Update: This post was written in April of 2009, so I have written an update to this post showing How I Spend My Time Now.
I like being productive. And I like being able to look back at how I spend my time and see how closely it aligns with my ideals. That’s why I track my time while I’m working.
Because I run my own business from home, I’ve had some people ask me recently how much time I spend “working” each week. I define work as doing activities that directly relate to producing income. For me, that’s running my business. Things like mowing the lawn, or planning my next vacation are certainly work, but I don’t count them here (although I do track them, which I’ll show you below).
So, in answer to the above question, I usually spend between 8-15 hours per week on activities specifically related to producing income. Sometimes it’s more, sometimes less. It depends on how excited I am about what I’m doing, or what other things I have going on. When I was in Panama, I averaged about 5 hours per week.
What About The Rest?
But much more important than the question of how much time I spend “working” is the question, “How do I spend the rest of my time?” And am I spending my time how I really want to? It’s possible to spend all day reading blogs, watching TV, or just sleeping and eating. But is that how I want to live? No sir. Well, not usually…
I’m a very project-driven person. If there’s something I’m passionate about accomplishing, I can focus on little else until I have accomplished or achieved it. It’s just how I work, and it’s how I get things done. There was a time I was spending 12 hours a day (roughly 70 hours/week) working on producing income. I doubt I’ll ever put that much effort again into making money, but I don’t think I’d have a successful business today if I hadn’t been so committed to making it work.
I think there needs to be time for work and time for relaxation and play (Eccl 3:1-8). But what is the right balance for you? And when you’re working, what do you want to be working on?
Try Tracking for Simple Improvement
I’m now going to share with you today how I spent my time this past week. For over a year now, I’ve been tracking my time using a free tool called Slim Timer. I started using it because I wanted to track the hours I was working on web projects, back when I was billing hourly. But have since realized how useful it is to track how I’m spending time in other areas of my life, and the habit just stuck.
I’ve learned that once I start diligently tracking something, whether it be every bite of food I put into my mouth, every penny I spend, or every minute of how I use my time – I start to become more conscious of what I’m doing and almost instantly start seeing improvement, even if I haven’t been trying to improve. At different times in my life, I’ve tracked all three (food, money, and time) and with each one, I have been amazed at what effect such a simple exercise (tracking) had on me.
For example, in my 8th grade health class, I had to write down everything (and I mean everything) I ate and drank for a week. If you’ve never done that, I recommend you try it! I couldn’t believe how much garbage I was feeding myself and I instantly started eating more healthy. I don’t know why – I just did! The same thing happened with tracking money in my teen years. Every penny I spent I recorded and categorized in MSMoney, and I instantly started saving more and spending more wisely. Now as I’ve tracked my time over the past while, and have reviewed it regularly, I have seen a lot of improvement and I know I’m spending my time now more in the way that I want to, than ever before in my life. If you’ve never tracked something like this, try it! It’s amazing what even a simple log can show you that you just don’t realize otherwise.
I should say before showing you this report, that I certainly don’t have time management mastered. I still end up wasting time on things that really aren’t that important to me, or creating an imbalance of too much of one thing. I’m also not always perfect in remembering to track my time. But I am improving, and most importantly, I am happy and I love my life!
So, here are the totals for the past 7 days. (Note: I’m posting this on a Thursday, so it’s from Thursday to Thursday, although I usually review on a Sun-Sat schedule, if that matters.)
- Web Projects: 4 hours, 47 minutes. This includes creating proposals, assigning tasks to my programmers, checking their work, and discussing projects with clients. I currently have about four projects going.
- Music Teacher’s Helper: 2 hours, 28 minutes. This is my main source of income. I spend so little time on it because it’s very streamlined, and I have great teams to help so much with it. Tasks involved here include advertising, support, correspondence with my teams, blogging, checking stats, finances, and a little programming. (I have each of those tracked to the minute). Next week will probably be higher here as I’ll be writing some more marketing content and maybe creating another video tutorial.
- Studio Helper: 5 hours, 32 minutes. This is a newer project which is just starting to take off. In addition to making sure the programming is going smoothly, I have been working hard on some marketing, planning, did a little programming myself, and launched a special offer this week, that resulted in a number of new subscriptions. Yay!
Total Working Hours: 12 hours, 47 minutes
So how did I spend the rest of my time? Well, contrary to what those who know me may think, I don’t (anymore) spend all day in front of the computer. I do carry my iPhone most everywhere, but I don’t usually track my time as diligently when I’m not working. I bet if I did, I’d start spending it better, though!
That said, a lot of these numbers will be estimates, whereas some will be more exact.
