footage), but a lot of it is quite good. Some of that stuff I created KNOWING that it would be thrown away, like the forty videos. Every night I make another one. I used to just delete them, but now I save them on a hard drive so that I'll have a record of my thoughts.
Why do I create work just to throw it away? Well, it's a hack. The more work I do, the more positive outliers I'll have. Let's say that I'm a slightly above average writer. In a week, I'll write seven posts. If I were to rate them on a scale from 1 to 10, I'd say that the distribution looks like this: 3 5 5 7 7 8 9. The average of those is 6.5, which sounds about right to me. So if I were to sit down twice a week, write a post and publish it, maybe I'd average a 7 (because probably if I wrote a 3 I would either skip the week or write something else). However, by writing seven posts a week, my published average goes up to an 8.5, because I only publish the 8 and 9.
Besides the simple mathematical bump in quality, I can also take bigger risks. I now have a huge backlog of 8+ posts, so I feel no pressure to write something good. That lets me occasionally take a shot at something amazing, one of those posts that willl either be a three or a ten, depending on how well I can capture the idea and put it on paper. The sheer volume of writing I'm doing teaches me and makes me a better writer, as does shooting for these tough-to-write posts.