Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tracks of Time

I mentioned before that I am doing a time tracking exercise. I want to build up several weeks- maybe even months- of data this time, to look for patterns. I am also coming into a very busy time at work, and I want to see what happens to my schedule before, during, and after that time. I am hoping the exercise will give me some ideas to improve how I handle crunch times.

I am just starting my third full week of time tracking. I took a little time last night to look over the data so far. A couple of things stood out:

1. I am not getting enough sleep.

I average about 7 hours of sleep per day (I record my time from midnight to midnight, so one day's sleep encompasses parts of two nights). That doesn't sound so bad- a little skimpy (pre kids my natural sleep needs were about 8.5 hours per night), but not so bad. However, the full data tell a different story. I sleep much less during the week. My minimum sleep time is about 6 hours. I then "make up" some of that sleep on the weekend, with a maximum sleep time of 8.5 hours one week and 9 hours the other. I do not think this is the healthiest way to do things.

The problem, of course, is that my kids have relatively low sleep needs. They go to bed between 8:30 and 9 and wake up between 6 and 7. Last night, I was in Petunia's room until 9:30. I might have been able to sneak out at 9:15, but I'd dozed off at about 9, when she was still awake, and only woke up when her bedtime music shut off. Regardless, it is normal for her bedtime to last until between 9 and 9:30. If I want to get 8 hours of sleep, I need to go to bed right then- it takes me a little bit of time reading to unwind, and then it takes me a little bit of time to actually fall asleep. I need some time in the evenings to do chores, to catch up on work, and to relax, so this is a bit of a dilemma.

I haven't found a total solution yet, but I am trying to do more of the chores while the kids are awake. The downside to this is that the time between dinner and bed is when we get to play with the kids during the week, so I'll need to balance some competing demands on that time. Last night, I tried to do the work I needed to get done during bathtime. That sort of worked- they finished bath before I finished my work. I think this will be an area I experiment with over the time tracking exercise, to see if I can find ways to get me more sleep without too much compromise on the other things I think are important.

And of course, this will get a little better when we transition Petunia to falling asleep on her own, which is something we'll probably start late this year or early next year, depending on when we think she's done with the difficult phase that started at about 2.5 years old. (My knowledge of developmental phases comes primarily from Bedtiming. We've had a lot of luck using the information in that book to guide us on when to make changes to sleep routines and other things.)

2. I really am pretty efficient at work

This wasn't a huge surprise- I know I pack a lot of work into my time in the office. But it was still interesting to see the data.

For this initial review, I looked at three parameters: the number of hours I was actually in the office, the number of hours I worked at home, and the number of hours I was actually working. For the number of hours in the office, I didn't subtract out my usual short lunch break (15-30 minutes, at my desk or out walking), but I did subtract out longer lunch breaks during which I met someone for lunch or ran an errand.

The first week, I was in the office for 39.25 hours. I worked at home for one hour, and I logged 39 hours of actual work. This means that I was working for 38 of my 39.25 hours in the office, which I think is pretty good. That week included one long lunch break, during which I met a new networking contact. I considered that a career-improving lunch, but not really work.

The second week, I was in the office for 38.75 hours. I worked at home for four hours, and I logged 41.25 hours of actual work. This means I was working for 37.25 of the 38.75 hours in the office, which is again pretty good. That week included a doctor's appointment in the middle of the day (I was out of office for 1.75 hours) and one day when I left work 1.25 hours early to go to Zoo at Night with my family.

I was pretty happy to see these numbers. The total number of hours in the second week sort of surprised me, because I'd felt like I'd shortchanged work that week. My sister in law was in town for a visit, and the focus of the week was more on fun than work. I have a lot to do to get ready for the upcoming crunch time, though, so I needed to try not to fall behind. I was somewhat successful in that- I wrote an updated to do list yesterday, and it is packed but still doable in the next month. I did not feel like I was putting in enough time, though, which is interesting. I need to think some more about what that means.

I do know that seeing that 41.25 number on my summary sheet made me feel a lot better about the amount of work I'd managed to do last week. On one level, this is silly- what should matter is what I got done, not how much time I spent doing it. On another level, though, this shows the benefits of time tracking. Even someone who really, truly believes in efficiency over face time (like me!) can fall into the trap of thinking that the reason she feels behind at work is that she's not working enough hours. Seeing the numbers that prove I am actually putting in a solid number of hours alleviated my concerns, and made me turn my focus from finding more hours to give to work to finding ways to get more done in the hours I have, including an increased focus on finding a second project manager for our department- something my boss and I have both wanted to do for awhile. Yesterday, I set aside 30 minutes at work and really hit my network looking for leads. The data had shown me that this was probably the best use of my time.

Have you ever done a time tracking exercise? What percentage of the time in the office do you spend actually working? Given what I've observed around the office over the years, I think my percentage is on the high side.

18 comments:

  1. Interesting! I'd love to see an example excerpt of your time tracking -- do you track EVERYTHING (eating, bathroom, blog reading, etc.) or just general things (work versus NOT work, etc.)?

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    1. I'll try to write a follow up post with details soon. In the meantime, the "life reorg" topic will include an old post where I talked about how I did my last time tracking exercise, including a link to the spreadsheet I used. Here is the post where I wrote up the results: http://www.wandering-scientist.com/2010/09/results-are-in.html

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    2. Hmm...I'm really intrigued by this! Did you find you were spending a lot of time logging the hours though? Did you go into the spreadsheet every 15 minutes, do it a few times a day, or just once each day? Did your husband end up doing something similar (as you mentioned in your post)?

