Update: In April, 2009, I wrote a post entitled How I Spend My Time, where I tracked what I was doing every minute of every day for one whole week, to help me visualize how much time I was spending on what really mattered to me. In March, 2011, I did it again and wrote this post below. In January 2013, Tim Ferriss asked if he could guest post it on his 4-hour Workweek Blog. I didn’t feel like tracking another week, so I brought the post up to date with some additional “Update” sections, which you’ll see below.
Now that we’ve made the move abroad, my businesses are more automated than ever, and I’m more used to my 4-hour workweek lifestyle, I wanted to do it again and see how things have changed. I’ll share the results with you here.
Many people seem to think that if you only have to work a few hours per week, you must be spending the rest of your time relaxing in a hammock drinking piña coladas. I mean, what else is there to do? Actually, everything!
As you’ll see, I do spend my fair share of time relaxing, being with family and friends, and even doing “nothing.” But I have plenty else to keep me busy, and I enjoy the freedom to adjust my activities according to my changing interests.
While it takes some effort to track each minute of every day, when I’ve done so, I’ve found it helps me be aware of what I’m doing in the moment, and I feel less pressure while doing tasks I don’t enjoy. I also realize that time will keep moving on, no matter what I do. As long as I’m enjoying life, growing, and helping others where I can, I feel like I’m living my life well.
With that introduction, here is one full week of my life, organized by task.
Disclosure: Even though these tasks are recorded to the minute, they’re not always accurate to the minute. Sometimes I forgot to switch my timer right when I switched tasks, so had to modify it later with a little guess work. Being off by a few minutes for several things has led to being off by a couple hours overall. But it will have to do. For this exercise, I used SlimTimer, a free on-line time tracking tool.
I define “work” as activities done specifically to help produce income. This week I “worked” a little more than usual because I was getting some video tutorials written for one product, and launched a special offer with another. I also planned some important new features to work on next. For me, it’s normal for this category to be under 5 hours per week total.
- Business: Music Teacher’s Helper: 5 Hours, 18 minutes. This includes advertising/marketing (1:35), checking programmer’s work (1:30), customer support (0:48), and the rest in business planning, finances, and checking stats.
- Business: Studio Helper: 2 hours, 1 minute. This includes working on video tutorials (1:27), business planning (24 min), and the rest dealing with feature requests and checking stats.
- Other: 33 minutes. This includes times spent researching a new business idea.
Total Work Hours: 7 Hours, 52 Minutes
Update: I’ve since hired more programmers and support staff, a project manager, and a marketing director, so I’m doing different tasks, but still working about the same amount of time each week.
One of the things I like most about my lifestyle is that I have so much time to spend with my family. We’re together pretty much all day, even if we’re not doing the same thing. Meals, driving, and time with others outside the family are under “Personal Time.”
- Playing with kids: 11 hours, 32 minutes. I try to play with my kids a little every day. Much of this is computer or iPad games with one daughter while my wife is doing homeschool with the other one. But it also includes reading to them, playing hide and seek, “restaurant” and other imagination games.
- Watching Movies: 6 hours, 51 minutes. We watched a few movies with the kids this week, in the evenings, including the 1969 Doctor Dolittle, and Tarzan in Spanish.
- Family Outings: 5 hours, 15 minutes. This includes a little hike up the mountains behind our house, and a trip to the park to ride ponies and bicycles. We also spent time together with our friends, which I’ve included in the Personal: Visiting with Friends section.
- Talking with Wife: 3 hours, 56 minutes. Jen and I enjoy just sitting and talking, as well as reading together.
Total Family Time: 27 hours, 34 minutes
Update: My kids are older now (9 and 7), and we have another baby who is almost two years old. Our two oldest daughters attend a homeschool group most weekdays. And we now enjoy the services of a full-time nanny, housekeeper, driver, and chef. Consequently, my wife and I get more time together, we each get more personal time, and we enjoy different types of activities with our kids.
Even though it looks like I have lots of time left over for myself, I don’t feel like I have much “free time.” I guess that’s because I try to fill my time up with things that I like to do and am passionate about. I still have a full to-do list, and do spend time on things I’d rather not, but I try to work on the most important items first each day. Overall, I’m doing what I love with the majority of my time.
- Sleep: 57 hours, 21 minutes. That’s just over 8 hours per night. This week, we’ve been sleeping in a different room where the sun hits us warmly every morning around 6:30 through the windows. It’s not conducive to sleeping in, but is a very relaxing way to get up.
- Visiting with friends: 11 hours, 22 minutes. We had some friends over for a late lunch one day this week, and we spent an afternoon out with another friend.
