04 Jun

what i’ve learnt from using a time tracking app

I spend a ridiculous amount of time dealing with email.

I always knew this. Everyone spends too much time on email, right?

But earlier this semester I asked my students to track their time spent on social media for a week and I decided to track my time too. I started using RescueTime to track how I spend my time generally, not just on social media. It’s been enlightening.

I’m not going to show you how many hours I logged last month (because it’s actually a bit embarrassing and it’s also not accurate because I don’t have RescueTime on my other computer) but I am going to show you the percentage breakdown of my time on my primary laptop for May. Here it is.

Screen Shot 2016-06-04 at 4.54.44 PM

See that 32% for communication and scheduling? That is basically time spent in Outlook.

The 10% social networking is almost exclusively teaching related (posting announcements on course Google+ sites, responding to questions on Google+), and is basically the same as email except that I’m talking to a bunch of people at once.

There have been weeks since I started using RescueTime that I clocked more than 30 hours on email, and it’s pretty much always around the 20 hour mark.

Perhaps this would be okay if the time I was putting in meant I was living my inbox zero dreams, but the reality is I’m about to bunker down for the night to process a massive email backlog and I have to do this every couple of weeks. I try to stay on top of my email, but it’s an uphill battle.

The other thing I’ve learnt is that I don’t spend enough time writing – something else that I already knew, but it’s interesting to see the extent of the problem. Only 13% of my time last month was spent on design and composition, which is where writing sits. And it’s also where time I spend in PowerPoint is logged, and I use PowerPoint quite a lot to prepare lecture slides. Which means my writing time is basically non existent.

I need to do something to change the way I spend my time. I’m just not sure what! But knowing the extent of the problem is definitely a motivator to fix it.

Anyway, I know I’m not alone in the struggle to balance the time I spend on communication with the other aspects of my job. So I wanted to write this post as an encouragement to try time tracking tools, because even if you think you know how you use your time, seeing a graphic breakdown is pretty powerful.

#blogjune 3/30

6 thoughts on “what i’ve learnt from using a time tracking app

  1. Hey Kate
    On my work email you’ll see I have a sentence five.sentenc.es is a personal policy that all email responses regardless of recipient or subject will be five sentences or less. It’s that simple.
    I link to five.sentenc.es so that readers can see it’s a larger movement, not just a whim of mine

    It’s not appropriate for explanatory emails, and I have cheated a bit and used long sentences and ; to pad things out. However I have been amazed how much of my email can basically be brief. It is taking this policy on for a year that led to me being able to add in lots of the Inbox Zero tips and cut down the time I spend on email.

    That said I’m now going to try this app you used and see if it’s more than I think 😉

    • Love this. I went off and did some reading about this movement. I’ve also been counting my sentences since I saw this comment. I sent out a doozey of an email today and thought to myself… Hmmmm… Would that be doable in five sentences? And then I felt a bit naughty sending such a long email.

  2. Hi Kate – I had to track my time for a leadership course last year. It was enlightening (by which I really mean horrifying!) how often email would distract me from other things that I was trying to do. I now have two half hour slots blocked out for email every day and try to stick to that (though it is very difficult!). Importantly the first slot is not till 11am so I try to get at least a couple of hours in the morning to work on something else before I look at email. I still have to do a big catchup every few weeks but restricting it during the day to a couple of timeslots does seem to help me with maintaining focus on other things. Thanks for the pointer to this tool – I didn’t even know such a thing existed! Sounds really useful.

    • These are good tips Sam. I was talking to my boss about this today. I think I just really need to get a couple of writing hours in first thing in the morning before I open my inbox. And having it open during the day is a killer. See I know all of these things, yet I still sit in my inbox all day. But these are good reminders and I’m going to give designated times and no email in the mornings a crack. I need to stop looking at my inbox before I get out of bed too. I get into a mess and have to do a big catch up every few weeks regardless, so I may as well claw back some time every day if it’s going to end up a disaster zone regardless!

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