Goal #30 on my 30 Before 30 List was to track my time by the minute, and happiness every couple of hours, for a month. This is supposed to be one of those life improvement hacks. By tracking time, I would find out where my focus is and how long it really takes to accomplish tasks . By tracking happiness, I could pinpoint the activities that bring me the most joy.
Track Time By The Minute
Over the last 75 days, I’ve tracked my time by the minute using a phone app called SaveMyTime (Android only). Every time I open my phone, the app prompts me for what I’ve been doing since I last opened my phone and then calculates my total time for each activity for every day. The app also bunches activities into customizable categories (I’ve got Productive, Wasted, Nuetral, Sleep, and Friends/Family). The app is great and includes all the features I wanted.
So what was the take away of 108,000 minutes of continuous tracking? Not much. What was very evident was how unproductive I am with my time. I could give you exact numbers, but I’m to embarrassed to share them.
I have tons of free time, and nearly complete flexibility, yet am not getting much done. I’d estimate that I’m currently working at 10% of my potential, meaning if I focused more, and increased effectiveness, I could get 10 times as many things done. I’d like to do better with Lethal Engineering, triathlon, and my business, but only seem to do well at one at a time, to the detriment of the others.
I mentioned in my Goal #27 and Goal #29 posts how productive I was when I woke up at 4:30 every morning and eliminated news, social media, YouTube and Netflix. The past 75 days, I’ve confirmed that I do waste a lot of time on those activities (several hours a day) and that by eliminating them not only could I free up that time, but improve my focus.
Track Happiness Every Couple of Hours
For this portion of the tracking I utilized an app called Daylio. The app prompts me every two hours from 8 am to 8 pm for a happiness rating of either Rad, Good, Meh, Bad, or Awful. I would have preferred a scale with greater resolution (like 1-10) as I only really ever used three of the moods (Rad, Good, and Meh).
Tracking my happiness for 75 days, I was able to confirm that I am a generally happy person. Being productive with my work would yield a ‘good’ mood. Exercise instantly increase my happiness, usually to ‘rad’. Hanging out with friends and family was the easiest way to keep a consistent ‘good’ or ‘rad’ mood, as evidenced by the streak of ‘rad’ over Thanksgiving.
I’m most happy when I do things that I deem productive, rather than wasting time. So why don’t I do those productive activities more often? I’m not sure. I feel like I reach these little stopping points of anxiety, and rather than pushing through, I get distracted and move onto something entertaining that requires no work. That passive consumption is so easy and temporarily elicits the positive emotions I feel at the completion of difficult work.
I’ve trained myself to automatically reach for distractions whenever a feeling of anxiety or boredom arises. To fix this, I’m going to work on becoming more conscious of those moments and then work to break my automatic response to them. The idea being to sit with the uncomfortable feeling, rather than seeking immediate reprieve, and as a result, increase productivity and happiness.