At a recent family barbecue, a cousin asked me “What do you do all day now that you’re not working?” I didn’t have a good answer. That bugged me, because I feel that I spend my time doing a mix of enjoyable and productive things. I decided that I wanted to be able to answer the question more objectively, so I tracked everything I did Monday through Friday of week 35, 2016. Here’s what I did.
From midnight on Sunday, August 28, to midnight on Friday, September 2, there were 5 × 24 = 120 hours. I kept track of what I did during this time in 15-minute increments. To protect my privacy and that of those around me, I won’t list every single activity. But don’t worry: I will share the embarrassing amount of time I spent watching TV and reading online articles.
The bits I’m proud of
To start with the most important figure: I spent 46 hours sleeping or trying to fall asleep. That’s 9.2 hours per day, on average! As I’ve written, sleeping enough makes life easier. This week I had some restless nights, including a middle-of-the-night fight with a mosquito. So while I didn’t sleep for 46 hours, I am encouraged that I tried to sleep that much. For much of this week, I hit my target of sleeping eight hours a night.
Next up is physical activity. I spent 2.5 hours bouldering at my local bouldering gym. I tend to boulder three times a week, so this was pretty average. My gym is a 15-minute bike ride from home, so if you add in the time it takes me to travel there and back, to pack my bag, and to shower afterwards, we’re looking at five hours or so. Speaking of biking, I like to bike to get places and in total I spent 5.5 hours on my bike during these five days.
Most weeks I also spend 45 minutes on “aqua power”, which is a form of aerobics in a pool. I then combine that with a visit to family for dinner. But week 35 was during the Dutch summer holidays, so the pool was closed.
On top of the bouldering and biking, I spent 1.5 hours doing mobility exercises and stretching and I spent 40 minutes meditating. I do the exercises every morning and usually I meditate for ten minutes every weekday, but on Friday I forgot to meditate. Between preparing and eating a healthy breakfast, these exercises, stretching, and meditating, I have an awesome morning routine.
Over to food. I spent 2.75 hours cooking, by which I mean preparing breakfast or cooking dinner. I didn’t count preparing lunch, which would bring the total up to 3.5 hours or so. I also spent 1.75 hours getting groceries. The groceries during the week consist mainly of buying fruit and freshly baked bread. I do the main grocery shopping for the week during the weekend.
The bits I’m not so proud of
I was most disappointed realizing that I spent nine hours watching TV during these five days. Ouch. That’s a lot more TV than I’d like to watch in any given week. Fortunately, this was unusual; in a typical week I probably watch only half that amount.
I was also disappointed that I spent only two hours blogging. Ideally, I would spend at least an hour per weekday writing. Then again, talk is cheap. I think I spend a little more time blogging in an average week, but usually not more than three or four hours. I do journal too and sometimes I work on a book that I would like to publish eventually.
As for reading, I spent 4.75 hours reading online articles. The articles I read cover many topics, but many are about my favorite NFL team, the Eagles, and about financial independence. This week, I also read a lot about Linux, Ubuntu, and GNOME. I enjoy reading online articles, but spending close to five hours on reading articles is a bit much.
Fortunately, I also spent 3.75 hours reading books. Ideally, though, I’d spend more time reading books than online articles. Then again, I did also spend an hour browsing books in the library. So let’s call the “random articles” vs. book reading split 50-50. By the way, take a look at my Goodreads profile to see which books I’m reading and which I’ve recently read.
Odds and ends
This week, I spent quite a bit of time trying to improve my productivity. I love working in cafes or in the library, because I find it easy to concentrate there. By contrast, I’m still working out how to set up my work environment at home so that I can be equally productive there. That’s why, for instance, I spent 15 minutes this week rearranging my desk.
One of my productivity challenges is figuring out a way to keep track of things I want to do. Last week I worked on that by reading about and trying out Taskwarrior, a command line task manager. So far, I like it, although I’m still getting used to managing tasks on the command line rather than using a graphical user interface. I’m still evaluating Taskwarrior and will probably discuss my findings in a future post.
At home, I also spent 1.75 hours cleaning the apartment. Some of the cleaning happens on the weekend, so 1.75 hours is pretty typical for how much time I spend cleaning during the week.
Another sizeable chunk of time went to exploring a new operating system. A little over a month ago, I told you that I started using Linux on my home computer. I’ve enjoyed using Linux, but I wanted to see whether I could find a better distribution than Linux Mint. This week I spent quite a bit of time checking out Ubuntu GNOME. So far, I’ve loved using it. It’s well-designed and suits the way I like to navigate around my computer. In all, during these five days I spent 4.5 hours installing, setting up, and exploring Ubuntu GNOME.
In the (distant) past, I’ve spent far too much time playing video games. I don’t anymore, but I do still play occasionally, especially with friends. During these five days, I spent 4.75 hours playing video games, the majority of which was with my friends. How much I play differs substantially week to week. 4.75 hours is on the high side. In an average week, I estimate that I play for one or two hours.
There were miscellaneous items too. For instance, I spent an hour on the phone chatting with various family members, I spent half an hour volunteering for UWC The Netherlands, and I spent 45 minutes recycling an Ikea cabinet by taking it to the local recycling center.
I liked keeping track of my time for a few days and recommend the exercise to anyone. Simply being aware of some of my habits helps me make better decisions and that might be true for you too.
For instance, by logging my time as I went along, I realized just how often I multi-tasked and how often I switched tasks rapidly. In one 15-minute block, I “woke up; checked websites; [and] chatted with a friend”. There was probably also a bathroom visit in there. Often it was difficult to categorize what I did in a given 15 minutes.
I’d like to repeat this exercise in the future. Maybe I’ll do it again in half a year or a year or so. Hopefully, by then I’ll be spending more time writing and less time watching TV. I’m curious to hear what you think of how I spent my time and what you spend your time on. Do share!
Want to get more done in less time?
Every day, I write about the tools and mindset that can help you work smarter, not harder. Because being productive shouldn’t require 60-hour work weeks.
Leave your email address to get my daily message right in your inbox.