How a Time Diary Helped Me See Where I Was Wasting Time

Last Updated on May 9, 2022 by Stephanie

If you read my last post, you will know that I tried keeping a time diary for a week. This has been eye-opening! If you haven’t read the initial post, check it out here. This time I’m back to share what I learned and where I was wasting time!

Sitting down to analyze this log was awesome and humbling. There were a lot of things that I learned. I am putting it all out here for you today in hopes that you will try this for a week too.  Let me tell you my main takeaways from my personal time log. Then, I will get into my process of analyzing everything.

  1. I don’t get as much sleep as I thought I was getting.
  2. The time my family spends eating together is awesome.
  3. I want to increase the time I spend socializing with my daughter and husband.
  4. The time I spend on mindless phone stuff is obnoxious.
  5. I use socializing as a work-avoider and not to build relationships (This was huge)
  6. I want to spend more time reading and not just before bed.

Those were my big takeaways. Now, let me show you how I came to those conclusions.

Time Diary and Wasting Time

How I Analyzed The Data

Picking My Categories

When I did the time log, I did not do any kind of color-coding or categorizing while doing it. I just wrote what I was doing in the little 15-minute chunks of time. Personal note: I would highly recommend doing the 15-minute time blocks as opposed to the 30-minute blocks. There were a lot of small chunks of time that I’m glad I captured.

Once the 168 hours were done, I sat down and listed out categories as they came up. It ended up that I made eight major categories:

Within these categories, others also emerged because I wanted to know how much time, for example, I spent working on social media stuff for my blog vs. creating products. Or for my family category, I put social time with my daughter separate from our family mealtime because I know I want to increase our one-on-one time together.

Going Through the Days

I took those categories and wrote them out nice and neat in my digital notebook (seriously, I don’t know what I would do without digital notebooks in my life) and started going through the log. Every 15 minutes I spent doing something meant that I put a green dot next to that category. This made it so much easier than trying to add the time up as I went. I just put a dot and added up all the time at the end. This is what one of my days looked like:

Time Diary from Wednesday in Digital Notebook

Every four dots was an hour, so it made it easy to just strike through four dots at a time to add up hours.

Figuring Out My Week

After this, I was able to figure out my totals for all categories by adding everything up from the individual days. Using my same list from the days was the best way to do this for me. As you can see on the page below, I grouped some things together and for some categories, I figured out daily totals as well.

If you are a data nerd like me, you may LOVE this part. I loved looking at the data from this and realizing where my time was going.  You can see in the picture above that next to each category, there are some colored dots.  I will tell you a little about that next.

The Hard Work: Honest Reflection About Wasting Time and Where I Want More Time

Putting this out there for all the world to see is quite interesting for me. I fully admit that I have some mixed emotions about it. My hope though, is that going through my process will help others understand the whole process as well.

My Big Realizations – I Need More Sleep

I’m only averaging about 6.5 hours of sleep a night. I do want to bump that up a bit. Part of this is because I wake up at 5AM every morning. That is my most productive time, so I don’t want to give that up. My morning routine and weekly review all happen during those early hours. Having a toddler also means that those hours before everyone wakes up are my only real uninterrupted times all day. This means that I need to settle in for bed a little earlier. This leads to wasting time number one… my phone.

Wasting Time Number 1 – My Phone

So, I have made an effort to use my phone less in the past few months, but realize that I am still falling short of my time goals. I do not count focused phone time when I’m on Instagram or Pinterest specifically for blog stuff. That falls under social media time for Creating Time for Life. That is phone browsing with a purpose. When I put the random phone on my time log it was for things like playing games or randomly scrolling Facebook or Instagram for fun. It was mindless. Honestly, I think that having my watch going off every 15 minutes actually made me more aware and use it less… which is quite sad.  I still spent a little over an hour a day on my phone.

Clock and Calendar for Time Diary

Family Goals

One thing that I realized was that while I spend a lot of time caring for my daughter with things like bath time, helping get her ready, etc., I don’t necessarily spend a lot of quality one-on-one time with her or my husband. We do eat together every single night for dinner and we eat almost all our meals together on the weekends. I love this. I loved realizing that we are doing that well.

