March 18

My Surprising 168

As you know, lovely reader, I recently became obsessed with Vanderkam's book, 168 Hours: You More Time Than You Think. She challenged me, dared me, to track how I spend my time, and I did.

In my way-too-detail-oriented way, I tracked how I spent my time. For a full week, I took a little notebook around with me everywhere, jotting down the time when I started a task, the time when I ended a task, and a brief description of what I did during that allotment.

Now, I am at home with two small children, and anyone with kids should now be laughing and shaking their heads. Anyone with children would also not be surprised that some of my entries read, “Lunch in kitchen with Cora and Ewan (20 min), while washing dishes (10) and eating my own lunch (10).” Or “clean up emergency (25 min).”

So, yes, I tracked my time, but there are some overlapping, ambiguous categorizations. Well, let's stop procrastinating, and I'll just show you the graphical representation of my week, February 24 through March 3.


Sleep: I average 8 hours a night, and I'm ruthlessly protective of my 9:30pm bedtime.
Self-care: Includes showering, getting dressed, getting ready for bed. Each activity takes about 20 minutes a day.
God: Prayer and reading scripture, an hour for service and 30 minutes a day otherwise. Fine, but I could improve.
Exercise: One hour the whole week. Ha! Needs major improvement.
Relax: Includes TV, reading for fun, reading random blogs, checking Facebook and Twitter. Wow, really, 16 hours a week? Over 2 hours a day? Too much!
Child care: Includes getting dressed, baths, diapers, bottles, and meal times. I struggled with meal times. If it was just me with the kids, I put it in child care because I don't even get to enjoy my own meal. I'm too busy with the kids. They're so small that it doesn't feel like quality time. It feels like work. If my husband ate with us, I filed it under the “Family” category. If my sister ate with us, “Social.”
Child Quality Time: Exclusive play time, when I was not multitasking but focused solely on the kids. Not even 2 hours a day. Could use improvement.
Work: I try not to work on the weekends, so this was about 3 hours a day. It was a light workload week, but I was able to put in these work hours without a babysitter. I'm glad that I can essentially work the hours of a part-time job without extra help.
Household: Includes dishes, preparing meals, vacuuming, cleaning the kitchen, cleaning the bathroom. More than I'd like but less than I'd feared.
Chad: 2.6 hours in a week, including phone conversations, but does not include Sunday church or family meals. Says a lot about his work life as a NYC attorney…
Family: Meals together, going to the park, etc, needs improvement.
Social: Includes phone conversations, chatting with my sister, and play dates.

The best part: This graph challenges me to not accept my time management “as-is,” but to take action in certain categories, in order to shift my life in pursuit of my goals.

This is my week without intervention, so to speak. With such a glaring and colorful display of my time use, I can cut some categories to add to others. In fact, I have begun to implement the following changes in order to achieve particular, actionable goals:

Goal: Increase God and exercise by decreasing relaxing time.

Actions: Now, I watch almost no TV. When I realized that those Modern Family episodes were adding up, I decided that I actually don't even like TV that much. I set a timer for my random blog, Facebook, and Twitter consumption. No more than 30 minutes a day, total. With that time freed up, I go to bed earlier and wake up at 5am(-ish) to get in more God and exercise time. (Well, “exercise” is a super dorky intro to yoga video that I do in the living room, but it counts!)

Also, when the busy season of editing starts, I know exactly what actions I will take, so that I won't feel that familiar crunch of time.

Goal for the busy work season: Increase work time by decreasing some childcare hours and housework hours.

Actions: I will hire a babysitter for the afternoons, when we do not go on playdates. Also, I will hire a once-a-week housekeeper in order to minimize housework time. I will continue ordering groceries online and having laundry done for me. (We live in NYC, on the second floor. I dare you to carry two kids, a stroller, and groceries for the week across the neighborhood and up the stairs. Also, we don't have a washer/dryer. Although, if we move out of NYC, I still might outsource grocery shopping and laundry.)

I have also started to think about what my “ideal” work schedule looks like. I don't have a firm image, but I had no image at all before this time tracking experiment.

Finally, I have more concrete ideas about what our family life should look like. My husband and I have also come to the agreement that his work/life balance isn't sustainable, and he doesn't need his own time chart to demonstrate that. We're now making actionable plans together to have him home for dinner and on the weekends more often.

This time-tracking exercise has really empowered me to make decisions on how I spend my time.

What about you? What categories do you think need improvement for you? What could you spend more time doing or less time doing that would make your life better able to achieve your life vision?


You may also like

Which "Publishing Path" is right for your book?

There are FOUR different publishing paths for the modern author. Ready to discover which one's right for YOUR book?