My First Time Audit

While working on my SaaS product for the last few months, I have done my best to use the app while I build it. Dog fooding it baby!

The idea is pretty simple. Time is extremely valuable. One of our only truly un-renewable resources. Yet, we waste so much of it. This isn’t new.

It is not that we have a short space of time, but that we waste much of it. Life is long enough, and it has been given in sufficiently generous measure to allow the accomplishment of the very greatest things if the whole of it is well invested.

Seneca in a letter to Paulinus

People 2,000 years ago were wasting time and they had less of it. We now live longer and waste more of it.

Similar to how we waste time, we have never been freer, but we have also never been busier. We might all work from home now, but the truth is that we work from everywhere.

Checking your email non-stop. Cracking open the laptop in the parking lot at your kids soccer practice. It never ends.

If you want to get anything done you need to make the time to get it done. If not, the inertia of everyday life will keep you plenty busy working but not getting anything done.

Don’t tell me your priorities. Show me your calendar.

Shane Parrish

The first step to solving any problem is awareness.

The next steps can vary wildly.

We have the perfect tool to fix our time problem. It’s called a calendar. It’s purpose is to track time.

My application only works with google calendar right now, as that is the calendar that I use.

What I’ve started doing is planning out each of my days in advance. What Rob? You are planning out your days in advance?

Yes. That’s right.

I work for myself and I create a schedule for myself in advance. Don’t knock it until you try it.

Here is what a normal day looks like for me:

I’ll get into details about how I setup my calendar in a future post. Everything goes into the calendar.

Today I woke up at 6:15 and rolled right into getting the kids ready for school and taking them.

I finished at 8:30 and started working on this very application.

At 11:00 I headed home for a workout, by 12:30 I was on the way back to work, where I got back to work on the time audit application.

I’m heading out on a camping trip tomorrow and have a date planned my wife tonight.

Time Audit sees all of the events in your calendar and imports them. Then you can rate each event and add comments.

In the screenshot above you see the same day as my calendar above, but now, I have rated and commented on each of the events.

Metrics are tasks or goals that I have for each day. On this day, I did meditate for 10 minutes and a I did my brain training, but I did not walk 10K steps or write 1k words.

On the screen you can also see the total time logged in the day (8:15), how many events (4) and the average rating for the events of the day (6.25 / 10).

That is the typical daily workflow.

The reflection on the day has proven invaluable. It’s like a supercharged journal because I am reviewing events that have actually taken place. It is a conscious review of how I am spending my time.

I have found this practice very helpful in keeping me on track. It’s harder to waste time when you know that you are going to review exactly how you spend every hour of your day.

I’ve also found that it has made me more present in the moment. For example, when dropping off my kids I often think, how can I make this awesome, or how can I make this a special moment.

Setting up your day in advance also helps reduce decision fatigue in the moment. You don’t have to worry about figuring out what to do next.

Human Nature

Knowing all of this, you might think that I log every hour of every day consistently. Of course, you would be very wrong.

The numbers from my October Time Audit were pretty weak, especially when you consider that I am developing this application.

In the month of October I logged 130 hours of non sleep activity. This breaks down to about 4 hours a day. I average about 7 hours of sleep a day. So that means I have about 17 hours of activity in a day. I am not even logging half of the time that I spend awake.

A big part of this was the weekends. I was not logging any events on the weekends.

Am I working on the weekends, not typically, but I am spending time. So I should enter events into my calendar, even if they are not work related. I do spend a lot of time with my family on the weekends. I want to make sure that I am making the most of it.

In the image above all of the 0’s on the blue line are days that I did not rate or review any events.

Once I am more consistent I should be able to see if there is any correlation between how much I sleep and the quality of my days.

How Do You Spend Your Time

I currently have three main categorizations for my time.

  1. Health
  2. Work
  3. Life

Pretty simple by design. I also have subcategories in each, which allow me to nail down further if I want to.

Out of a total of 130.75 non sleep hours in October.

  • 57.5 hours logged in life
  • 50.5 hours logged in work
  • 22.75 hours logged in health

I was not too surprised by this breakdown. I do expect some variance, but I really need to up the total logged hours to make sure that I am accurately reflecting how I am spending my overall time.

The best part about tracking and rating how you are spending your time is the cumulative scores over time. A good day here and there are great, but imagine a week or month of peak performance. That’s what I am shooting for. I know I will not start there, but we all start somewhere.

So how did I do in October?

Much worse than I would have thought.

Ratings are 1 to 10.

My best overall ratings where in the health category, which is great. But again, I am shooting for better that 50% in the categories where I spend most of my time.

My daily average score of 16.1 / 30 is just barely above 50% and I know that these ratings are not all equal because I spend much less of my time in this category.

Breaking down the categories further helps to highlight some of the problem zones.

In the life category, kids and other are scored pretty well. The majority of the time with my kids is throw away time. A carpool here, making them breakfast. Sometimes quantity counts and I feel that is the case here.

Where I am underperforming is in quality time with my wife. Both in quantity and quality. As you can see above, I have a date night planned and I plan on spending much more quality time with her this month.

Exercise is all rated well. I don’t plan on making any changes to my routine there.

Work is not surprising in hindsight, but it is revealing. I categorize everything that I do only for money as a job. I am not surprised it is my lowest rated category, but I am surprised by how much.

I know that I need to reduce the amount of time spent in this category, but the truth is that I have bills to pay…

What Changes?

Moving forward, I must change the following things:

  • I must log as close to 17 hours of non sleep activity a day as possible. Weekends are a big part of this.
  • Improve the quantity and quality of time with my wife.
  • Shift work time away from job as quickly as possible.

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