Be Mindful of How You Spent Your Time

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A couple of weeks ago, I randomly picked up an audiobook by Laura Vanderkam from the library. It’s called “I Know How She Does it“. The book is so interesting and motivating: Laura conducted a research among high pay female working professionals who also care for young kids. She is interested in how they juggle work and personal life. Specially, each participant kept track of how they spent 168 hours in a week, writing down as detailed possible what they did in 15 mins intervals: from taking a shower, reading, to getting your kids to bed, doing emails at work, etc. 
 
The first step towards time management, as Laura Vanderkam suggested, is logging your time. I did for a week and here’s what I noticed:
 
1. I worked longer than 40 hours this week.
My work hours added up to 45.25 hours this week. One thing I can’t help noticing is how tracking the time alone alters how I utilizes my time. Instead of squandering time away in the car listening to pop music, lying on the couch doing nothing, I’m so mindful of filling every minute with activities. For instance, my mere 15 mins commute is accompanied by Laura’s audiobook instead of Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off”. 
I’m also more cognitive of my energy level. Morning (between 8-10am) is now reserved for important work projects that require lots of thinking. Time right after lunch is for emails when I’m feeling tired and drowsy.
The result is great! By Friday, I feel very productive and made great strides in 3 meaningful projects (marketing plan, top customer review and customer meeting preparation). 
In order to develop my core competency, I aim at working between 45-50 hours/week. That includes actually working on projects that hone my professional skills, attending seminars/networking events, reading about marketing, etc. 
 
2. I did a decent amount of reading. 10.75 hours of reading, though 5 of them were done over the weekend. 
I thought I did a lot more reading than that, especially on the weekend. Reading is my biggest hobby right now. I’m reading “David Copperfield”, “Thinking Strategically” and “The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest”. Sadly, the reason I felt I read a lot more than I actually did was I didn’t enjoy lots of the reading I did. The main reason is “David Copperfield”. It’s an interesting story and a classics but I would much rather read “The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest”. The suspense in the latter just grabbed my attention. Maybe it’s time to let go of the good oldies and focus on what I really like! The last thing I need is turning reading into work as well.
 
3. I exercised for 9 hours this week.
My biggest goal this summer is shredding some pounds. From the beginning of June to now, I’ve lost almost 14 pounds! Standing at 5’1”, Right now, I weigh 106lbs – the same as when I came to the US exactly 5 years ago. . A nice achievement as is, I’d like to go down to 103 lbs or ideally 100 lbs. My plan is to make it happen by the end of September. During the past several months, I eat healthy for most part but there’re time I went to buffet. I made up for them by excessive exercising to bring down the calories. Looking forward, I’ll try for a better balance b/t diet and exercising. 9 hours per week on exercise don’t likely to sustain throughout the year. Worth mentioning though, instead of listening to music, I listened to audiobooks and news. So my workout time doubles as reading and catching up on news!
 
CDC recommends adults should do at least 75 mins of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity (jogging, running). At least 2 days of full body muscle strengthening workout can exercise all major muscle groups. This week, I altered my workout routine to incorporate more strength training. So far, I’ve done three 60 mins run (or StairMaster) and one full body training. Another one on Sunday. 
 
4. Social time adds up to about 6 hours
Not surprisingly, most of the social time happened over Friday night and the weekend. They were mainly dining with friends and birthday parties. I do hope to see a more diverse range of social activities. For instance, playing tennis can count both as exercise and social time! Rock climbing, kayaking, archery, etc are all good options. 
 
5. Think 168, not 24!
8 hours’ work takes up the majority of the weekday time. That’s why those big chuck of time on weekends shouldn’t be wasted on laundry and house work. Schedule an hour or two for strategic thinking and development of your core competency. Long run, long workout & strength training can happen without you feeling rushed. You could also avoid Sunday night sadness because you feel fulfilled with accomplishments. 
 
6. I slept for 58 hours last week
This averages to 8.5 hours a day! Given this includes Sunday afternoon nap but I want to shoot for 55 hours sleep. Ensure 8 hours a day is plenty to begin with. Then I will slowly cut back 15mins a day. Yesterday I felt awful because I only got 6.5 hours sleep. Anything less than 7 wouldn’t help with my productivity. 
So are you thinking about tracking your time as well? All you need is an excel sheet, or pen/paper, or jotted down in evernote like I did. It will open your eyes and help you discover so much about your time. It is an indispensable first step towards better time management. Give it a try and share with us what you find!
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