Thursday, January 6, 2011

How Do You Spend Your Time?

There’s an eye-opening exercise in my new “How to Be Organized In Spite of Yourself” online class. You write down how many hours you spend per day on various activities, and then calculate your total number of “free” hours each week. For me, the eye-opening part of the exercise was the realization that there are ONLY 168 hours in a week! TOTAL! How is that even possible? It sure doesn’t seem like much.

Ok – well, here goes . . .

How I Spend My Time

First off, I decided to calculate on a daily basis only instead of going by the week. We’re a little remote here and if I go to town, it takes the better part of a day and I often don’t get home until the following day. So days that involve any time not at home are more like being on vacation and don’t count as a regular schedule. With that in mind, here’s my best guestimate of my hours spent daily:

  • Sleeping – 8 (including an hour or so reading time)
  • Grooming – 1 (no make-up, low-maintenance hair/clothes)
  • Meals/snacks (including prep) – 1.5 (I like simple and we share cooking duties here)
  • Exercise – 1 (morning stretching routine and daily walk)
  • Travel to work or school – 0 (Yeah!)
  • Chores/errands – 1.5 (chores only; running an errand from here takes ALL day)
By my calculations, these basics take over half of every day. How did I EVER have time for an away-from-home job? And raising kids? I just don’t know how I did it, but I did – and there’s living proof in three different states. But now back to the subject at hand.

So Why Don’t I Get More Done?

I know that I have way more “free” time than lots of folks. That wasn’t always the case but I’ve chosen a scaled-back, simpler life because I prefer a slower pace. Looking at these numbers, however, makes me realize that I am not making the best use of my time. What on earth do I do with the other half of every day that I’m home and all my time is mine to spend as I see fit?

Ken at The Freelancer Today posted about writing more in less time by identifying your peak and devoting those hours to writing. Well, that got me thinking. I indulge an old habit every morning of spending an hour or two online while enjoying my tea and having breakfast. There’s nothing wrong with this other than it’s my peak time. Oops. I’m squandering my peak writing time dinking around. I’m getting things done, such as answering email, checking my favorite blogs, writing my own blog posts, or educating myself in some fashion but . . . it’s definitely not the best use of my time.

A New Schedule

Starting this morning, I spent a few minutes online and then went to my “office.” Well, guess what? Ken is right. Before it was time for my morning stretching routine, I had my articles for the day written! It’s not even noon and I’m mostly done “working” for the day. Now I can focus on my current custom memorial quilt project without any writing deadlines to distract me. It doesn’t get much better than that!

So figure out where you’re spending your time and what your peak is. See if there are simple ways to shake things up a bit and free up some hours for other things. And please share here what works for you.


  1. Hey Crystal,

    What you did was a good idea - I need to figure out what I'm doing on an everyday basis to see where all the time is being spent.

    Right now, for example, I'm drinking coffee and reading blog posts! Heh - I should definitely get back to work.


  2. I hear you, Christina - it's just too easy to relax rather than work. But today was my second day on the new schedule and it's really working! It's so nice to plow through the less enjoyable writing during peak time and then have the rest of the day open for other things:)

  3. Hi Crystal, what I've done over the last few months is track my time online. Nothing fancy. Just simply noting down how I spend my limited time online and this month onwards, I'm optimizing that. For my offline life, I use a notebook. Knowing where your time goes is a great way of getting productive and organized. Am so glad you're doing this.. Do keep us posted about how you fare and what results come up.

  4. You just gave me an idea that might actually work for me, Prerna - thanks! I have an aversion to time studies left over from my public health days, but separately tracking online time right here on my computer sounds doable. And it's the online time I need to better manage at this point. I can even use OneNote, my new favorite:)

  5. I've never really considered doing this, but I guess I'm in the right place right now that it really hit home. There's so much I "need" to do in a day, but I must be wasting an incredible amount of time without knowing it (excessive email checking, popping down to the fridge...). I think tracking in this way could be extremely beneficial.

  6. Hey AJ - nice to see you here! I just read Focus by Leo Babauta and have actually taken my new schedule a step further. Now I go straight to work and accomplish one thing before checking my email or getting online or anything. And I lived to tell about it:) So check it out at