Author Topic: Spending time better  (Read 691 times)

zero.eth

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Spending time better
« on: November 02, 2018, 04:03:37 PM »
Greetings and happy Friday fellow Mustachians!

I've been a lurker and a follower since April and thought I might throw down a challenge here.

Being naturally frugal (~60% savings rate) and car-free, I feel like I'm already pretty efficient with money. But I realized I've been pretty wasteful with time (e.g. spending more time playing video games and reading the news than I'd like).

For the past month, I've been checking in with myself every day and measuring how I spent my time in 4 different categories:

- Time I spent doing something I loved
- Obligations
- Wasted time
- Sleep

This experiment has been pretty revealing for me in a number of ways, and I plan to keep it going. I think it's a great exercise in preparing for the abundance of time I expect I'll have when I hit FI in ~10 years. But I was wondering, has anyone here tried anything similar? Are there any apps you've tried for this? (I currently just use a journal and a couple different colored pens, but there could be some benefits to doing this electronically)

And of course, would anyone be up for joining me in this experiment and sharing their thoughts?

---

A side note: I currently work in the government/civic tech field in the US, so I think about this not only from a personal standpoint but a civic one too. With the political climate as it is right now, it seems like there is a lack of a shared vision of what success for the country looks like. But maybe it could be simpler, maybe success is just everyone collectively having more time to spend doing what they love, and our political discourse could benefit from measuring that and holding ourselves accountable to it in some way.

For example, in the US, the Bureau of Labor Statistics already runs the American Time Survey, which gives us an idea of what people spend their time doing, but isn't a particularly interesting talking point. I'd want to suggest that they measure how people value their time as well, and I see the experiment I am doing as also fleshing out a more cogent proposal. Would love feedback on this broader idea as well!

Greyweld

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Re: Spending time better
« Reply #1 on: November 02, 2018, 04:09:28 PM »
I've tracked my time on a spreadsheet with pen & paper before, and one thing I found exhausting was counting out time for 20+ categories. I like the idea of having those four broader categories.

I did find based on my specific tracking, that I would like to:
-Spend more time reading
-Spend more time on creative pursuits
-Spend less time driving
-Spend less time on the computer

Seeing numbers like "10 hours in a week driving" really motivated me to combine more trips and spend less time on the road. I couldn't get around the fact that I was spending more time in a car per week than I spent doing something outside or even curled up on the couch with a book. It seemed like such a waste.

Tass

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Re: Spending time better
« Reply #2 on: November 02, 2018, 04:34:00 PM »
I use RescueTime on my computer and phone to keep track of where I spend my screentime, and to motivate me to spend less of my time, well, here. It's very revealing. I also track hours spent on certain productive projects at work. I don't track my time at home except to the extent that my screen time is still tracked. And I suppose my commute is tracked, because I bike to work and Google fit tracks it automatically.

Right now I'm working on a goal of 10 hours/week spent between the tracked work projects. Last week I made 7 hours, this week it looks like it's going to be 6.

I try to spend zero time on social media except on Sundays. This counts as social media, so I will accept a facepunch for failing today. I'll check in on 11/11 to let you know how I fare next week.

I would also like to increase the time I spend learning something new or improving a skill, as well as the time I spend helping others. Not sure what explicit goals toward those aims would look like.

zero.eth

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Re: Spending time better
« Reply #3 on: November 04, 2018, 06:43:28 PM »
Thanks for these thoughts, Tass and Greyweld!

Yeah, I do really like only having four categories, plus adding a brief description of how each chunk of time was spent, it's a good balance between simplicity and having a bit of detail to reflect on. Since following MMM, I've been biking to work most days instead of taking the bus, and I've noticed that's moved a few hours a week from the "obligation" category from the "loved" one.

Greywald, how long did you stay in the habit of tracking your time? And were you able to spend more time reading than driving in the end?

RescueTime is an interesting idea, I just joined the forums at the Center for Humane Technology to get some feedback on this concept too and it seems like those sorts of applications are popular there. I might try it later if I want to get some specific analysis of time I spent on the computer/phone but for now I guess I'm looking for something more manual where I can record how I value the time I'm spending in the moment (both on and offline) and be able to run analytics on it later.

