Time Audit Surprise

When you measure things you can manage them – Words of wisdom from Peter Drucker.

Every time I have made the effort to measure something whether it be calories, carbs, miles run, heart rate, cash flow, net worth or weight there is always a surprise in what the numbers reveal. Recently I did a one week time audit; writing everything I did to the nearest 30 minute interval.

Prior to actually measuring things I would be swayed by my perceptive bias.  Things that I don’t like doing would seem to take more time than they actually did, and those things that I enjoy would take more time, and seem like less.  This emotional influence on time perception can deceive you into making poor time management choices.

Sleep was the biggest single bucket for spending my time.  it consumed 33% of the week.  That is a lot of time I wish I could take better advantage of.  There are other animals in the world that sleep far less often than us humans so perhaps there are some (yet undiscovered) ways to sustainably reduce our sleep requirements.  Until then sleeping will continue to be a big part of life.

Employment was the second biggest time  consumer. 23% of the week was spent in full-time employment.  An additional 3% was spent commuting to and from work so a total of 26% of my time went towards earning a pay check.

11.5% was family time.  Taking care of a 8 month old can take as much time as I have to give.  It certainly didn’t feel like I was getting this much family time.

10% of my time was spent on preparing or eating food.  For me that was a shocking number since I usually have a handful of something quick for breakfast and skip lunch.  Cooking and eating supper was taking a lot more time than I had realized.

Time dedicated to personal projects on the computer was just 5.5% of my time.  Not enough to make progress and much less than I wanted to  spend on it.

Rounding out the last few things that took time,  Reading, shopping and housework consumed 3% of my time each and TV was at 2%.

There are a fixed number of hours in the week (168).  Getting more time to work on my side projects requires taking hours away from something else.  Deciding what to cut is difficult, actually figuring out the logistics to cut out that time is also difficult.  Hours are not easy to re-allocate without major life changes and stressing other things and so it will be a struggle to adjust to a new schedule.

Change is hard.  Changing how your spend your time, can actually change who you are which can be fundamentally difficult to drive from yourself without an external influence (like having a child).

This time audit raised some interesting issues. Time is our most valuable resource and yet so few of us understand how to best utilize  the time we have given to us.  A disconnect between your goals and your time  can be a critical underlying issue that prevents your success.  I would encourage everyone to do a time audit.  You may find it as surprising as I did.