Time tracking: two big rocks

Prior to this era of personal time tracking, if you told me I had two hours to myself, I would make a list of 20 things I hoped to get done in that time. Then one of two things would happen: I would either work frantically to accomplish as many of them as possible (and feel entirely spent at the end), or I would become frozen with the immensity of the tasks before me. i would waste the time and get none of the important things done. 

What I found myself saying this month is, “My priority in the next two hours is to get x and y done.”  It didn’t mean I stopped after I got those two things done. I often got much more done. But focusing on those two priorities helped me to feel less frantic, anxious and overwhelmed (surely, I could get two things done!), and I was less exhausted at the end of that time. I usually got those two priorities done, and they were the two Big Rocks in my mayonnaise jar. The rest of the sand and pebbles fit in around them.

The mayonnaise jar analogy, if you don’t already know it, goes something like this:

A professor brought a mayonnaise jar, some large rocks, some smaller rocks, some pebbles and some sand to class. He asked the students if those items could all fit into the jar. The students thought it wasn’t possible.

The professor then proceeded to put the big rocks in first, followed by the smaller rocks, the pebbles, and finally, the sand. It all fit, after he gave it a good shake and let all the small things settle inside the jar.

He told the students that time is the same way. If you start with all the small, piddly stuff, you’ll never fit the big, important rocks in. But if you get the big, important rocks in first, you can shake down the contents and find that the smaller, less important stuff fits into the smaller spaces.

May you get those two or three “big rocks” in today!


Rigorous Time Tracking…sort of

This will be a short post.

You know all those New Year’s resolutions you’re breaking by now? Well, my time tracking has not been quite as rigorous as it was in the beginning.

First, my son had a violent stomach flu, and we both lost a night of sleep over it. Two days’ later, I got the same bug. We were both largely out of commission last week.

And then, I remembered that I had a provision for this. See, I knew it was impossible to catch everything I did in my time tracking. I knew at some point, I would fail to capture something because of sickness or some crisis or higher priority. But my husband reminded me from the beginning that even snapshots give more information than no tracking at all. My good friend, Lauryl, who is the Queen of Tracking, reminded me that capturing three days’ activities in a week was better than none. 

So last week, I captured some information. I wrote down activities almost every day. I have more information than I would have had before. In my next post, I’ll share what I learned in a week of imperfect time tracking!

Lessons from Rigorous Time Tracking: Timing of Interruptions

As you may know, I’m practicing a year of rigorous self-tracking: time, money and feelings. This morning, I had a great lesson come out of my time tracking.

I’ve been dog sitting for a friend for a few weeks now, and I arranged with her to pick up the dog at 10:00 “or any time after that.” I had a plan with my time before 10:00, then several things I wanted to get done that weren’t actual appointments after that. I figured since I was home and could work until she got here, it wouldn’t matter if she came at 10:00, 10:15, 10:30 or 11:00 – I would be able to get work done in the interim and would simply put myself and my work on “pause” while we met, got all her dog supplies back to her and checked in on the past few weeks’ experience.

At 10:08, I started to feel tense. I realized that what I wanted and needed to do involved writing (and, therefore, some focus on my thoughts), phone calls (which would require not answering the door while on them), calendaring (which involved focus on my overall schedule, goals and not losing my place while getting the items in). Basically, I found that I put my entire task list on hold and puttered on the internet because I felt I couldn’t dive in and get anything I wanted to do done right. 

The first thing I realized about this is that I did not value my time or take my own process into account here. My time was “flexible” when it really didn’t need to be. Why didn’t I just say, “I need to do this at 10:00 sharp, or we can reschedule for later in the day?” I wanted to please her and give her all sorts of lee-way (without any very good reason – she hadn’t asked for flexibility; I just offered it). 

I also realize I have some very ADD ways of approaching life. Distractions really distract me. I need to have blocks of time in place in which I can work without interruption. For whatever reason, I forgot that about myself, and I didn’t give myself the space I needed to work. I gave myself short-shrift this morning, and I did it not because there was some terrible crisis happening but simply because I thought my time was expendable and others’ was not.

It’s a small thing, but I can already extrapolate this because I know it will show up time and again, if I don’t change it. I can see that this is one of my huge time and energy “drains.”  It was a small thing today, but it happens multiple times each day, everyday. I’m beginning to consider how I might “capture” these potential interruptions and put them on hold until am ready, instead of putting myself on hold until others are ready! And I’m really looking forward to harnessing some of the bleeding energy and diffused focus and putting them back to work for me in 2014.