Time Tracking

My time tracking dashboard

I’m experimenting with tracking my time, in roughly 15-minute intervals. This is something I’m still getting used to, so expect the system to change.

To track my time at such a resolution, without it being a huge burden, data entry needs to be quick and easy. I’ve decided to use timedot format, where entering a period of 15 minutes will usually be a single character (more if I also need to type out the category).

A sample entry looks like this:

leisure:reading  .......... ........
leisure:social   .....
sleep            6.75h
chores:systems   ..
leisure:social   ........
leisure:reading  .......................
leisure:anime    ...

Each dot is 15 minutes, spaces are ignored. I’ve not set up tab completion for category names yet but, even so, this is very easy to use.

I import my timedot data into influxdb with a script which runs nightly, to power a grafana dashboard on my home server.

What am I tracking?

I’m not trying to track every waking minute. That would be a lot of work. Instead I’ve got a bunch of categories which cover most things that I’m interested in, but which don’t include less interesting things: like slacking off by mindlessly browsing the internet, showering, or going to the toilet.

So I have a bit of missing time each day. I’m currently working out what an acceptable amount of “missing time” is, but I’m leaning towards 2 hours or less a day.

I’m currently tracking four high-level categories, each with a few subcategories:

  • Chores
    • Admin
    • Food Prep
    • Regular—weekly chores, cleaning, that sort of thing
    • Shopping
    • Systems—tracking my finances, or to-do list, or time (this memo), etc
    • Tech
    • Travel
  • Leisure
    • Anime
    • Games
    • Movies
    • Reading
    • Relax—time specifically set aside to relax, this doesn’t include mindless internet browsing
    • Social
    • Systems—tinkering with how I track my finances (etc) for fun, rather than doing necessary data entry & maintenance
    • TTRPGs
      • Play
      • Prep
    • Tech
    • Writing
  • Sleep
  • Work
    • Admin
    • Community—things done for my role as part of the wider GDS / GOV.UK software engineering group
      • Active
      • Meetings
    • Line Management—things done for my roles as line manager & line report
      • Active
      • Meetings
    • Lunch Break
    • Team—things done for my team
      • Active
      • Meetings

I’ve done some of each of these things since I stated tracking on 2020-12-09. I expect some new subcategories will be introduced when covid is, eventually, over and physically going into work or seeing friends become possible again.

Questions to answer

While simply tracking this information may make me more mindful of how I spend my time00For example, I’ve already found myself preferring to do tracked things (like reading or writing) over untracked things (like scrolling through reddit for hours).

, having questions in mind helps inform what I should be tracking.

The high-level single-number metrics I’m looking at are:

  • How much sleep am I getting?

    It should be 8 hours a day on average.

  • How much work am I doing?

    This should also be 8 hours a day, for work days.

  • How much time am I tracking?

    I’ll never record exactly 24 hours of activities in a day, unless I don’t shower and spend the whole day in bed reading or something, but if there are consistent big gaps maybe the categories need tweaking.

  • When did I last have a day off?

    Or, equivalently, how many days in a row (not counting weekends) have I been working? I’m usually fairly good at taking time off (even during the year of the plague), but this could be a useful metric to keep an eye on.

  • What percentage of my waking time is leisure?

    This is my attempt at a work-life balance metric. On a work day, this should be a little under 50%: 8 hours sleep, 8 hours work, 8 hours leisure / chores / untracked. On weekends or days off this will be a little under 100%, again due to chores and untracked time.

I’m monitoring the 30-day rolling average for all of those, other than the time since last day off metric.

I’m also monitoring what’s my breakdown of leisure time and what’s my breakdown of work time, so I can answer questions like how much time I spend in meetings vs actively working, or working on things directly to do with my team vs things like line management.