home | about | archive | rss
Confronting The Numbers

Back in April, I wrote about how I track my entire life using Toggl. I’ve continued to keep up with it, and with a full 10 months of data, I feel like I have enough to discuss the breakdown, how it’s helped me, and where I’m headed with it going forward.

To start, let’s get the numbers up on the board. Looking at January through the end of October, I have tracked 7231 hours. Here’s the breakdown with some highlights pointed out.

The Numbers

Smudging the math a little bit for ease of use, it breaks down to a week that, on average, looks like this:

There are 168 hours in a week and the above add up to 166 hours I have accounted for. Not too bad. I’d probably say the other 2 hours go to fitness and personal projects, which I didn’t account into the math because they were such small numbers.

The Breakdown

So let’s dig into this but first, a caveat: These numbers aren’t literal or scientific and aren’t meant to be. They’re a general overview of where I’ve reported my time to be. The easiest way to explain it is the “sleeping” project: that’s not my actual time literally asleep the way a sleep tracking app would attempt to figure out. I hit the timer when I lay down and turn the lights off, but it doesn’t account for the amount of time it takes me to fall asleep. It’s the same with all of these. Other activities or “dual activities” happen (“Watching” a movie while out with friends is almost always under the “Socializing” task, not the “Watching” task). I’m trying to answer the question “What action am I taking at this moment?” and then report that to myself.

Work and Sleep are both pretty spot on. I work a standard 9-5 and am lucky to have a job I don’t take home with me very often, so with an hour for lunch/break each day (which I change the timer for), 35 looks about right. That total also wouldn’t include several weeks of vacation where I wouldn’t hit the work timer at all, so that would bring it up by another, say, 100 hours (I’ve taken a little over two weeks off at this point). The number is trending toward 38-40 in recent weeks after a promotion in June, but it’s fairly stable around there. As for sleep, 57hr/week equates to eight and a half hours in bed. Taking into account the time it takes to fall asleep, I’m probably averaging 8 hours of sleep every night, which is healthy and about what I expect. I’d like the napping number to trend downward until it’s zero, but other than that, things are stable and healthy in these categories, in my opinion.

The infrastructure number has been enlightening, but also is still a bit vague. Seeing how much I drive has been interesting since I hate driving, so it’s been helpful for my mindset to know where that time is going. It’s even made me hate driving less because I feel like it’s been a reasonable number most weeks, which makes me feel like I’m not losing too much of my life to it. It’s also been interesting to correlate that with my gas expenditure each month in Mint. I spend about $120 on gas every month and average about 30 hours of driving every month, so an hour of driving costs me $4. I’m at peace with that.

“Maintenance” is where the my main pain point arrives. This task has been a black box since I started. It’s what I use in the morning when I am getting ready or in the evenings when I come home from work and when I get ready for bed, but it’s also what I use whenever I did projects around the house or if I was fixing something or putting something together. That just isn’t giving me the insight I want with those two things together.

My intention is to split out maintenance into three new tasks: Daily, Home, and Other. The first two will handle the aforementioned separately now: Daily for any action that is routine and home for “Oh, I need to vacuum or set up these posters or put together a new bookcase or clean out cabinets” sorts of tasks. I think this will cover a majority of my previous “Maintence” tasks, which will be a big win in better understanding Infrastructure as whole, especially how long my daily routines take me. “Other” may not even end up being necessary, but will then become the new, hopefully smaller, black box of infrastructure activities that don’t fit into the above. I’ll reevaluate this decision once some more data has come in and if I still need further refinement.

Entertainment is the most enlightening, but the averages aren’t the interesting part. Watching the trends month-to-month is. The most noticeable one is watching reading come and go in spurts. There’s one month with 30 hours, then the next two slowly trickle down, then another month of 30 hours and then it trickles down again. I’m definitely up-and-down with my relationship with reading and it was valuable to see that play out for me throughout the year. The interplay between them was also fun to watch. As video game playing went up, my television inverted, and vice versa. It obviously showed these as my two main hobbies, and one suffers in time in favor of the other.

The last notable aspect of the entertainment category is the almost perfect curve that my socializing makes. I hibernate a bit in the colder months and find myself much less interested in seeing people and the chart shows this. January through July are a slow climb up as the weather gets nice and now the chart is heading back downward as winter approaches again. I’ll be interested in watching an even longer term trend on this because of one main reason: this September, I moved in with my girlfriend. I’m unsure how to handle using the socializing tag in relation to the time we spend together, but having her right there and joining our lives together certainly makes that tag come up a lot more. In two years’ time, I’ll be interested to see if I maintain the same curve as I’m fairly certain I always have with winter while having a partner around to drag me out of the house.

Onto the bad news. 2018 has been a year where I didn’t take care of myself or move forward with any personal projects. Well, that’s not entirely true and the year isn’t over, but the numbers certainly don’t pan out very well for me. Regarding my fitness, the last few years have seen me gain and lose about 20 pounds each fall (which is happening again right now, but that’s for another post), so I do eventually find time to work out, but it’s almost always after my physical for work in October and then I fall off by the new year, which the evidence lays bare. Almost all of this year, I just didn’t work out. Period. And that’s heartbreaking to have to confront while looking at the numbers to write this post. Getting older isn’t making it easier, but more necessary every year that I keep my shit together. In any case, before I digress further, the numbers being right in front of my face are helpful. I’ve been diligent with my tracking and seeing such a low number is the only signal I need to know I have to crank that number up. I’ve already made strides in the last month, but I have to keep it up this time and make exercise a habit, not a passing trend.

I also didn’t really work on my personal projects this year. I still want to write my own notational velocity clone for Windows, which I’ve made exactly zero progress on. I didn’t write any music. I didn’t even think about trying to podcast. Lots of zeroes on my report card on this front. I did start this blog, though. It’s been slow going, but I’m feeling a bit of momentum lately. I’ll call it a win even if I’m just hitting double-digit posts on here at the time of writing. I’m starting to have and jot down more ideas on a regular basis and that’s inspiring me to keep going. I also must admit that a lot of my writing is done during down time at work–including this very post–and I rarely switch my timer for that, so there is definitely missing data here. I still haven’t written a lot, but it’s a start.

How It’s Helped Me

Having data brings me clarity. I trust it. I’m skeptical of data in a vacuum or used as an ideology, but my process-oriented, planner brain craves it. Digging through these reports has made me be honest with myself because I have faith in the numbers. I’m not happy about all of these numbers and sharing them is scary. Who wants to tell people they’ve spent 800 hours playing video games this year? Not me. But it is the undeniable truth of who I am, and all I can do is work with that and put effort into changing the numbers and continuing to be honest with myself about them as the months go on. So just having access to all this data in a digestible format has been helpful in and of itself.

I get a weekly report email from Toggl with my numbers from the previous seven days and it’s been a helpful nudge to reflect on last week’s choices in a concrete way that resonates with me. I definitely found myself reacting to the numbers every week and changing my behavior based on it. Sometimes I let myself slag off and not care when I saw “45 hours” on my video game line item, but most of the time I took a second to figure out what suffered because of that and being forced to confront it every week has been a really helpful tool for me.

Concrete Goals

Knowing there’s work to do, I wanted to publicly document a few things I want to commit to changing over the next year:

Looking Forward

I’m honestly really happy with the process side of things that I have stood up. I feel like my categories are pretty solid once I work out the kinks with the “Maintenance” task and Toggl’s iOS 12’s Shortcuts are going to make this easier than ever to handle. From here, it’s all about continuing to keep at it and put more focus on having an active mindset each and every day about changing the numbers to be where I want them to be.