Tass, looking forward to hearing how the week goes for you! How long have you been using RescueTime and have you found anything particularly helpful for motivating yourself to learn new skills and helping others?

Greyweld

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Re: Spending time better
« Reply #4 on: November 04, 2018, 07:42:37 PM »
I usually track in two week period -- I've done this once in a while over time. The first week is usually to get a baseline, the second to pursue the ideal time balance. I repeat when I feel I may have drifted too far out of my desired time allocation.

I do often now spend more time reading than driving. One key is not going out to eat, another is working from home when I don't have meetings (though I know this isn't an option for everyone).

Tass

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Re: Spending time better
« Reply #5 on: November 04, 2018, 07:47:21 PM »
I've been using RescueTime for probably a year, but the free version only keeps 3 months of history. It is excellent positive reinforcement but not very good negative reinforcement, because if I'm avoiding responsibilities I don't check it. I also have the StayFocusd extension which is a bit more brute-force - it blocks specified websites at certain times of day. This is helpful for me because I can focus far better in "cold turkey" mode than in any amount of moderation, and it helps to have some oomph to the cold turkey commitment.

I have plenty of motivation on helping others, at least, it's more a matter of whether it will fit into my schedule. I recently completed training to become an adult literacy tutor, but I won't be assigned a student until at least January. Since I don't have a feel for what that time commitment will be like yet, I don't feel like I can fill my schedule anymore, but I'm also not getting to spend time on that like I want to. I have had to resist the urge to sign up for other volunteer opportunities since then because I'm not sure that I can commit long-term.

Learning/improving skills is more a question of picking one to focus on. I want to retain the French I know, learn some Spanish, study my instrument, learn new recipes, pick up some hands-on skills. There are so many options, and all of them have to fit outside of grad school. This month I'm participating in National Novel Writing Month as my creative outlet, so that means 1-3 hours a day focusing on practicing a craft, as long as I actually invest that.

Ultimately the paper tracking of hours spent on projects at work has been the most motivating, but it's a very new system. Maybe I'll expand it to other parts of my life eventually.

zero.eth

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Re: Spending time better
« Reply #6 on: November 04, 2018, 08:35:14 PM »
Wow Greywald, sounds like you get the best of both worlds with the occasional time tracking. Glad you are able to enjoy more time reading now and I agree that having the flexibility to work from home is awesome!

I don't think I can let myself off the hook of time tracking yet, I'd like to keep going for another year before hopefully being disciplined enough to try the occasional schedule. Next fall, I'm going live abroad without working for a few months (sort of an early retirement preview :) and I feel like it will be particularly important to think about what I don't spend enough time on now, and when I get there, regularly check in with myself to make sure I'm making the most of the experience. In addition to traveling around, I'd definitely like to spend more time being creative.

Tass, I thought I wouldn't hear from you until next Sunday! ;) Incredible how you are able to juggle so many different projects and activities. When I woke up this morning, I knew there was a lot I wanted to do, but computer games (Civ 6 and Rome Total War specifically) ended up being the easy default option. But being slightly more responsible than I was a few months ago, I played just a reasonable amount before heading out for a run, doing some cooking, and working some more on this time tracking concept. On to studying some Chinese before bedtime!

Still, I observed it can be kind of difficult to get started when there are a lot of different things I'd like to do when I have an otherwise unstructured day. But attempting to build too much structure into my free time can backfire too (feeling tired, burned out, not "free", etc.). Has anyone found any good hacks for these sorts of situations?

Greyweld

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Re: Spending time better
« Reply #7 on: November 05, 2018, 09:36:02 AM »
I haven't quite solved the problem of over-structuring free time. The closest I've gotten to something that works for me is the following:

-Create a checklist on a whiteboard for everything that I would like to do.
-Star a couple things that are truly "must-do" items. Usually this is stuff like making dinner, going to the grocery store if needed for dinner, and washing at least enough clothes so we don't have to leave the house without clean pants Monday.
-Have one thing that is a must-do thing that isn't like, the default down time thing you would do, but has some fun in it. For me, this is usually one of reading, writing, or playing music.
-If all my must-do's are done/on track (since some productive things like laundry and cooking have some waiting time) and I feel stressed out, I do whatever my lazy activity is for a bit. If I don't feel stressed out, I'll refer to my list and do whatever optional thing seems most productive.

