After tracking my time for the past couple months, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s more of a nuisance than a help, but I’m not sorry I did it. The process taught me several things.
◊ Tracking time doesn’t really affect what I do with it. It wasn’t like I could look at the way I spent yesterday and decide today I’ll add more time for this or that. Rearranging my schedule mostly happens because of what’s going on in the moment, not because I have time to look at the data and make a conscious decision. In other words, it happens in the present, not in the past, however conveniently that past is recorded in a pie chart.
◊ Tracking time doesn’t magically create more time to do the things I want. I found no random instances of inefficiency that could be converted into productive time. In fact, tracking took up more time.
And it was distracting, particularly because I’m trying to be creative. Having to remember to start the timer each time I changed activities or go back and manually enter time because I had forgotten to start the timer interrupted my creative momentum. And believe me, that momentum is hard enough to come by. Anything extra standing between me and jumping into the flow is a disadvantage plain and simple.
◊ Tracking time did show me exactly what I was doing with it. Since I’m already pretty organized, mostly it just showed me what I already knew, but it was useful to see how big a chunk of time I was spending on the things that are really important to me.
Oh, that pie chart! So legitimate!
And it did change how I thought about certain activities. Things I thought I was spending too much time on were actually fairly low percentage-wise and things I thought I was neglecting scored pretty high. So there was a mitigation of psychological pressure, something I’m always looking for in my quest to just-get-on-with-it-already.
Conclusion? I learned what I can, now I’m moving on. If I ever need to bill for my time, I’ll probably be glad I did this experiment, but for now it’s over. Though I will miss the pie charts …
Note: I used the free version of Toggl to do my tracking, both the web and Android apps. It was more than sufficient.