Monday, September 20, 2010

The Results Are In!

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about how I thought my life needs a bit of a reorg. If working in biotech has taught me anything, it is that a reorg is rarely successful if it is not well planned, so I decided to do some analysis on my life, using the ideas in Laura Vanderkam's 168 Hours.

The first step was to do some timetracking, in which I would track how I spent all of my time for a week. I spent almost 5 years working as a consultant/contractor, so I am used to the idea of "charging my time" at work, and have even done similar timetracking exercises at my current job. I've never done something like this in my non-work hours, though. I dutifully tracked my time in 15 minute increments for a week (actually a week and a day- my baby got sick in the middle of this, and having a work day in which I sat on the sofa holding a whiny baby and watching bad daytime TV in the mix would definitely skew my results, so I swapped that day for a different work day.)

So, here are the results:

Personal Care4.250.610.251
Child Care24.253.4624.5
Playing/reading with kids8.751.2504
Food chores6.50.9302.25
Housecleaning chores1.750.2500.5
Organizational chores4.750.6801.5
Time with Hubby20.2900.5
Time w/friends and family50.7103.25

If you're really that curious about the minutiae of my life, you can see the full data set, too.

Since both Petunia and I were sick for a few days, there is more sleep and less work than most weeks probably have, but not by much. I think I probably average a 40 hour work week. Also, I counted any time I spent in bed with my eyes closed and no baby nursing as "sleep"- actual time asleep was probably a bit less than that. The commuting time is high, because several days I had to do both day care drop off and pick up (while Hubby was home with the sick baby), and also, traffic was bizarrely bad that week. There is also probably a little more child care and a little less playing with the kids than some weeks have, but not hugely so. Some blocks of time were hard to categorize, and some categories overlap (for instance, we have family dinner every night, which I marked as "eating", even though I was also spending time with both Hubby and the girls). Still, the data show the trends, and that is all I need it to do.

I learned several things:
  • I spend more time with my kids than I thought I did. I am not a particularly guilt-ridden working mother, but even so, it was nice to see that. The kids really are alright. Or at least they aren't neglected.
  •  I don't spend much time on hobbies. Showing Hubby the low number that I tallied for internet/blogging repaid the effort of this exercise on its own- I don't spend nearly as much time on the internet as he thinks I do. I think that demonstrates how you notice the things that are bothering you, and also demonstrates that he and I need to work out an agreement about time for hobbies for both of us. I was sad to see that I didn't manage to find anytime to read during those particular 168 hours, but I am a member of a monthly book club, so maybe that averages out over a longer time period.
  • I need to exercise more. But I guess I already knew that. My only exercise is my weekly yoga class and our "nap walks" on the weekends. In my defense, a nap walk involves me pushing ~50 lbs of kid around the hills of my neighborhood for about an hour. It is definitely exercise.
  • I was happy with the amount of time Hubby and I spend together, particularly since the "time with friends/family" category was mostly done as a couple (OK, actually as a family). Also, none of my TV hours were solo- I watched an Inspector Lewis with Hubby and two kids' programs.
  • The real eye-opened was the amount of time I spend on chores: it averages out to a total of 2 hours per day. A big chunk of that is on the weekend, but I still think it is too much. I'm not sure how I'm going to cut that down, though, since the biggest category of chores is the "organizational chores", and those typically fall to me in our division of labor. I'm trying to convince Hubby to do his own timetracking exercise so that we can look at this as a team, but I don't think he's going to do it. Clearly, I have some optimization to do in this area- you'll probably get a post or too about chores in the future!
  • The second big surprise was how fragmented my time is. If you look at the raw data in my logs, I have a lot of 15 minute tasks. I jump around from child care to eating to personal care to blogging. I need to find a way to get a larger chunk of time for my hobbies if I'm going to do anything meaningful in that area. I don't have any bright ideas about how to do that yet, either.
All in all, this was a worthwhile exercise for me. I'm determined to keep plugging away at the analysis to support my life reorg. Next up: determining my core competencies. I actually have this mostly done- I'll post on it soon, if I can, um, find the time.


  1. I am fascinated with this, but a bit too chicken to do one myself. Definitely looking forward to the next post.
    Hope work is not being so craptastic for you this week.

  2. Very interesting. If I had better math skills, I'd attempt something like this for myself. When I first went back to work after having my son, I calculated hours spent together vs. apart and was a fiend about it. Then I came to the same conclusion you did: I spend more time with my kid than I thought I did. No guilt trips necessary.

  3. Anonymous8:26 PM

    This is really interesting - what a good way to look critically at your life and tweak it for the better.

    I am being a chicken - I don't really want to see how I spend my time, which is counterproductive but true.

  4. 2 hours a day on chores? That would make me pretty unhappy, too. The sixty plus minutes I'm spending trying to get Tate to sleep at night again is really starting to wear on me. Thanks for sharing this. It's really interesting.

  5. Okay, I'm inspired to actually do this now! I know I said I would, but then I didn't. Now I really am going to do it! I will start tomorrow morning.

    I think the key for me actually doing this is going to be keeping a notebook with me at all times to write down the 15 minute increments. I think I will have to do it on paper and then put the data into a spreadsheet. I can do that!

    As for your stuff, it really is interesting to see. I totally get wanting your hubby to do it too, so that you can compare as a family. I think it would also probably be more accurate to do a whole month, but at least you see the general trends by doing a week. Very interesting! And I knew you needed more time blogging!

  6. Oh god, Cloud, my head is spinning at just the thought of tracking my time in this kind of detail. (1) I already feel like I have no time and the thought of doing this freaks me out (2) I don't think I want to actually know how I fritter away my time.

    But interesting for me to read =) And it will be interesting to see how your life reorg goes =)

  7. @mom2boy- I celebrated BIG TIME when Pumpkin's bedtime routine no longer required that I stay with her until she fell asleep. That gave me back at least 15 minutes a night- and sometimes more.

    @bean-mom- The timetracking isn't as hard as it seems. I guess I'm not intimidated by it because I used to have to charge my time in 15 minute increments at work. The key is that you note what you were doing in the previous chunk of time everytime you change tasks. It doesn't take much time at all- setting up your tracking system is the most time-consuming part.

    More posts in the series will come soon, but I have a little more thinking to do before I can write the next one!

  8. This is interesting... your life looks pretty well balanced to me. I think if I had done this while I was working full time there would have been less than the 4+ hours/day spent with kids. I don't feel the need to do this now because I'm not working but if/when the time crunch happens again when I go back to work, this is a good tool.

    I think though I would really really try to get my husband to do it too. I don't think he realizes how much extra stuff I do so that he has time for his triathlon training.


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