- Meals: 11 hours, 2 minutes. We ate out a lot this week (almost every day), and took time to enjoy our food. The meal with our friends is included under “Visiting with friends”.
- Reading: 9 hours, 8 minutes. I have some really interesting books I’m reading right now, although half of this time was spent reading articles and blogs on-line.
- Personal Email: 8 hours, 13 minutes. I had a LOT more time-consuming email than usual this week. I’ve been getting lots of emails from people starting businesses who want advice. I’ve enjoyed being able to help people in this regard. Maybe soon I will have to start charging for consulting and move this into the “Work” category. :)
- Writing: 4 hours, 31 minutes. This was time I spent working on my new book about how to create an online business. I suppose this could also be considered “Work” since I will eventually sell the book, but that’s not my main purpose in writing it.
- Daily Hygiene: 3 hours, 27 minutes. It’s amazing how much time this takes. But I do love a hot shower.
- Sex: 3 hours, 9 minutes. No, it wasn’t all at once.
- Meditating and spiritual time: 2 hours, 41 minutes. I have a great place to sit for my morning meditation overlooking the hills and the city view. Very relaxing.
- Finances: 2 hours, 3 minutes. This is higher than normal because I’ve been working a lot with my accountant trying to figure out taxes, and have been looking at other investment opportunities.
- Exercise: 1 hour, 47 minutes. This includes my daily stretching and tai chi, and a little weight lifting. This doesn’t include all the hiking and walking we did as a family this week.
- And I spent anywhere from 10 minutes to 1 hour, 30 minutes on each of the following: cleaning and organizing, house maintenance, driving, facebook, games (pool, and angry birds), journal, playing the piano, shopping, time tracking, vacation planning, writing on my blog, and selling stuff on Craigslist.
Total Personal Time: 128 hours, 52 minutes
Update: About a year ago, I started charging $150/hour for consulting and it reduced my email while increasing my income. I’ve also put my book on hold for the time being. And these days, I’d probably count “Finances” as “Work,” since it’s income related. Lately, I’ve been spending more time meditating, reading, and journaling, and am learning more about myself in the process. I’m also taking Qi Gong (Chi Kung) lessons, learning the guitar and ukelele, playing in a small band, studying dreams, and experimenting with connected breathing and emotional awareness techniques to help me be more present to enjoy each moment fully.
Now that I’ve gone through all the effort of tracking my time for a week, it would be a shame to simply write a blog post about it and not use the data to see where I can improve. In the weeks ahead, I would like to make the following changes:
- More time with my wife, especially reading and talking with her.
- More family time together with the kids at home. We spend a lot of time together outside the home, but when we’re inside, we tend to do our own thing. I also want to take a more active role in homeschool, helping the kids with their blogs, music, as well as math and reading, etc.
- More time working on my book. I’m excited to complete this project and hopefully it will help a lot of people looking to create a business.
- Less time reading online. I want most of my reading time to be focused and intentional, not jumping from item to item.
- Less time on email. I had built up a practice of checking email just twice a day and leaving it alone the rest of the time. But I didn’t follow that so well this week, and found my productivity waver because of it.
Update: I definitely spend more time with my wife now, but probably less with my kids. I’ve stopped working on my book, but have put more time into other interests. My reading is more focused now, and I spend less time on the computer. I still think I have too much email, but most days I can get it all done in one sitting.
Have you ever tracked your time? If you’ve ever charged per hour, chances are you’ve tracked your time working, but have you ever measured what you’re doing with the rest of your time? Yeah, maybe it is a bit fanatical. But I think there is value in it at least every once in a while. If a week seems like too much, even tracking your time for a single day can reveal insights and help you see areas you want to improve.
I’m interested to hear your thoughts below, and what changes you’d like to make in how you spend your time.
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[…] 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. […]
What stops me is a lack of a convenient stop-timer with a categorizing function, and perceived weirdness of the constant start-stop exercise.
For instance, if I have a lunch with a friend, and start timer at the beginning, won’t it be viewed as “hurry up, Josh, I do not have much time for you!”? Some people may get offended.
Even weirder is timer before sex. Could make the whole thing… well, a process.
P.S. I just noticed you have filed sex under Personal (not Family) Time. Well… pregnancy has its down sides too!
