Manually Recording all My Time Gave Me Superpowers

I’m currently recording all the time I spend manually inside the Google Agenda app as part of the Complice Goal-crafting Intensive préparation exercice.

Every day, I have a Beeminder goal which asks me if I recorded all the time I spent of my day. This makes me add time slots as the day goes on.

I’ve found that I’m way more aware of how I’m spending my time and breaks are more scheduled. I remember “oh yeah, that’s right, I have stuff XYZ that takes quite a bit of time so I better make my break 1h.”

I’ve remembered that I accidentally stumbled unto this life hack when I started planning my days ahead; but now, I recognize that the helpful part is to write down how I spent my time in the last hours to be able to change track.

When changing track (e.g. I’m in a break on YouTube), it usually goes like this:

  1. Oh, I should write down how I’m spending my time
  2. Wow, I spent 1 hour watching silly videos
  3. Ok, I’ll make it 1h30 (the 30 minutes help to remove time distortion)
  4. And I say: “by the power of the Valhalla, I will start working again when it’s Xpm” (I’ve seen this as a parody in a Beeminder blog post, but it unironically works - it’s like the lightweight version of beeminder)

I also have Toggl Track connected to my computer’s calendar so I don’t need to input my time usage if I was working.

What I especially like about it is that it seems to help even when I’m having a good old bad unproductive day. I just add time slots and accept that I’m not working right now, and that I’m doing exactly what I should be doing given my situation. It removes a bit of guilt, and as a result, I get a bit more likely to do a beeminder task. I’m bored, so I might as well make use of my time.

edit: here’s a demo screenshot - the parts with no time recorded are Toggl Track work blocks that I can only see on my computer. (it’s corresponds to heavily productive time)


Maybe this I’ll inspire some of you; also, I’m super interested if someone has a similar experience!

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This is a great idea! I use Toggl Track currently only to log my studying time, and don’t track my leisure time, which can lead to an increase of time-wasting.
My only issue is that I would like to see my number of hours worked, and have that not mix with my leisure time. I just created a new project just for leisure and will try tracking that as well now.

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Thanks for chipping in, and also I agree with you!

I like seeing that I did useful stuff for 8 hours on Toggl, so that’s why I’ve decided to track distractions/life/leisure in a separate plain old electronic calendar.

I’ve tried recording everything one day but could not stand my counter not being representative of my effort anymore. When I see 1 hour, I think: something’s wrong, and when I see 8 hours: “I made things move today!”

So I’m interested in knowing the result of your experience.


Some tip: use this widget to easily see how your time is spent across projects.

I’ve found that my days are more satisfying when spending time in different projects rather than having all my hours on the same subject.

Maybe we could find an interesting correlation with types of leisure/breaks?

Screenshot_20230110-005424~2

That’s great with the widget! Unfortunately, it is a premium feature, but I use something similar in a program called obsidian and the obsidian toggl extension, where you can have a graph view of the previous x days:

Subconsciously, pressing the toggl button was a way to say “now I’m getting started working”, so it requires changing my habits on that, but in theory its a good idea, especially with the pie chart.
Also on the Windows version of toggl (maybe mac also) there is an option to autotrack, which can be used to catch when you’re on leisure mode or actually working, though I haven’t tried it yet. The “show suggestions also when the timer is running” is beneficial for this reason.

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Also worth mentioning that Exist.io is great for finding correlations. It sees toggl as work time, but you could also use something like rescuetime for tracking distractions automatically. I prefer to manually input stuff though, sine rescuetime is not accurate sometimes (like if I’m on YouTube, I may be watching dumb stuff or an educational video, and it places it into very distracting nonetheless).
Personally, I find that I get to watch distractions when I am tired, and/or if a task I am working on is hard or boring. I did not get too much use out of Exist.io, but I could see how it could be very useful to gather extra awareness.

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I tried a 24/7 time tracking experiment at the beginning of 2022 (edited to correct the year, I don’t know why I didn’t say ‘last year’ rather than presuming I know what year it was last year!). I used automations using the focus modes on my phone/watch to send start/stop timers to toggl for a number of different categories (work, sleep, fitness, home, personal, leisure, social and not-work). ‘not-work’ is the stuff that looks like work to anyone watching but isn’t paying-job related. ‘personal’ ended up being a bit of a catch-all and if I did it again I’d split things so that essential personal-care bits went into a different bucket to random phone browsing.

I did it because I felt like I was wasting a stack of time and wanted to know where it was. My conclusion ended up being that a lot of that time wasn’t really usable for other things and there were consequences to using it in other ways. For example, reading a book instead of new articles gave me a poorer book reading experience, because there was no chance of getting immersed, and less knowledge of the news. Or, using the time to tidy the kitchen while I’m waiting for a family member to be ready to leave leads the other person to think I’m not actually ready to leave at any second whereas if I’m standing by the door on my phone it’s clear I am.

I gave up on it mostly because my automated system had bugs and correcting entries started to feel like a timesuck in itself and I felt like I’d already learnt some things that I could put into use.

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Cool, thanks for sharing! I did time tracking like this for one of the first GCIs I attended, but I haven’t done it with that level of granularity in a while.

I actually use Complice’s built in time tracking thing pretty regularly, and the nice thing is you can log a rough “focus” attribute for the manual timeboxes (sandpiles, as opposed to tomatoes, which have a fixed focus multiplier in order to count the breaks).

image

(To do the time inventory, what I’d like is a continuous sandpiling mode so I don’t have to start a new timer… maybe I’ll suggest this to Malcolm. Would be an easy way for GCI workshop attendees who are also Complice users to do their time audits too.)

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