Analyzing How I spent my time in 2016 – and how to save some in 2017

“A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.” ― Charles Darwin, The Life & Letters of Charles Darwin

It is one thing to review the year from different categories and another to review it from the time logs – logs revealing how the finite resource was used throughout the year – almost like evidence against a case. So, in this year end reflection blog post, I will analyse the evidence of my time logs to reach some conclusion of how to make 2017 better.

Again, I have set the same criteria as in my 2016 year end review so I don’t get biased as I begin evaluating my time below – making the year end reflections ineffective.

  1. Follow the “forever learning principle – which enforces staying close to the absolute truth regardless of how uncomfortable it may be as a biased review is not worth doing.
  2. Evaluate the holistic picture –  all aspects of my life – so I don’t overlook other areas of my life due to success in another.
  3. Commit to “Articles” (blog posts) for areas that need improvement for 2017. These articles will be posted in 2017. (Please hold me accountable for these!)

Motivation behind Analyzing my Time Logs

As a person who enjoys keeping a daily journal, I often used to question how I spend the time that is outside the boundaries of the very pages of the journal. For example, if one day I had written in my journal to “publish a blog post” then how did I spend my finite time that day to accomplish that?

Soon, I began to realize that I spend a significant portion of my time in front of digital devices – my computer, tablet, and a smart phone. Therefore, I wanted to analyse and critique this time spent so I’m always using these devices as optimally as I can to accomplish important goals instead of getting sucked into doing busy and unproductive work.

Overview of Total Time Spent in 2016

Let’s start with the overview of ALL of my time spent (on digital devices) in 2016;

  • Total Hours Spent = 2830 Hours (82% on Computer and 18% on Smartphone/Tablet)
  • Total Days Spent (24H) = 2380 Hours / 24 Hours = 118 Hours (32% of the Year)
  • Average Daily Device Usage = 2830 Hours/ 365 Days = ~ 8 Hours/day

Okay, the above gives me a good idea of high-level snapshot. But where EXACTLY did I spend 8 hours a day?

After a bit of digging, I came to the following distribution; 25% on communication and scheduling, 17% on reference and learning, 16% on business work and learnings, 11% on utilities, 7% on social networking and remaining 25% are too low for me to categorize.

Graph of Total Time Spent in 2016 – on Digital Devices

The above stats are quite self-explanatory as to why I should pay close attention to how I spent this time – so I optimize and eliminate waste. To do that, I will deep dive into each one of the categories – from highest to lowest;

1. Time Log Category – Communication, Scheduling, and Social Networking

First on the chopping plate is “communication and scheduling” – a category in which I have spent a whopping 25% of my time in 2016. I am going to crunch some numbers and have a closer look at what is going on here!

Analyzing Time Spent on Communication and Social Networking

From crunching some number and digging deeper, I found that;

  • Average Daily Time Spent on Comm. & Scheduling = 711H/365D =~ 2 Hours / Day
    • Email = 272H = 272H/365D = ~45 minutes / day
    • Social Networking = 204H = 204H/365D = ~35 minutes / day
    • Voice Calls = 132 H = 132H/365D = ~22 minutes / day
    • Mobile Messaging = 123H
    • Calendar = 66H

Optimization for Communication and Scheduling in 2017

I am okay with time spent using the calendar – in fact I predict that I will spend a bit more time in 2017 given that I have decided to plan a lot more criticaly in 2017. For voice calls and messaging, I am okay too as I have done the experiment to turn off all notifications and check only at designated times.

For email (the beast that sucked most of my time!), I spent a few hours to hopefully save a lot more in 2017 by writing a separate article for it;

I plan to keep a close eye on this category for 2017 and (if necessary) do more experiments to save time from this category.

Note: I do realize the upside of email – its central to modern workplace and one can argue that not all email is unproductive. Therefore, I won’t be surprised at the end of 2017 if I discover that the time spent was almost the same despite my best efforts.

2. Time Log Categories – Reference, Business, Design, & Software Dev

On the bright side, reference, learning, business, design, and software development categories of my time log ended up taking 38% of my time (vs. 25% spend in scheduling and email).

Analyzing the productive categories!

This is the category of my time logs that I enjoy the most – which includes writing this very blog post! All my efforts to get better with planning (as mentioned in 2016-year-end review) is to increase the quality and quantity of work I do in this category. A big thank you goes to all my readers that amplify the value of the words I type here.

Now, having reviewed the biggest chunk of my time spent, lets pay some attention to the remaining bars on the graph;

3. Time Log Categories – Utilities, Entertainment, Uncategorized, and News

Analyzing everything else – how can I reduce these?

Everything that does not fit into the previous categories, falls into the above four bars – utilities, entertainment, uncategorized, news/opinion. I consider these four bars as “!” (unproductive) because;

  • Utilities – is time spent on software updates, opening browser, navigating to files, etc. All of these tasks can be optimized over time via automation – shortcuts, hotkeys etc.
  • Entertainment – is time spent watching youtube, movies, etc. All of which can be replaced by more quality entertainment – time with friends, call a friend etc.
  • News / Opinion – I suspect that these are articles on medium and explicitly shared news that is relevant to me because I have done an experiment to eliminate all other consumption of news and opinion.

Some Timely Reminders about Time Management for 2017

While analyzing my time logs above, some lessons came to mind that I wanted to write and hone as I go into 2017;

  • I have learned from experience (or the hard way), that it is not about time management but energy management.
  • The less “things” I will do the more focus and energy I will have to do things that matter

With above insights about how I spent my time and armed with tips to make 2017 better, I hope I and you make 2017 a year in which you spend your finite time carefully.

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