How a Busy Dad Found Time for Reading and Meditation

You wanted your life to be simpler:

You wanted to sip your morning coffee in peace while browsing the morning paper. Then, you’d go to work without hurries, and get back home around 5pm, sometimes even earlier. In the evening, you would spend time with your family, or by working on your personal projects.

Your wants sound reasonable, but there is one huge problem:

You are in a “busy mode” all the time.

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You go to work in a hurry and get back home in a hurry too. On your free time, you shop for groceries, pick kids up from daycare, and take both of your sons to ice hockey practice.

Once your kids have fallen to sleep, you keep wondering, where did all the time go?

Oh boy!

You wish you were already retired and that your kids were grownups. Only then you would have all the time in the world.

Sure, you could be living in the future and wish that things would be different.

But there is also another option.

The Solution to Your Problem

I’m about to present a solution to the problem you have with time. It has the potential of improving your life while reducing your negative stress.

The solution I’m referring to is – drumroll please – time logging!

In essence, a time log shows you how you spend your time on a daily basis. It tells you the correlation between:

  • How you think you spend your time vs.
  • How you actually spend your time

It’s the latter point of these two that helps you to understand your current situation better.

Time logging is also your partner when you want to know what you should be doing more of, and what to do less of.

​Time logging tells you what you should be doing more of, and what to do less of.

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It’s your responsibility to take action on the information that a time log gives you. No matter how detailed a time log you have, your situation won’t change if you don’t change it.

The benefits of a time log

In case you are wondering why you should create a time log, here are few benefits it offers:

1. More time for yourself

If you have a family with small children, having time for yourself is critical. Too often though, free time is scarce, and you might wonder where to find it. In that case, your time log can point out these valuable time spots.

2. More time for your family

I was fortunate to spend three and a half years at home after I was fired from my previous job. I got to see how my son grew up from a one and a half year old to a more independent five-year-old.

Unfortunately, not all parents have this kind of luxury. For instance, if you have a day job, the time you can spend with your spouse and kids is limited.

In this situation, a time log comes in handy. A time log can tell you how to arrange your schedules so that you can spend more time with your loved ones.

3. More time with your spouse

Spending time together with your spouse is crucial. But, as soon as kids step into the picture, mutual time is one of the first places where time is cut off.

Once again, doing time tracking can reveal time pockets that you can use with your loved one.

4. It helps you to stay fit

If you want to start exercising, but don’t know how to fit that into your schedule, a time log can help you.

GET A FREE CASE SUDY:

How I found time for reading and meditation:

CLICK HERE  to download it. 

5. It guides you toward your goals

If your goal is to write a book, a time log can show you all the time slots for your book project.

6. It gives you more time for education

Let me ask you this; when was the last time you read a book? Oh, you didn’t have a chance to do that? Well, in this case, you know my solution already (hint: a time log!).

Reading has so many benefits and it should be an essential part of anyone’s day. Reading 15 minutes per day would be a great start on your self-education journey.

7. It helps you to estimate your time better

Excellent time estimation skills will help you a great deal in your everyday life. A time log can give you ideas on how much time a particular type of task takes. You can then benefit from this knowledge when you estimate a similar assignment in the future.

8. It makes you a better worker

A time log helps you learn more about your best working hours. It can even help you to understand what type of work to do at what time of the day.

How?

By including a short note about your alertness level about how you feel at a particular time of the day.

time log - energy levels

9. It cuts off the busyness and stress

Being busy at times is OK. But when the busyness is a constant state for you, it’s time to stop for a moment and think what to do differently.

In this case, you need a deeper analysis of why you are busy in the first place. If you can find and end the cause for this state, your life will be more enjoyable.

Knowing how you spend your days (yes, with a time log) will give you ideas on how to solve the busyness trap.

10. Makes you happier

Plain and simple: time logging will make you happy!

I’m not referring to the actual time logging phase, which can be a bit mundane. Rather, I’m talking about the results you could get, after you analyze your time log, and take action on the decisions you made.

