Where the time goes

I want to share a new thing I started today: I’m keeping a record of where my time goes. When I start a new task, I write down the time and what I’m doing. It is quite simple, but I’m seeing benefits already.


A few months ago, I was listening to the Manager Tools podcast One Less Thing, and they had a useful idea for anyone – use your calendar to record what you’ve done, and review it monthly to check that you are doing what is important, and find something to stop doing. It seemed almost like an engineering process – by measuring where the time went, you can adjust where the new time goes, and create a feedback loop.

I thought of how to do it electronically, using Google Calendar and my new work-provided Blackberry. I could use colors to designate what I considered important and unimportant. I could add notes for future searching. I could write an app to extract a summary of my month. I could write an app to automatically add entries based on the window where I was using the mouse the most!

Yeah, none of that happened.

As I was watching Merlin Mann’s latest monologue on productivity, I remembered the idea, and decided right now was the time to start, and I needed to start low-tech.

I grabbed a legal pad, and wrote “3:23 Play w/ Issac”, because my kid was crying and I was the only parent around. Also, I don’t know how to spell his name (sorry, Isaac). After a minute, I realized this was going nowhere, and decided instead to put him in the stroller and walk him and the dog down the street to get some coffee. Maybe he’d go to sleep?

It was a very nice Fall day, just the right level of chill and absolutely beautiful. Lots of people were out walking their babies and much better behaved dogs. Isaac enjoyed it all, and fell asleep on the walk back. Mission accomplished! However, I was a bit distressed to discover that it took 30 minutes, plus 8 minutes prep time, to go for the walk. Maybe next time I’ll go to the closer Starbucks rather than the superior Ristretto Roasters.

I swapped to a Moleskine cashier, because it fits in a pocket more nicely than a legal pad, and the tiny space keeps me from writing in too much detail.  I’ll see if I can keep it up.



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