How Keeping a Time Log Boosted My Happiness

September 25, 2015

Since 2012 after reading 168 Hours, by Laura Vanderkam, I’ve periodically used a time log to get a sense of where my time goes each day. I track my time for one week, and I always find it eye-opening. This time I took it one step farther by asking myself the three questions Vanderkam suggests we ask when evaluating time logs: What do I like about my schedule? What do I want to do more of with my time? What do I want to spend less time doing?

What do I like about my schedule?

I am incredibly lucky to be in charge of my schedule. I don’t go to an office every day to work for someone else, and since my son is grown, my days no longer revolve around his school and activities. My appointments and obligations are mostly ones I’ve chosen. I have the flexibility to experiment with my schedule, shuffling blocks of time for various activities: writing, errands, exercise, barn time, household chores and so on.

What do I want to do more of with my time?

I want to write more and read more. Since I’ve decided to get serious about my writing again, I’m shooting for 20 hours a week spent writing, marketing, and educating myself on either topics I want to write about or ways to improve my writing. I want chunks of time for reading during the day instead of waiting until evening when I’m too mentally tired. I want to add an occasional artist’s date to my writing schedule, not in addition to the time I’ve allotted for writing, but as a part of it—filling the well.

I also want to spend more time walking outdoors and with Tank when the weather finally cools off. That will require some shifting of working hours.

What do I want to spend less time doing?

Watching TV. I enjoy watching a few shows and the occasional movie with my husband, but I find that I keep watching when our show finishes and suddenly two hours (or more) has gone by.

Cooking and working in the kitchen. We eat at home 99 percent of the time, and I do most of the cooking. I don’t love cooking, but we want to eat healthfully, so I try to make most of our meals myself. I spend a great deal of time (at least a couple of hours a day) in the kitchen, between making meals and cleaning up after them. How can I simplify our meals and clean up so that I’m not spending so much time in the kitchen?

Understanding how I actually use my time (rather than how I think I do) helps me work better and play better. I realize how much control I have over my schedule, and I’m reminded of how productive I really can be, and that yes, I do spend time doing things I love: playing with Tank, reading, eating dinner with my husband every night. My time log is a snapshot of a full and interesting life—and that makes me happy.

Tracking your time can be a huge help if you feel like you’re spinning your wheels or you have no idea where your time goes. Evaluating the results of your time tracking can help you see what’s working well, what isn’t, and if there are any unnecessary activities sneaking in. If you want to try time tracking, you can download Vanderkam’s time log here

What do you want to do more of with your time? What do you want to spend less time doing?

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  1. I'm not sure this answers your question, but here lately, I've been struggling with being responsible and working on and in my business (technology needs, etc.) and wanting to run away and play (be an artist). At some point, it has become "irresponsible" to go and play (in my mind, at least) even though that's what I do...

    Struggling to find balance, I suppose. Always an awkward dance.

  2. Laure--I think I know the tug-of-war you're feeling. "Work" is supposed to feel "hard"--it's not supposed to be joyful. I'm not expressing this well, but I don't feel like I'm working unless I'm doing something I don't enjoy, and that's a falsehood. Yes, there are things we don't love that we both must do for our businesses, and sometimes the pendulum swings to the drudgery side. We have to make sure it swings back to the joyful side, even if it's for an hour or two! The joyful, artistic, creative parts of work are just as important, if not more so, than the business details. They are work for us, just as much as the more mundane things are. Does that make sense?

  3. Kathy - what a great activity - keeping a time log. Gets me to thinking about my own schedule and where I could do less of the things I don't enjoy and more of the ones I do. Thanks so much for sharing. I definitely want to read more and of course paint and spend time with those I love. Have a great day.

  4. Debbie--Having to write down what I'm doing definitely helps me be more productive, and to think through what I choose to do. Hope you get to read, paint, and spend time with loved ones today!