Hour-Tracking for Priority Optimization
productivity | social life & social media
To make sure she is living by her priorities, Catherine Hooper has been tracking how she spends every hour of every day for the past 3 years. 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. In this talk, she explains in details how she prioritize things and how she was able to say no to important things.
I’m really happy that it rained because I thought this was going to be about five people when I volunteered to talk. I’m not very good at public speaking so bear with me. I feel very grateful to be here tonight because I don’t consider my project to be technically self-quantification but I basically do track every hour of every day and have for about three or four years. So the reason I do this is to keep my time consistent with my priorities and I want to talk briefly tonight about how I do that.
So all of us have priorities and most of us believe that we don’t do the best job that we possibly could of meeting the priorities and things that are most important to us. So in order to getting closer to meeting the priorities that we have, the first step is to define what those priorities are in a general sense.
This is my first priority about anybody with a spouse or kids might say how can you put yourself first, and my response to that has always been if you think about yourself first, if you focus on yourself first you’re a much better partner, you’re a much better parent, you’re a much better worker. Everything you do, if you tend to the things that are important to you you will be better in the external world.
So my next priority is my partner, my husband. I know we’re not talking about work priorities yet, but this is the most important relationship I have, so keeping that relationship solid is building a foundation for everything else that I do.
My next priority is my children, and then after that basically the world; my world, volunteer work, other things that are external to my immediate family and are important to me.
So once you establish what your priorities are and perhaps in this concentric ring style that I’ve defined, you can then actionize your priorities, so how do you do that?
So if I’m thinking about myself I think about my everyday practices about what’s important to me. So fitness is a big important part of my self-care, exercise, eating right, meditation. I try to meditate about 20 minutes a day. Managing my personal finances, life administration you know opening the mail and getting through that sack of mail that’s on your desk when you get home from work every day. Those are all important things to self-care and really help you build upon what you can do for other people.
Practices that involve my partner are basically these five things and that’s how I can actionize love, and for your children it’s the same thing. And for work I focus on making a contribution of my work and doing volunteering work, so it’s meaningful to me.
So those are my practices. I also have projects. These are thing that I do not plan to do for the rest of my life. These are projects that I will take on and right now I’m trying to learn how to do a handstand, in the middle of the room unaided and to be able to do the splits and all those cool things that you can see on a yoga video. So I’m working on that as a project in addition to the practices that I have. I may have projects involving my partner, like planning a weekend, taking his watch in for repair, little things like that that are on my list of priorities.
For my kids, one of them is applying to school and sending my daughter at college a care package, and then here’s where all your work projects would come here, volunteer work that we do as a family at Thanksgiving comes here. So this gives you a rough sense of where your priorities are and then the sort of order of importance of those priorities and now we’re going to get into the scheduling.
So once you have this sense of what your priorities are and how they’re actionized, you can begin to build your daily schedule or weekly schedule along the line of those priorities.
When you come to your weekly calendar, I do this on a weekly basis I do it usually Saturday’s to Sunday’s, you start with your anchoring events. So all us has something that we plan to do in a couple of weeks that will be sitting on your calendar when you first take a look at that calendar.
This is this evening, the Quantified Self talk is here on Wednesday night, and I’ve got dinner with some friends, a trip to Colorado, dinner plans with my husband on Monday. The first thing that you want to do when you are looking at that week is to determine these things that you’ve established do fit within your priorities. You might see something that you’ve scheduled to do and you look at it and say, that doesn’t fit with anything that’s important to me, I’m going to cancel that, and you can cancel that then before its five minutes before of why did I sign up to do this.
So I next add in my exercise. You can see the green boxes, and as I said that’s something that’s really important to me for self-care. So I add in my exercise that I’m going to do this week from Monday to Saturday.
After that you can add in your supporting events to that important priority. So for instance if I’m going to be at my yoga class at 6AM, I’ve got to wake up at 5AM, get dressed, have a cup of coffee. I’ve got to leave the house at five thirty in order to be there at six. Have my exercise class and then I usually jog home. I walk my daughter to school and then I run home from that and I spend half an hour getting dressed. I spend half an hour working on my desk, and then I usually travel to my office and my travel time is in there.
Then I schedule in my work time. So you can see all these yellow boxes are the times I spend at my desk in the office.
So you can see I schedule things like time for myself, time to walk my daughter to school, time to work on the pile of mail that’s sitting on my desk at home before I schedule my work.
And then after this you can schedule the available time that you have left over to fit with your other priorities. So travel time home, unpacking my bag, cooking dinner, putting my daughter to bed, reading before bed, sleeping. Sleeping is really important to me so I try to keep track of exactly hour many hours a night I plan to sleep, and if I know I’m going to be missing sleep because I’m staying out late, I try to go to bed early the following night to catch up. Putting everything into a calendar like this allows me to see that.
And the last thing is, don’t put anything in the calendar that fails to meet your priorities of you define them. So what you did not see in that calendar is watching TV, doing things uninteresting, spending time with people that aren’t important to you.
Once you have filled your time with the things that are really key to your health and your happiness everything else falls away.