Where is your time really going?

by Henrik Edberg

This is the second part in the series How to double your productivity.

Did you know, at least according to Snapple Real Facts, that we on average kiss for 2 weeks during our lifetime?

Did you know you´ll spend 2 years of your life on the phone and 2 weeks of your life waiting for the traffic-light to turn green?

Do you know your average life-expectancy counted in days and not years?

To find ways to increase our productivity we should look at what we are doing with our time right now. What did you do today? Where did your time go?

To find out exactly where it went I suggest logging your time for a normal day. Grab a pen and a notepad. Now, tomorrow or any day that fits your schedule write down every activity you do from the moment you wake up in the morning until you got to bed at night. Write it all down.

Use a stopwatch to measure the time of every activity. My old Nokia 3310 has a stop-watch so it´s likely your cell-phone has one too. Have the notepad, pen and cell-phone with you all day.

Before you go to bed that day, order all the activities into different categories. Some of my categories were websurfing, bathroom breaks, riding the bus and cooking. You might want to use your notepad or some Excel-type of program to do this. Then work out how much time you have spent on each category.

If you use the internet during your day I suggest you download the free addon PageAddict for Firefox. If you don´t have Firefox, then download that too as it is an awesome browser. PageAddict will let you track just how much time you spend on different websites. To view your statistics, click Tools in Firefox and then PageAddict. The creators recommend that if you leave your computer for a while, don´t leave a browser window on top or as active. It can give you inaccurate results.

The results of keeping a time log can be both a little surprising and a little disturbing. I, for instance, found that I spent more time than I thought riding or waiting for a bus. And that I use more time than I imagined using internet-forums and checking my website statistics. I think many find that doing less important things and pretty much just wasting time takes up more time than we want to know. And the time spent actually doing things you find important is less than you might imagine.

If there is one figure you hear over and over again studying when productivity it´s this: the average office-worker only spends 1.5 hours of his or her day actually working.

According to a recent survey by America Online and Salary.com it might not be that bad. The average office-worker admits wasting or spacing out for 2.09 hours every 8-hour day. And that doesn´t include the lunch break. The biggest time-waster is, not surprisingly, surfing the internet. It accounts for 44.7% of the wasted time. However, the 10 000 employees interviewed probably didn´t log their time and therefore gave a rough and most likely overly optimistic estimations.

Bringing up these less important activities and the time they occupy to your conscious mind can feel a little disturbing. But, for instance, knowing exactly how much time I spent aimlessly browsing forums has helped me become more focused and less time-wasting in my online habits.

Keeping a log if only for one day can help you identify time-thieves. It can also help you become better at realistically estimating how much time an activity will actually take. Of course, you can also expand and track a whole week to get more information and a better overview of your life.

There´s programs to help you log your time. Lifehacker, for example, has one nifty little script. But if you want to track you whole day, and not just your working hours, then a pen and some paper is probably more suitable. Or perhaps you could do a quick Google-search for free time tracking software for your cell-phone or PDA.

Now, getting back to where we started…

Did you know that if you are an average American your life-expectancy, in rough numbers, is 28105 days? That if you are Indian that your life-expectancy is 24455 days? And if you are Chinese your life-expectancy is 26280 days?

What do you want to do with your days?

In the next few days, in part three of this series: One way to know what activities you should focus on…

You might want to read the first part in this series: Declutter, declutter, declutter!





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{ 4 comments }

Johnny November 11, 2006 at 11:24 pm

I found that one of my biggest time thieves is TV, Internet, & Sleep. But I wonder what I would be doing with my time if I wasnt doing these activities.

Den December 5, 2006 at 2:51 pm

to Johnny

What did people do, when there were no such things as tv and internet? Say, in the 19th century?
They spent their time on going to theaters, composing music, writing poems and long creative letters on paper. Chatting with real people instead of IM, and, eventually, spending their time inventing such things as TV and computers.
Technology is a great thing. However, a great thing always bears a temptation to be abused. And, when it’s abused, people get spoiled.
I’ve noticed one thing – that I am much more creative in photography, when I use old-fashioned film camera (though a very good one) just for the reason that you have to think before taking each shot – and therefore each shot becomes more valuable. As for the digital – heck – I can take bloody 2000 pix and delete 1999 afterwards – but I aint getting any kick out of it.
When you plug your computer in, you see like another 20 people online. But if you just send an invitation to all these people on paper to organize a great party – just to have fun, it would be a totally different thing. Same people, same chat.

Tyler January 22, 2007 at 12:07 am

Time is the single most valuable commodity on this planet – and it can’t be deposited in a bank, saved in a vault, or purchased at a great price. It moves on indifferently, constantly, at the same rate, regardless of whether I wish for it to past quickly or long for a moment to last forever. Once a moment, or opportunity has passed, it is irretrievable. I need to make sure to be effectinve in how I spend my time.

Betsy Sloan February 22, 2008 at 1:48 am

Time can be very, very relative to our life force.

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