How do I spend my time? An exposé

recording chart

Last week I wrote down everything I did.

It was harder than I thought it would be to keep an accurate account of my time, even though I kept the log open on my computer so that I could jot down my activities as I did them.

I had to decide what was worthy of writing down because early in the week, I was spending too much time recording what I was doing, which, of course, changed the results slightly. I didn’t want my scientific findings to be sullied by faulty testing procedures! So I stopped tracking bathroom breaks and started lumping smaller activities together, e.g.,

8:20-9:15  took Sophie to vet, got gas, did Jumble & crossword

But that made it harder to tally up the time spent on types of activities, such as games. This meant that afterward, during the analysis phase, I had to estimate how long it took to take Sophie to the vet and get gas in order to give me the number of minutes spent on games.

There were definitely some time sinks, which were not a complete surprise. One turned out to be going through my email. Here are the stats: For the 5-day testing period, I spent a total of 430 minutes, or a little over 7 hours, checking and reading the stuff that comes into my inbox, which averages about an hour and a half per day. That seems crazy to me. Of course my email gets somewhat tangled up with Facebook because I receive comments to posts and tags on email, which lures me into the social media world for varying amounts of time.

This is not Lucy’s video from the concert because I couldn’t figure out how to download it to embed here.

For example, on Wednesday, I was in the midst of reading email when I came upon my friend Lucy’s post about the Aretha Franklin concert the previous night. Of course I wanted to see it. Ergo this entry:

9:50 tried to watch Aretha Franklin clip on FB, got frustrated, and got Dave to help

I don’t have anything else recorded in my log until 10:30, despite the clip being only one song long (“Chain of Fools”). This data clearly indicates moments how much time is wasted due to slow technology, or, perhaps more accurately, due to my inadequate grasp of technology.

But that wasn’t the only time sink. Apparently I have a tiny gaming addiction. Not the betting on horses kind or the online fantasy game variety–no, my compulsion involves the Jumble, crossword puzzles, Words with Friends (both classic and new), Cryptoquote, Sudoku, Angry Birds in Space, and an innocent-enough looking game that I discovered on my phone called Two Dots, which is basically connecting like-colored dots but is oddly satisfying for hours on end.

angry birds
angry birds

Add to that total one of my newer projects–Lumosity, which was actually prescribed to me by a neurologist. (I’m not kidding! I was worried about my memory loss and got a referral by my g.p. to see a specialist, who gave me a number of tests that showed nothing serious. So he prescribed puzzles, such as the Jumble and Sudoku; but I already did those, so he wrote down on an official notepad and handed it to me.) So now I spend 15 to 30 minutes a day, 3 or 4 times a week on my “training,” which includes brain stretchers such as Memory Matrix, Speed Match, and Trouble Brewing, which essentially tests me to see if I’d be any good as a barista. (The jury’s still out.) And because I love, love, love Word Bubbles, I usually play a round (or three) of that at the end of my regular “workout.” (I’m using their terminology here.) I try to rationalize this entertaining break as integral to my health. But I’m not certain that it’s actually improving anything except my ability to match shapes and rescue virtual coffee cups from being overfilled.

And of course there are the unforeseeable activities that consume no small part of my life. Here are excerpts from Wednesday:

9:50  tried repeatedly to sync the app on my phone with my Active Band (my cheap knock-off version of a Fitbit that is not working)

noon  went to library rally/protest (that’s worth a whole post by itself)

1:10  tried to retrieve aloe from cracked plastic container to apply to sunburn (that I got at library rally) and used way too much so as not to waste it before throwing mess away; ended up having to peel blue sticky strands off my skin

1:30  cleaned up dog pee

2:30  tried to figure out how to upload a fucking video from my phone to Facebook. GRRR!

4:25  got hungry and wandered around looking for food, then watched the puppies play

5:15  looked all through house and in backyard for Sophie’s missing collar (Bonus: found my long-lost Active Link under the bed!)

fitz & toy
Not the actual puppy I watched last week because I CAN’T DOWNLOAD THE RUBY VIDEO THAT I REALLY WANTED TO PUT HERE!

Now in between those things, I did get a little bit of work done, i.e., proofing a historical biography of Charles Anderson (a less famous guy who made a speech at Gettysburg the same day as Abe). But I won’t lie–it was not my most productive day.

I was relieved to discover that I do spend more time working at my job than I do playing games, but I’m not proud that I spent more than twice the amount of time playing games than I do exercising (8.5 hours v. 3.2 hours total for 5 days). But to be fair–some of that game time was playing cards with Dave after dinner and working on crosswords with him at lunchtime, so that counts as socializing and eating too (double duty). My biggest disappointment in myself is that last week I hardly read any books at all! (And I don’t even have “The Daily Show” to watch any more as an excuse for not getting in my bedtime reading.)

So what’s the upshot of all this? What did I learn?

  1. I should probably save FB videos to watch at bedtime, when Dave is right next to me and isn’t in the middle of redoing some complicated table for a science book that’s due to go to press. In fact, I should probably ignore all Facebook notifications during my workday
  2. It takes a long time to record everything you do.
  3. Don’t try to use a lot of aloe when you don’t need it just to keep it from getting thrown away.
  4. I should spend more time watching puppies play. Outside. Where I don’t have to clean up their pee.

My next project? I think I have some reading to catch up on…


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