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  2. Anonymous9:09 AM

    Once Petunia goes to bed on her own, could you move the bedtime to an earlier hour? Mine was 7:30 as a kid. I didn't always go to sleep then -- I spent hours making up stories in my head -- but it gave my parents more down time before they went to sleep themselves.

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    1. Ah, the earlier bedtime would be a two-sided thing, wouldn't it? That would mean lest play time with my kids during the week! It might work with Pumpkin now, since she's so into reading. I suspect Petunia would just come back out of her room unless we were willing to be draconian in our enforcement of bedtime... and we're not. I'm a wimp that way!

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    2. Anonymous4:06 PM

      Yeah, my mom was a stay at home mom so she was probably plenty full of play time by 7:30! I don't have kids so I'm a hardass in my own mind, but once it was my own child crying...hah! I'd probably melt too.

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    3. I think I've said this before, but we put DC1 (age 5) to bed before we go to bed and he can keep the light on and read. So 7:30 starts the routine: snack, bath, pajamas, flossing, tooth brushing, being read to, free reading time, lights out. Sometimes he asks if he can color instead of read and we say he can.

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  4. Um, yes, I would say your in-office time features a higher percentage of actual work than most people. But that's why you can work 40 hours per week and get your work done, lead a team, and advance in your career. Other people seem to need 50+ hours in the office to get 40 hours of work done. Re kid bedtime... We had some scary nights this summer where there literally weren't 8 hours when all three kids were asleep. The 2-year-old was giving up his nap, and some days when he got it, he'd not fall asleep until 10:30 and the baby would wake up at 5:30. Good times. Yep, you make it up on weekends with naps and celebrate the nights that work. She's now waking up at 6:45 fairly consistently (don't strike me, lightning!) and the boys are both in their rooms at 9. Much better. The world is sparkly and rainbows. I sound like a broken record that we've really found that having the kids in a bedroom area together (we have Jack-and-Jill rooms connected by a bathroom) has been great. One of the reasons kids fight bedtime is that it's lonely to be in a dark bedroom by yourself. If you're there in a bedroom or shared set of rooms with a sibling, it's easier to let mom and dad go. I wasn't thinking of this when we bought the house and assigned bedrooms, but it's been great.

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    1. Hmmm. I'll have to pay attention and see what tricks I use to keep on track during my time in the office. Stay tuned....

      Your kids' room arrangement sounds awesome. We could put Pumpkin and Petunia together in one room, and have toyed with the idea. We may try it one of these days!

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    2. Lightning struck me, btw. She was up at 4:45 a.m. today.

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    3. @Cloud - a friend of mine said her 3yo slept MUCH better once she gave up and let him go sleep in his big sister's room.

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  5. I've had the occasional night when I had to get the little one to tuck me into bed instead of vice versa. I was sick the first time I tried this, and she always wanted me to put her to bed and not my husband, but once she had tucked me in and knew where I was (and that I wasn't going to be doing anything more interesting for the rest of the evening) she was quite happy to let him tuck her in.

    I think you're doing a really high percentage of actual work. I wind up spending quite a bit of time chatting with people or on the internet. I do need to cut back on distractions, but often the discussions with people lead to solutions to the problems I'm having...so I do need to spend the time having random conversations with people. But I can definitely waste less time on random internet distractions whose only purpose is to avoid the work I'm trying to do (go procrastination). I've just gotten 168 hours from the library, so I'm going to give this a shot too. Looking forward to your results!

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    1. I don't completely deny myself internet breaks, but I keep them short- 2-5 minutes "brain cleansing" between tasks. If it is going past 5 minutes I either decide I'm taking a longer break (~15 mins), or put the article or post aside to read at lunch.

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  6. I cannot be productive and sleep-deprived at the same time.

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    1. I am certainly not at my peak productivity while sleep deprived, but since Pumpkin was such a difficult sleeper in her first couple of years, I HAD to figure out how to be at least minimally productive on far less sleep than I wanted. This was NOT in the newborn stage of getting up every two hours, though. It was in the stage where I could usually eke out one 4 hour stretch uninterrupted, and then be up every 1-2 hours. Or something like that I have blocked the details of how bad my sleep was from my memory! Anyway, my method involved writing lots of things down, and timing when I did my most brain-intensive tasks to coincide with my most awake time period.

      If I ever start thinking I'd like a 3rd kid, I just think back to that time and think... no, I am happy with the two I have!

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  7. My kids have the same low sleep needs as yours do! Luckily, they seem to have inherited it from me -- I'm wired the exact same way and I don't feel deprived on a bit less than their hours. It's not the norm, folks who have very different schedules think we're bonkers, but we roll with it.

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  8. The milliner8:25 PM

    Everything you wrote in #1 is EXACTLY where we're at with L and trying to fit everything in. Well, except that 1/2 the time he's up between 5-6. Just today, DH was saying he'd mention something about my memory loss (forgot to put the milk away), but the last time he did, I was not impressed. I told him that he could talk to me about my memory after I had gotten 8 hrs of sleep a night for 3 years.

    I honestly don't know how we can change our routine so I can get enough sleep. I do often go to bed after falling asleep in L's room until 9:30. It there is stuff that does have to get done. Mostly I just feel that we take turns sacrificing something.

    I'd Leto put L to bed earlier as others mention above. But we don't get home until 6:30, which pretty much makes it impossible. I am hoping that now that L will move up to the older class in daycare that he'll cut his nap out. Which I'm hoping means that he'll fall asleep much faster. I feel like I have so much more of my night when I'm out of his room closer to 8:30, than to 9:30.

    If you ever figure it all out, be sure to post about it!

    Forgive the typos...on ipad...Doesn't take corrections easily...

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