- Sleep: 60 hours. Everyone needs sleep. Some more than others. I almost always get 8 hours per night, and a couple days this week I slept in an extra hour or two because it felt good, so 60 hours is probably about right for the week. I don’t use an alarm anymore, unless I have an early meeting or something. I usually just get up when my body tells me it’s time. However, if I sleep too long, I get a headache all day, so I try to get up before I feel the headache coming on. I usually go to bed between 10pm and midnight, and wake up between 6am and 8am.
- Time alone with my wife: 23 hours. Our kids currently go to preschool twice a week for 3 hours, so we automatically get 6 hours per week of date time for that – we love our lunch dates! Plus, last Saturday night we went out to dinner and to Opera premier of “Little Women” (first time in a while that we’ve had an evening date without the kids). We love spending time together! Then, every night after we put the girls to bed around 8, we stay up and talk, watch movies or travel shows, or read (she’s been reading “Harry Potter” to me). This is usually for 1-3 hours per night. So I think I’ve estimated about right for this week.
- Time with kids: 17 hours. This is one I really wish I was tracking better, because it’s so important. I will often come up during “breaks” while I’m working to play catch with the girls in the front room :), play imaginary games with them (or dolls), wrestle, or this week, teach Emily how to ride a bike without training wheels! Sometimes we’ll do these things before or after meals as well. We have Family Home Evening every Monday night where we sing, pray, and have a lesson, games and a treat. And every night we have a little devotional where we sing, pray and read together as a family. I also threw in a couple hours of driving time this week as well, when we were all together, since that sometimes turns into conversation. This also includes meals together, and evening time after dinner when we just “do nothing” together. We have dinner together almost every night, lunch together except when the girls have preschool, and occasionally we’ll have breakfast together. Usually, I eat with the girls, and Jen eats later.
- Church: 10 hours. We go to church for 3 hours each Sunday. I also study the gospel for about 30 minutes every morning, which I count here. This also counts the time I spend doing my calling (making appointments for our bishop, or updating the ward website), and time attending the Temple, which I did once this week. I counted Family Home Evening and devotional time as family time, but it could just as easily be counted here. Time spent on “church stuff” is generally very fulfilling for me because I feel like I’m being of service, or at least feeding my soul some good spiritual food, which keeps me going in other areas of my life.
- Personal: 39 hours. This week, this includes writing this blog post (1 1/2 hours), visiting relatives (6 1/2 hours), cleaning (30 minutes), morning and evening rituals: shower, etc. (4 hours), exercise: daily morning tai chi and yoga routine (2 hours), fixing an old computer my grandma gave me (1 hour), cast meeting for Joseph (1 hour), personal e-mail (2 hours), reading (1 hour), personal finances (1 1/2 hours), planning (1 hour), mowing the lawn (1 hour), and working on a video of our Panama trip (7 hours) – that’s been my big project lately.
Okay, so you math experts out there will notice that this totals up to about 162 hours (if my math is right). But there are 168 hours in a week (24*7). So that leaves about 6 hours unaccounted for!! What happened to those other 6 hours?! You know what? I don’t know! I told you there might be some inaccuracies. :) It was probably spent mostly reading on the web, or resting on the couch or something – I don’t know. But that does makes me curious. Does this mean I could have an extra 6 hours in my week if I could find it? Or did I just do a bad job at tracking what am I doing in that time?
Ah… but I must remember the more important question from the beginning of this post. Am I doing what I want to be doing, and am I spending the time I want on the things that are most important to me? I can answer yes to that. The point isn’t to squeeze as much into our day as we can, and do as many things as possible. The point is to make sure we do those things that we love and that bring us fulfillment. (Although, now I’m tempted to start tracking every minute on Slim Timer through my iPhone next week just to see where that time went… See how I am?)
I wanted to go on and share with you some of the other tools I use to track my time and appointments, but this has gotten pretty long, so I think I’ll save those for another post.
But before you leave, I want you to get something from this post. Rather than it just being an interesting (or not) post to read about the weekly life of Brandon Pearce, why not take a look at yourself, and your own time, and ask yourself if you’re spending your time the way you want to? You may not want to spend your time at all like I do, but figure out how you do want to spend it and see how close you’re living to that. You may be surprised.
Or start tracking it using Slim Timer or another tool and see what happens. Even logging part of your day, like I do, is immensely helpful. Set aside some time to think about what your ideal day might look like (a topic which deserves at least a whole post to itself), and how you can reach it. You just may have an enlightening experience (such as, you’ve lost 6 hours of your week and don’t know where to find it…).
(May 3, 2009: Update: I think I figured out where the extra hours went. I forgot to calculate in my Oratorio Society rehearsal (practice for Mendelssohn’s Elijah, which was 2 hours), and my weekly Tai Chi / Yoga class, which is 3 hours. Plus driving, I think that accounts for about everything. Yay!)