Losing track, and gaining it again

stop it with the time-wasting

stop it with the time-wasting

I’ve been tracking my time since my last post, and I have a few results to report.

General Lessons

Firstly, I’ve learned that it’s still useful even if it’s not complete.

When I started tracking, I was being quite punctilious about it – but this is a tedious thing to do, so the precision lasted about a week. It’s also rather difficult to continue frequent updates when I am working on the same task for a long time – quarter hourly entries for hour after hour saying “licensing UI” aren’t very illuminating.

Secondly, if you miss a few updates, make notes on what you’ve been working on without times and then get back on the horse.

The fact that writing down the same task over and over is dull sometimes militates against writing down anything at all. Then I skip updates that actually matter, and… well. In this respect, tracking time is a bit like an exercise programme – if you miss a day, you don’t just throw up your hands and give up the exercise plan. There are always bumps in the road, and the main thing is getting back on the road.

Thirdly, just tracking time keeps me on task. Having that level of accountability helps me stay focussed on the work I am supposed to be doing.

Specific Results

My intention was to perform some data entry and classification, but I haven’t done that yet. This stuff is a pain to get into a form that is analysable: spreadsheets are a good data entry form, but the data can’t be analysed usefully in the sheet. It’s a database problem really, but I don’t want to spend time on designing a database schema and application to present that information – this is useful rather than critical, so that time would be wasted. The most likely analysis tool after that is a Lisp session, but again not worth spending huge amounts of time on.

So, the results so far are based on visual inspection and a few notes taken in situ rather than rigorous analysis.

  1. the six hour daily load I use for work planning is about right. The heuristic used in Agile methods is that you only really get six hours of work done in an eight hour day, and that seems accurate.
  2. the two hour daily load I use for writing planning is hopelessly optimistic. I’m not writing for two hours a day – indeed I’m often not spending even an hour on the work.
  3. the biggest non-task time suck is social media. This is no surprise, really.
  4. when I am writing, I am not writing really. This is the baldest result: what time I am spending on my writing practice is spent on this blog and roleplaying games rather than fiction.

What’s Next

I’m going to keep tracking. For now I will stick to paper since, as I noted in the first piece, having a physical token is a useful reminder for me, although I am going to look for a tool to run on my phone (Android 2.2, if anyone has any specific recommendations).

I’m going to trim the social usage. Staying on task has already helped with that but winnowing out the RSS feed content would help further.

Still, figuring out how to use my time to do more actual writing is something I am going to have to do because the current situation is not tenable.

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