Inward
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How I invested 8760 hours in 2017

Inspired by Kunal Gupta’s How I Invested 2504 Hours post, I decided to perform my own audit for 2017. My goal was to compare how I actually invested my time to the ideal 24 hours I imagined back in 2016. This way, I could decide if I wanted to change my time allocation for 2018 and implement habits to help me do so. Back in 2016, here’s what I outlined for a typical day:

pie

  • Sleep and restorative (sleep and naps) – 7 hrs / 30%
  • Creative and productive (content creation, workshops, culture) – 7 hrs / 30%
  • Eating and social (meals, coffee, drinks) – 5 hrs / 20%
  • Active and physical (exercise, walking, sex) – 3 hrs / 12%
  • Quiet and reflective (meditation, reading, bath) – 2 hrs / 8%

 

The results. All in, I was able to account for about 80% of my time in 2017. Of that time, a third was scheduled, a third was unscheduled estimates and a third was sleep. While the math is obvious, it was still surprising to internalise that spending 85 hours on something was only the equivalent of 1% of my time. Similarly, it was helpful to remind myself that if you work 8 hours a day and sleep 8 hours, you still have 8 more hours to invest. Here’s roughly how my time broke down:

  • Sleep and restorative (sleep and naps) – 8 hrs / 33%
  • Creative and productive (workshops, meetings, creative time, cultural activities) – 6 hrs / 25%
  • Eating and social (meals, coffee, drinks) – 2.75 hrs / 12%
  • Active and physical (exercise, walking, sex) – 1.25 hrs / 5%
  • Quiet and reflective (meditation, reading, bath) – 3/4 hr / 3%
  • Unaccounted for – 5.25 hrs / 22%

Reflecting on this, I suspect that the 5% gap between my ideal and reported creative time is predominantly due to unscheduled time at work and on weekends for personal projects. As for the 8% discrepancy in eating and social time, I am sure a large chunk of that unscheduled time was used to build a relationship with my partner. It’s easy to believe that a portion of that time was also used to be quiet and reflective.

The 7% difference in active time cannot easily be rationalised, as I doubt much of the unaccounted time could be described this way. If there is one thing I’d like to change in 2018, it’s to spend more time each day being physically active. I’ve already identified a stretching routine that I’d like to incorporate into my daily habits.

Although I haven’t done this analysis yet, I suspect that portion of time I spent building new relationships outweighs the time I spent nurturing existing relationships. This is to be expected, since I spent a fair amount of time meeting my partner’s friends and family. However, I’d like to make sure that I make more time for current friends in 2018.

Since my workday was largely accounted for, I was able glean a fair number of insights. I was able to determine how much of my time was focused on core vs. administrative activities (roughly 85/15). The analysis also gave me a sense of how much time I spent developing myself and others (about 10%), participating in events (another 10%), and on recruitment (5%). Once I have finalised my goals for 2018, this will help me figure out what I should dial up or down.

A few random stats that surprised me:

  • Scheduled 128 coffees, teas or drinks with others
  • Held 92 interviews
  • Attended 59 events (conferences, talks, performances)
  • Took 19 flights
  • Read 17 books

Of course, some activities can’t be neatly categorised and I often do two things at once. The epitome of efficiency is walking to work while taking a conference call (physical activity, commuting and productive time all in one)! Also, it was near impossible to categorise my invested time into the buckets of foundation habits, experiences & relationships, and impact. Will think about a clever way to do that for 2018.

The how. You’d be surprised at how much data you can collect for this. Google calendar and other apps, such as Strava, are a great source of information. You can even download apps that will tell you how much time you spend doing various activities online. I also estimated some of the data, as I do not have a sleep tracker and I don’t make note of every time I meditate or walk to work.

Work: After exporting all my calendar data, I used Google Sheets to organise my scheduled activities into categories such as workshops, development, interviews, recurring, events, etc. This was the most manual part of my analysis. This helped me to understand what percentage of my time I was spending on the business vs. in the business.

Meals: Since I’m fairly rigorous about how I add calendar invites, I was able to search my Google Calendar data for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, coffee and drinks. I then estimated 30 minutes each for all meals I ate by myself or unscheduled with my partner (I almost never skip meals).

Travel: In this case, I estimated my regular commute. I was able to pull my flights directly from Google Calendar and add up the flight times and estimate the travel to and from the airport. I handled trains in the same way. If Uber is your thing, you can even export your trips to csv. Turns out I only spent 16 hours in an Uber that I hired this year. My partner booked about half the time and he purchased a car in July.