11. It “bends” in many ways

By now, you have seen many of the benefits of time logging. But did you know that it can give you other useful information too, about your life and your habits?

Yes, I admit, some of the examples below are not strictly related to time tracking. Still, you can gather valuable information about your day, and how to make it even better:

  • Sleeping patterns: When do you go to bed, when do you get up, and how many times per night do you wake up? All this information is useful for improving the quality of your sleep.
  • Sitting/standing ratio: Most likely you (and me, too) sit too much while we work. It’s an accepted way of doing work, although studies have shown that it can even kill you.

    But if you have a standing desk, you could track the ratio between standing and sitting. If you then realize that you sit too much, you can work some parts of your day standing.
  • Drinking water: It’s important to keep your body hydrated, even if you just do office work. A log can tell you how much water you drink, how often you drink it, and if you should drink it even more.
  • Baby’s sleeping patterns: Are you building your online business on the side? Do you also have a baby, demanding all the attention he/she can get? This situation can be tricky to combine, but with some logging magic, it can be done.

    Thanks to a time log, you can know how much an individual online business-related task takes, and when to do that task.

    For instance, you learn that you write a blog post in an hour. And you also know that your baby naps an hour in the afternoon. In this situation, it’s easy to fit the writing task into this quiet time slot.
  • Distractions: Your workday is most likely shattered, thanks to many distractions you encounter. But, if you happen to get distracted a lot, it’s time to track your hours and see what is going on.

    A good idea to solve distractions comes from a book called Laser Sharp Focus. It introduces the term ‘distraction logging’.

    The idea is to track your interruptions for a few days and put them into a log. Once you know the sources of your distractions, it’s easier to do something about them.
  • Household work: I haven’t done this type of logging before, but it can change your family’s life for good.

    Some time ago I read about a Finnish couple (this article is in Finnish, sorry!), who got tired of the uneven split of their household work. To change things, they decided to track their household tasks in an Excel sheet.

    Thanks to this tracking, they were able to balance the workload and make their life easier.
  • Screen time: Do you know how much time your child spends in front of the screens (TV, computer, tablet)? If he/she spends too much time like this, you can encourage your child to spend the time in other ways.

There are probably more benefits to time logging than what I described here. But one thing is for sure: it can open your eyes to your real time usage. All you have to know is how to time log, and this is what we are covering next.

GET A FREE CASE SUDY:

How I found time for reading and meditation:

CLICK HERE  to download it. 

Two ways to time log

You have pretty much two ways to track your time:

  • The manual way.
  • The automatic (or the hybrid) way.

But before I show you how to log your time, I have certain things that I want you to keep in mind:

  • Time tracking is prone to errors (you might forget to log an entry).
  • Gathering a time log can be boring. If you run out of motivation during the logging phase, remember the benefits it can bring you.
  • You should be completely honest when you put entries into your time log. Only in this way can you change your days for the better.

Now that you have the right expectations toward time logging, let me show you how too actually do it.

MANUAL

AUTOMATED

Easy to get started

x

Free

x

Analytics

x

Automation

x

Rewarding

x (yes!)

x (yes!)

Manual Time Logging

To produce a time log the manual way, here are the key steps:

  1. Pick the period on your calendar for when you are doing the time logging. As mentioned, this should be at least seven days, including one weekend.
  2. Put an alarm on your mobile phone or entry to your task list about time logging, so that you remember to do it.
  3. During your time logging, have a pen and paper (or other note taking tool) available all the time.
  4. Record your day, by writing down every activity you did (in 15-minute precision).
  5. OPTIONAL: Turn your notes electronic (for e.g. Google Sheets), on a daily basis. I have found that time logs are easier to manage and analyze this way.
  6. Once the time logging period is over, analyze your log as soon as possible.
  7. Take action on the decisions you made, based on your analysis (on step 6).