I've found that by doing things this way, over time I've gotten more done each subsequent free day. I have to gradually increase my productivity muscle, and give myself a break when I need it. Remember that there's huge gulf between doing NOTHING in a day and being 100% on the ball constantly, and doing even one reading session or guitar practice or home repair thing is better than many of my weekends in the past.

goosefraba1

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Re: Spending time better
« Reply #8 on: November 05, 2018, 10:02:36 AM »
I've tracked my time on a spreadsheet with pen & paper before, and one thing I found exhausting was counting out time for 20+ categories. I like the idea of having those four broader categories.

I did find based on my specific tracking, that I would like to:
-Spend more time reading
-Spend more time on creative pursuits
-Spend less time driving
-Spend less time on the computer

Seeing numbers like "10 hours in a week driving" really motivated me to combine more trips and spend less time on the road. I couldn't get around the fact that I was spending more time in a car per week than I spent doing something outside or even curled up on the couch with a book. It seemed like such a waste.

I had noticed that over the past few years it felt like driving was wasted time. The same albums or radio stations over and over and over was a little too monotonous. I was finding myself "time travelling" (mindlessly driving on autopilot).

So, to combat this I started listening to podcasts. I love, love Dan Carlin's Hardcore History. Last 10-12 episodes are almost always free. I listened to the entire series and had to find something else. I couldn't find another podcast that compared. So, I gained access to Audible again. Now, I can "read" all of those books that I had been putting off. $15 a month or whatever it is. Much cheaper than buying hardback books.

Greyweld

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Re: Spending time better
« Reply #9 on: November 05, 2018, 10:06:08 AM »
I've tracked my time on a spreadsheet with pen & paper before, and one thing I found exhausting was counting out time for 20+ categories. I like the idea of having those four broader categories.

I did find based on my specific tracking, that I would like to:
-Spend more time reading
-Spend more time on creative pursuits
-Spend less time driving
-Spend less time on the computer

Seeing numbers like "10 hours in a week driving" really motivated me to combine more trips and spend less time on the road. I couldn't get around the fact that I was spending more time in a car per week than I spent doing something outside or even curled up on the couch with a book. It seemed like such a waste.

I had noticed that over the past few years it felt like driving was wasted time. The same albums or radio stations over and over and over was a little too monotonous. I was finding myself "time travelling" (mindlessly driving on autopilot).

So, to combat this I started listening to podcasts. I love, love Dan Carlin's Hardcore History. Last 10-12 episodes are almost always free. I listened to the entire series and had to find something else. I couldn't find another podcast that compared. So, I gained access to Audible again. Now, I can "read" all of those books that I had been putting off. $15 a month or whatever it is. Much cheaper than buying hardback books.

My library has a great audiobook library, so I'll often listen to those if I'm in the car alone.

The nice thing is I carpool with my SO, so at least until I drop him off and after I pick him up can be social time.

adventurestache

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Re: Spending time better
« Reply #10 on: November 05, 2018, 07:35:52 PM »
I've never considered tracking my time usage like this before, and I love it. Thanks for the great idea! I'm thinking for me something like this:

-Work that I want to do (my blog, practice music, etc.)
-Work that I'm obligated to do (job, chores, etc.)
-Meaningful recreation (good book, classic movie, friends, etc.)
-Unproductive recreation (TV time, aimlessly browse the internet, etc.)

Tass

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Re: Spending time better
« Reply #11 on: November 11, 2018, 08:45:16 PM »
I had kind of a relapse as far as internet use last week. Elections are especially bad for me. Looking to get back on the wagon this week.

I did increase the number of work-project-hours to eight, though, so maybe this week is when I'll make it to ten. Insight from last week is that the hours add up way faster if I get many of them in a row, rather than trying to snatch two separate hours each day.