Reading: In order to estimate this, I used my Goodreads list to identify books I read this year and how many pages they have. Then I multiplied the entire number of pages by a reading speed of 2 minutes per page. I also exported my Pocket article list and multiplied the number of articles read by 5 minutes, which is the average length of a Medium post.

Sleep: Since I’m very protective of my sleep, I estimated an average of 8 hours a night for the entire year.

With some foresight, it should be much easier to track. I’m going to attempt tagging items in my calendar to make this process easier come next December. I might also look at tracking specific activities that I want to improve (such as physical activity).

Let me know if you’ve ever done something like this and have any tips to share!

 

7 Comments

  1. hughmasonjfdi says

    Congratulations – this takes the quantified self to another level of auto-accountability!

    Now—writing as someone who has been a professional investor—I observe that this measures the input to a process with commendable commitment. How to assess the output? Here I have no answers and can only suggestion questions that wiser readers and writers may already have addressed. Unpacking my question:

    * What metrics to set for Return on Investment?
    * How do the ROI metrics correlate with time as classified into these five areas, which are intuitive but might not be independent?
    * Are there aspects of a good life that do not correlate at all to these metrics, for example the health of ageing parents or the quality of a significant relationship?

    I recently looked up the origins of that old saying along the lines “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it’. It seems to be variously attributed to Peter Drucker (what wise words are not?) or W Edwards Deming or Lord Kelvin. An article listing intelligent challenges to it is here: https://blog.deming.org/2015/08/myth-if-you-cant-measure-it-you-cant-manage-it/

    I also note several articles this year questioning the value of time management:
    https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/dec/22/why-time-management-is-ruining-our-lives

    Some have even advocated wasting time:
    https://qz.com/970924/the-psychological-importance-of-wasting-time/

    … so perhaps that unaccounted 22% is the most valuable of all. Whatever you did there might just be what has made you a great friend to so many of us this last year 🙂

    • All great points Hugh!
      My metrics for ROI, while somewhat qualitative, are outlined in my annual review here: https://withease.hk/2016/01/04/a-new-year-a-new-tool/

      Basically, I believe these are the aspects of life I want to invest in and I’ve set standards for what good looks like in each of the areas. Each year I rate myself on a scale of 0-5 in each area and set intentions for the next year based on that review. The areas directly correlate to my own “hierarchy of needs” pyramid (50% foundation habits – all of Inwards, 35% experiences and relationships, 15% impact). Where the analysis falls down is that those buckets don’t neatly correlate to the categories listed above (as you correctly pointed out). Upon analysing the data, I found it was much easier to identify where time was spent based on the categories above and am thinking about ways to bridge the gap for 2018. While the health of a significant relationship is taken into consideration, the health of an ageing parent is currently not. Furthermore, what impact looks like in the broad and indirect sense is still somewhat nebulous :].

      There are aspects of the time management and wasting time articles that resonate with me. I have a set of habits around task management where I ask myself some basic questions like “is it worth doing?” and try to avoid being productive solely for productivity sake. I’m sometimes successful at not getting sucked in!

      As for “the most important figures that one needs for management are unknown or unknowable, but successful management must nevertheless take account of them”, I mostly agree. There’s been so much interesting research around what makes organisations healthy and what proxies you might use to measure that health (e.g. psychological safety of team members, organisational learning metrics). While I think there is important information that lays beyond our ability to measure, I’m not sure we’ve hit that boundary yet. I guess the important thing to remember is that what you choose to measure isn’t the only thing that has value!

  2. Farook Jamal says

    Hi Erica, Interesting breakdown of time.Have never really thought about where and how time is spent. Dont think I am as disciplined as you but can maybe start defining time a little more discerningly. See you tomorrow. Rgds Farook .

    Sent from my iPhone

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  3. Farook Jamal says

    Could you also share your stretch routine as I practise yoga/pilates every morning but could do with a new routine.

    Sent from my iPhone

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  4. Chandan says

    This is new to me but very interesting. I have been planning to increase reading physical activities but since there is no measurements, it has been difficult. Plan to start using some of the apps/tips.

    Thanks for sharing, as always.

    Wish you a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous 2018!

    • Great idea! If you are diligent about capturing the links of articles you read, then it should be pretty straightforward. You can add them to Pocket or Evernote and calculate the time later. Evernote might even have the capability of providing a total word count (much more accurate than mine)! Since I was never without internet access in Hong Kong, I didn’t track the articles then. It’s a new habit that I formed to get around the *gasp* no-data-service-on-the-Underground issue. Another great byproduct is that I can search that list to recover nuggets read long ago.

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