Defragmenting my schedule

I used to do this thing where I logged what category of activity I was doing every 15 minutes, then put them into this nifty, color-coded chart (as all sane people do, right? :joy:).

This chart was pretty handy for seeing patterns in how I was spending my time, and I tried to think of scheduling like defragmenting a hard drive and getting all the pretty colors neatly organized. One really bad day threw me off entirely though, and when I tried to start again I really couldn’t find the motivation to log my activities every. fifteen. minutes., so I tried to set up a Beeminder goal for how many codes I’d entered per day. URLminder was unimpressed with all the spreadsheet formulas though, so it didn’t work, and now I have only a few months worth of beautiful data about last year and nothing for the rest of it.

I just found the solution though: Have one cell which counts how many cells are not empty in a given range, then use IFTTT to log that number to a Beeminder goal. So, in case anyone else ever decides they want to use something similar to this ridiculous system, that’s the secret: a simple “countif” formula. :slight_smile:


There’s two words that come to mind: Pretty. And Insane. Pretty insane actually. :wink:


I think you mean insanely pretty, and insanely awesome! :slight_smile: I tried to do this exact thing at the start of 2018 and lasted about a day. I know @anomalily has successfully done something much like this. I’m super envious!


That’s an awesome way of displaying the data! I time track (full time since 2014; don’t ask me how I’ve stuck with it but now it feels weird to NOT track it) and I’m totally going to steal that.


How do you track? Do you use the probabilistic app?

No, I use toggl, and just start and stop the timer whenever I change tasks significantly.

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Oh cool… I have a bundle of questions if you don’t mind - I kinda want to try.

so do you have toggl always running?

Do you have it on multiple devices?

What do you do when you don’t have a device handy?

What if you’re switching back and forth between a few different tasks?

Don’t you forget to switch it a lot?

What level of granularity do you use? Do you have a few task labels loaded in there or are you entering new ones all the time?

No problem, I love talking about my systems!

Yep, I have toggl running in my browser on my home computer as well as my work laptop, all the time. I’ve tried using the mobile app but frankly it’s terrible, so I generally don’t track in detail while I’m out and away from computers – when I get home I’ll mark the time as “Got groceries” or “Bus home + Got dinner” or “Visited Christina” or the like. I’m not too fussed about making sure I’m tracking how much time was spent in transit versus at the grocery store or whatever, so that doesn’t bother me.

I use the time tracking as a way to NOT switch back and forth between tasks, if I can help it – keeping the data clean encourages more singletasking, which is a feature for me, not a bug. If I do end up multitasking (this happens a lot when I’m chatting with people online while doing something else) I mark the time spent as “Chat w/Richard + Feed Alex” and categorize as whichever task got the majority of my attention/whichever tasks is lower priority and I wish I hadn’t done.

I don’t actually forget to switch that often – maybe once a day, on average; after 4+ years, it really is pretty ingrained. In general, also, I have a pretty good time sense (helped by 4 years of time tracking!) so if I realize I missed stopping and restarting the timer, I can usually figure out approximately when the task switchover happened. For instance, if I forget to stop the timer on “Get ready to go” when I’m rushing out the door for work, I know approximately when the bus arrives, so I can backcalculate when I left the house, etc.

My granularity varies based on what I’m doing and how close to a computer I am. Work actually done on a computer gets listed in detail and in small time chunks, such as “Set up data prep script to run on regular servers”, whereas, say, watching my daughter might just be listed as “Play” or “Try to settle”.

Toggl auto-completes descriptions, so I try to re-use the same descriptions when I can (for ease of analysis later, and also less typing), but there’s nothing formalized about them. I do have specific “clients” (which I use for broad categories of things such as “Work”, “Me”, “Faffing About”) and “projects” (which are slightly more specific groupings like “Social Interaction”, “Housework”, “Scrapbooking”, etc), which is how I do most of my analysis later.

I’ve found it pretty useful to have this kind of data; I was able to use it to break down (in terrifying detail) exactly how much time I spent working on my dissertation, and recently I made a lovely graph showing that it was taking on average 30% longer to get my daughter to sleep compared to 2 months ago. I can’t say this data is necessarily actionable, but it’s always been nice to know where my time has gone.


lanthala I want to be like that!

I just found out that there’s a third-party app called Toggle for Toggl, it looks like it would fit perfectly in your widget system!

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Why do you need a 3rd party app - why can’t you just use the original Toggl?

Toggl doesn’t have widgets and has always been a pain to use on my phone. Using the Chrome extension is super easy when I’m on my desktop, but I almost never even bother with the app any more.

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My ideal time tracker app would pop up every X minutes and demand to know what I’m doing. Is there any app like that?

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I don’t know of an app like that, but Tasker could be set up to do that and send the info to Toggl.

Yeah, toggl’s official mobile app is a trashfire: it’s super laggy, it is hard to keep synced with the browser timer, and it doesn’t have autocomplete, which is just insult to injury when you’re using a phone keyboard. Toggle for Toggl, however, looks legitimately interesting, and I’ll likely give it a try!

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Apart from messing up the nice regular colorful schedule, is there any particular reason not to use TagTime which randomly pings on average every X minutes?

Yeah I want to get better at scheduling my days and I want to be able to look back and know what I was doing at any given time.

Also for billing purposes, but that’s a secondary point.

Toggl doesn’t seem to have a way to show how much I’m sticking to a schedule, but Zapier can import Toggl entries to Google Calendar, which should give me a rough idea of if I’m staying on track, I guess.

The other useful thing about time tracking, which Toggl does really well, is telling what percentage of time I’m spending on what tasks. Fifteen minutes is roughly 1% of a day, so when I was tracking time I tried to keep in mind a rough mental idea of what percentage of my day I was spending on things. A single TV show could take up between 1-4% of my day, was that really worth it? I get tired of studying Italian after about five minutes, do I really want to spend less than 1% of my time learning a language, and if so, why bother to study it at all? Toggl’s super helpful for keeping track of all that.


Actually, this did not work well at all :joy:

Same here!