You might want to check out RescueTime.com. It tracks everything you do on your computer behind the scenes. Won’t track non-computer stuff, though. :)
As for tracking during appointments, I suppose some people might be offended. But I think they’ll understand if you just tell them you’re trying tracking your time this week to be more productive. Alternately, you could just remember the time you started your visit and then adjust your time tracking when you get home. There’s certainly no need to feel rushed yourself – you’re not trying to keep things under a certain time. Just do what you love, and simply measure how long I’m doing it for.
Yeah, I guess sex probably would be better categorized as a “family” event. But I wouldn’t want to give the impression that the whole family is involved. :)
I really enjoyed reading this post. It is interesting to see how much time is spent in each area. What a great way to find ways to improve the way you use your time too. I especially like the one about spending more time talking and reading with your wife. :) I also love how much time you spend with our sweet little girls, and I know they do too.
First of all, it sounds like you have a very well rounded life. You spend time doing things that are very important and healthy.
Second, I actually am very aware of the time spent at work, since I bill my hours (right now I am spending 0.4 hours browsing the web and checking blogs. NOT billing my time).
Third, I’m so happy for you and Jen and your intimacy. 3 hours is pretty good. Why don’t you shoot for 5 hours next week? ;)
5 hours… that’s almost 45 minutes/day, or a few 2 hours sessions. Probably doable… ;)
This is so interesting, and also made me laugh…. cracked up that you listed sex.
I have been using SlimTimer to track my work hours for some time now. Very helpful. I have tried tracking my personal time, but it feels really awkward… particularly when I’m trying to get away from my computer as much as I can.
But I do see the value in it – especially since I’m very guilty of bouncing around from thing to thing to thing, not being particularly productive at anything because I’m not focused on the “one” thing at that moment. I waste a lot of time… which I can’t get back.
Yeah, tracking every minute takes a lot of effort, and isn’t something I’d want to do constantly. One week was plenty for me. Even doing it for a day, though, I think is helpful, especially if you’re a habitual multi-tasker. :)
Thanks for letting me benefit from some of that unscheduled email time. :) It’s been very helpful to me. I think we could all learn a great deal (and probably be shocked) if we were to time and track our activities for a week, but few of us are disciplined enough to do it. I may try to accurately track just even on day, to start.
It will be exciting to see you succeed in your business, Kristin. You’ve got a great little niche there. And yes, tracking your time even for a day will probably reveal a lot to you.
Let me know when you finish your book. I’ll be one of the first to purchase it from you. Keep up the good work. You’re amazing Brandon.
Great post. I’ve been doing some of that myself the past two weeks and have realized I’ve slipped into old habits in letting certain things get in the way of what I really want to do. It’s great to have a tune-up and a reminder as to what the 4-Hour-Work-Week is about.
Cheers to you and your family!
My brother shared your blog with me. I think my brother tracked it down from Tim Ferriss’ blog (case study). I love it! As a GIS/engineer consultant I’m used to tracking my “work” time on 6 minute increments, but I like the concept of tracking my personal, family, physical fitness and spiritual time too. The truth is I work way too much and I don’t fully want to know how little I do the things I truly love. Thanks for the encouragement to make the hard changes I need to implement the 4-hour workweek. I look forward to your book, including more guidance and encouragement. Best wishes to you and family!
a like your pictures you tock.
I don’t spend any time tracking. It’s all I can do to complete one task a day. I do push myself to complete my one or two tasks (weekends only). Things do get done in spite of myself.
I dig your blog. It is inspiring because I do want to know how I can sustain this lifestyle when I am starting a family.
By the way, I read your about page and you mention you are writing a book. How is it coming along?
I got maybe half way through writing the book, but then got more interested in other things, so the book has been on the back burner for a while. I may dig it out again, but I may not. Depends on where my interests lead.
Brandon, my wife asked if you have a version of this post based on your wife’s time. It’s helpful to see both of your roles to get a comprehensive view of how your teamwork leads to the awesome results. Thanks!
Here’s her reply: “On the whole, how I spend my time is constantly in flux, and depends on where we’re at in the world and our phase of life and interests at the time, including what activities and classes our children are currently involved in. In general though, I spend a lot of time reading and writing. I enjoy reading alone as well as together with various family members. Something I’d like to find more time for in my schedule is crafting type projects, which I’m also interested in, especially as an activity with my girls. I spend time doing online courses every once in a while. I sometimes enjoy dance or yoga classes, as well as voice lessons, on which I spend quite a few hours a week in practice time. I frequently spend time on cooking, organizing, cleaning, and laundry. We all work as a team as much as possible, providing help and support to each other as needed and desired. I frequently spend time in travel planning and research as well as social planning for engaging our family with other families and individuals during our travels. Much of my time is spent in activities with my family and our friends.”