As you can see, time logging is not rocket science. It takes a bit of effort, but it’s totally worth it.

If you procrastinate on time tracking, remember this: you are doing it to improve the quality of your life. Besides, the whole time logging phase takes only a few days of your life, but the results can be amazing.

Anyway, here is what an individual log entry looks like on my Google Sheets document. At this point, I don’t do any other analysis of the records, as I talk about this in the case study.

Automatic (Hybrid) Time Logging

I wish there were a fully-automated way to gather a time log. It’s not possible though, even if someone tells you so.

The primary goals of these kinds of tools are to report:

  • how you spend time on your computer.
  • which applications you used.
  • which websites you accessed.

But what about the activities you don’t do on your computer?

Yes, you guessed it right: you have to enter them by hand. For this reason, I refer to automated logging as hybrid time logging instead. In other words, parts of it are automatic and parts of it require manual work.

The actual logging part is like manual tracking. In other words:

  1. Pick the period on your calendar for when you are doing the time logging. As mentioned, this should be at least seven days, including one weekend.
  2. Put an entry to your mobile phone or entry to your task list, so that you remember to record a time log.
  3. Pick the tasks from other input sources (e.g. for paper) and enter them in your time logging application too.
  4. Analyze your log as soon as possible once you have finished time logging.
  5. Take action on the decisions you have made, based on your analysis (in step 4).

Yes, automated tracking can gather some data for you. Still, you are responsible for entering all the off-computer events into the system. Doing this makes the time log as comprehensive as possible.

Tools of the trade

There are quite a few tools that you can use for time logging. Some of the tools are free while some of them are paid products.

Manual logging

  • Pen and paper. This is the original way to time log: with just a pen and paper. The solution is low-tech, and you can get started very quickly.
  • Google Sheets. This option is almost like the pen and paper approach. The difference is that you keep track of your hours directly in an electronic format.
  • 168 Hours. This is a time log sheet which is freely downloadable, created by Laura Vanderkam. The 168 Hours sheet is a printable document. You can log your hours for the whole 24-hour period, in 15-minute increments.

Automated (hybrid) logging

  • Rescue Time. This application (aff link) tracks the time of your computer usage. At the end of the week, you get a nicely formatted report, about how you spent your days.

    The application runs in the background on your computer. It comes in two flavors: a free version and a premium one, which costs $9 per month.

    If you want to give a paid version a try, you can take a 14-day free trial.

    The software is available (at the time of writing) for PC, Mac, Linux and Android.
  • RescueTime
  • Desk Time. Another tool you can use to track time is Desk Time. Originally, Draugiem Group created the application for its internal use. Eventually, the company released it publicly for anyone to use.

    The tool includes features like:

    automated tracking, reports, the usage level of applications and URLs and offline tracking.

    It can also include screenshots of the applications people keep open. This feature can be useful in a team environment.

    DeskTime is available for Mac, PC, Linux and Windows. It’s also available for mobile platforms like Android and iOS.

    It comes with a free 30-day trial.
  • Desk Time
  • Toggl. The tool works on Windows, Mac and Linux. It’s also available on the mobile platform (iOS, Android), or through your web browser.

    It can generate reports of your time usage, and you can track offline time too.

    For teams under five people, the basic plan is free.
  • Toggl - time log tool

    Conclusion

    So what do you think, are you willing to give time logging a try?

    I admit that the logging process can be a bit tedious. Still, it’s a small price to pay, considering what you might get in return: more clarity and happiness in your life.

    Time logging is not a magic trick that solves all your time management problems. It’s just a tool, giving you hints of how to spend your time differently. Eventually, you are responsible for taking action on the suggestions this tool provides you with.

    I’m not making any guarantees that time tracking will change your life. But it can be a potential eye-opener if you are willing to put a bit of effort in.

    Leave a comment: Have you done any time logging before? Any tools you’d recommend? Any tips to make the time logging process smoother?

Timo Kiander