Tag Archives: time
How do we spend our time?
Jared Chung was curious about how he was spending his days after he transitioned from his role as a consultant into his new startup venture. Inspired by pervious Quantified Self talks he decided to start tracking his time and his daily activities (work, exercise, sleep, etc.) using Google Calendar. This ongoing tracking project has helped him identify how he spends his day and how that compares to his planned activities. Watch this great talk filmed at the QS Boston Meetup to learn more about what Jared learned and how you can get started tracking your time
Sacha Chua started tracking time to find out where she was spending time and how she might change her patterns. In the video below, she explains what she learned, including how quickly her interests change, how she chooses to break down her time, and how the tracking helps her focus. Be sure to check out Sacha’s blog too, where she publicly posts weekly detailed lists of things she has accomplished in the past week and her plans for the next week. (Filmed by the Toronto QS Show&Tell meetup group.)
Adam Loving wanted a very lightweight way to track what he did each day, without tweeting it to the world. He built a simple system where he can tell Siri what he did, and it gets recorded in a database. Some data gets automatically entered through if this then that. Adam found that it has motivated him to continue his pushup/situp routine, and keeping his system simple has helped him uncover some funny problems for future improvement. (Filmed by the Seattle QS Show&Tell meetup group.)
We got such great feedback on the orignal NFATW post that we decided to turn it into a regular feature. Every few weeks be on the lookout for new posts profiling interesting individuals and their data. If you have an interesting story or link to share leave a comment or contact the author here.
Michael Allen Smith
Michael is an avid coffee drinker and contributor to the caffeine-obsessed blog I Need Coffee. He recently wrote up a nice post about his experimentation exploring how his coffee consumption and sleep quality. Using a simple spreadsheet, Michael tracked his daily coffee intake, the time of his last coffee, chocolate consumption and sleep quality (rated 1-5 after waking). He has a nice explanation for the simplicity in his tracking methodology:
What I discovered is that the more complicated you make the tracking, the less likely you’ll maintain the data.
Michael also leaves us with some great parting thoughts that we can all apply as we initiate and work through our own experiments:
Look at the data and dial in the level that works best for you. [...] Only you can answer these questions.
If you’re interested in coffee and caffeine, you might also enjoy this post by Robin Barooah – The False God of Coffee.
Matt Danzico is a journalist (and self-described nerd) living and working in Washington DC. He took it upon himself to engage in a year-long experiment of sorts in 2011. Dubbed Time Hack, the project sought to explore the complex interplay between our actions and our perception of time.
The year-long project aims to test whether time itself is flexible and whether our brains measure time differently than the clocks around us.
While this may not seem like a strict QS self-experiment, I think it worth discussing. Time is something that everyone battles with. We want more time to do this or that, we track productivity, we keep calendars and to do lists handy at all time. Why? To conquer time of course. But what if time is relative (and not just in the Einstienian sense) and it our perception of time depends on our behavior? Matt explored this idea for a full year and has some really interesting – and quite fun – data to show for it. He actively engaged in new experiences every day and tracked his perception of time and compared it to objective measures of time (stopwatch, video, etc.). Even more interesting (in my opinion) than the measurement of time, he also recorded his perceptions of specific details that occurred during each event. I’ll highlight a few of my favorites here, but take some time and dig through his blog. It’s well worth it.
- Estimated time: 0:49:41
- Actual time: 0:57:55.8
Day 297: Wash clothes with a washboard.
- Estimated time: 1:21:00
- Actual time: 1:09:31.1
Time is a fascinating subject and I am eagerly awaiting Matt’s analysis of his year long experiment. Until then I suggest keeping yourself busy by listening to these two wonderful podcasts on time by the always interesting folks over at Radio Lab: Time and Beyond Time.
Buster Benson of Habit Labs likes to experiment with productivity, among other things. He uses RescueTime to see which apps and websites he spends the most time on each week. The winners are his text editor (for coding) and Gmail. In the video below, Buster talks about the ease of different kinds of tracking, from passive to binary to active entry, and previews some some Habit Labs apps. The folks from RescueTime are also present, adding to the audience discussion. (Filmed by the Seattle QS Show&Tell meetup group – first video from them!)
Catherine Hooper has been tracking how she spends every hour of every day for the past 3 years. Why? To make sure she is living by her priorities. She defines her priorities, turns them into actions, then schedules them. Each week, Catherine sits down with her calendar, looks at what she already has on her schedule, and first decides whether these things fit within her priorities. After canceling any things that don’t fit, she adds in the actions that are important to her, in order of importance, as well as supporting actions that need to surround them. Her closing message? Don’t have anything in your calendar that fails to meet your priorities! This is a great framework for saying no to unimportant things. Watch her detailed explanation below. (Filmed at the NY QS Show&Tell.)
Some time ago I was asked for the ultimate productivity tip, and instead of giving a straightforward take-away, I said that in the end the answer is “it depends.” That wasn’t a cheap shot because what works for you might not work for the next guy, and vice versa. Sound familiar? It’s the same case for medications, meditation, and most anything else we humans do. That’s why it’s best to experiment, examine your results, and decide based on the data. In other words, quantify!
But there’s a complication. Coming up with metrics that reflect the value of what we do, rather than the individual efforts, can be a challenge. While the latter are simpler to measure, (there’s a reason that some jobs require you to clock in – “seat time” is an easy metric), the real test is more how effective we are, not just how efficient. I may be cranking widgets at a fast pace, but what if I’m making the wrong ones?
Until we have general-purpose and quantified framework for measuring value (“accomplishment units?”), we have to keep being creative. In this long post I want to seed some discussion by sharing two things: some specific productivity experiments I’ve tried, with their results, and a recap of the cool productivity experiments found here on Quantified Self. Please share techniques that you’ve found helpful.
Productivity experiments I’ve tried
Adopt a system. The single biggest productivity change I made was trying a system for organizing my work. In my case I got the GTD fever (Getting Things Done), and my results were clear, including getting far more done more efficiently, feeling more in control, and freeing up brainpower for the big picture. At the time (five years ago) I wasn’t thinking of it in terms of an experiment, but it certainly qualified. From a QS perspective it can function as a kind of tracking platform because it has you keep a comprehensive and current list of tasks (Allen calls them “actions”). I have used them for various tracking activities, mainly by characterizing or counting them.
Two-by-two charting. I’ve plotted 2D graphs of various task dimensions to analyze my state of affairs, such as importance vs. fun (a sample is here). These are a kind of concrete snapshot that I analyze over time. In the above example I decided that the upper right quadrant (vital + fun) was still a little sparse.
From the New York QS Show&Tell meetup group – Colin Schiller talks about how his productivity changed after having a baby. He experimented with using the Pomodoro Technique and only working eight hours a day. For four weeks, he tracked all the work activities he did in each 25-minute work segment. Watch the video below to see what Colin learned about his maximum productivity and the surprising reaction from his wife.
When am I most productive?
Bill Jarrold asked himself this question and showed us his answer at the most recent Bay Area QS Show&Tell. He did an analysis of his command line logs and charted how many UNIX commands he issues by hour of the day.
What Bill found was that 3 pm was his peak performance time in terms of number of commands, with a second peak at 10/11 pm. He was surprised to learn that by this measure, his productivity at midnight was as good as his productivity at 10 am.