We also spend a lot of time in front of the television. Yup… I admitted it. I put it out there for all to see. My 2.5 year old watches TV. She loves Mickey Mouse and Disney movies like her life depends on it. She doesn’t, however, have a tablet or any other kind of handheld device because we don’t believe in it. We also are often watching TV with her and engaging with her. “Oh Toodles” comes out of my mouth quite often. A lot of my random phone time was sitting next to her on the couch while she watched TV. Yup… I admitted that too. I am not Wonder Woman… this is real life.

Wasting Time Number 2 – Socializing

Teaching is a very social profession. Both with students and with your colleagues, socializing is absolutely necessary! However, I had a realization with my time log this week. A lot of times at school, I am socializing to avoid work and not to build relationships. I had a couple of other social blocks in my log that were before and after CrossFit and that is absolutely to build relationships. Those ladies and that gym community are my rocks.

That’s not saying that I don’t have great relationships with several of my colleagues. Especially after the last couple of years, when we had so much crazy stuff going on. However, during my day when I’ve got other stuff to do, I’m avoiding work… yup.

More Reading Time

I do read before bed every single night. I also “read” by listening to audiobooks in my car commutes when I don’t have my kiddo in the car. I do want to get more reading in. When I’m writing this, it is the first week in May and I’ve read 17 books of my 75-book goal for the year. I know that my reading typically picks up in the summer, but oh man do I need to pick up more reading time.

What Now?

After I had these general discoveries from analyzing how I spent my 168 hours, I went through those times and put colored dots next to everything. You can see that in the totals picture above. Here was how I color-coded things:

  • Pink – Things I’m either good with or can’t control (staff meetings, commuting).
  • Green – Things I’m proud of or really happy with.
  • Blue – Things I want to do more of.
  • Red – Things I want to do less of.

This took a lot of reflection as well. It was super helpful though!

Red Vs. Blue

So, the red categories for me included School Plans, School Getting Ready for the Day, Creating Time for Life Social Media, Housekeeping, Social Time at School, Random Phone/TV time, and Shopping. Some of these categories like my school getting ready for the day and plans is more about optimizing my routines and less about wasting time there. This is true for the time I spend working on Social Media things for my site… I just need to optimize it more!

Blue categories included kid check-ins at school, more digital product and blog post work, more social time with my husband and daughter, more reading, adding more sleep, and more time at the gym!

Creating Time From Wasting Time

Now comes more hard work that will happen over time now that I’m aware of it. This is all about creating new habits and building on the good things I’m already doing. Looking at my contexts, natural things came up for me to swap. At school, instead of socializing to fill up any empty spaces, I want to use more time to check in with my students more regularly. Instead of random phone time, more quality family time. More optimized social media work so I have more focused time on digital products and blog posts.

In the book that inspired this, 168 Hours, the author suggested a lot of different “time-savers” for certain things that I’m going to be honest… I’m not willing to pay for. Things like having someone do my laundry and clean my house are not something that I desire. My husband and I split these things up pretty well with each other. On this particular week I know I spent more time in housekeeping because I had been sick the week before and told the hubby to take my kiddo to gymnastics and I would clean the house. Normally, we do this together and it takes half the time. This was a choice I made. If you have the means and find that you have a lot of housekeeping, shopping, etc. in your log, look into hiring these types of tasks out.

Final Thoughts

I will absolutely be doing this again. I’m thinking that I would like to do a time log like this every 3 months or so to see where my time is going and if I have changed my behavior. For me, the big change comes with summer. A lot of different things are going to shift and I will definitely be doing another log in mid-June to make sure I’m getting the most out of my time during the summer months.

What I think I gained most from this experience is that the log opened my eyes to a lot of different things. The reflection really helped me have hard conversations with myself about where my time is going. I have already done some work in this area, which is where the idea of Creating Time for Life even came from. My life changed when I started optimizing certain areas in my life for the better (in my opinion). This just adds another piece to my puzzle in my quest to do awesome things.

Try it! Please try this and see what you learn about yourself! Have the hard conversations. Learn where your time goes. Create time for your life from the time you already have!

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