Time Tracking Categories for Better Work-Life Balance

An interesting trend regarding time tracking categories seems to pop up when we take a good look at our lives.

Namely, many people with access to modern technology are becoming more aware of the way they spend their time.

The day Spotify wrapped comes out has become one of the most exciting days of the year. We list the movies we watch on IMDB, TVtime, or Letterboxd. We use apps like Libby and Goodreads to manage the books we are reading, have read, or want to read. We track our activities at work and get paid according to them.

That is to say, people have never been as interested in statistics as they are now. And those statistics are incredibly accessible to almost anyone.

We are taking the time to track our work, mileage, the media we consume, the time we spend meditating, etc. Why not combine all this to help ourselves?

How Can Time Tracking Categories Help?

Being aware of how you spend your time is the first step to managing that time more effectively.

Distractions (especially online), unhealthy or otherwise negative habits, and menial repetitive tasks are eating up a good chunk of our days. Why is that?

The simple answer is – we don’t realize these things are happening. We especially don’t realize how long they’re taking.

Huge changes have happened in almost everybody’s lives in the last two and a half years. Hence, many of us have had the time to pay attention to our lives. Yet, without organizing time tracking categories, many of us are unsure about how to make changes.

This is where time tracking comes in. this is important due to two main reasons:

  • Personal rhythm
  • Distractions

Not Understanding How You Function

Each person has a specific working (aka productivity) rhythm. Some like to get up early, while others prefer sleeping in. Some can finish their tasks in a short burst full of energy. Others, on the other hand, need to take their time. The common thread is that they both need to arrange their hours to accommodate their needs.

The usual standard for most employed people is something akin to a 9-5, Monday to Friday schedule. However, this standard doesn’t reflect the “right” way to allocate your time. Moreover, the “right” way is a myth.

The same can be said for our other activities. For example, some people like to sleep in after staying up late. This is most commonly looked down upon. Yet, it is a simple reflection of a person’s biological rhythm. That is to say, there is nothing inherently wrong with any of our rhythms.

Understanding your own flow is the first step to becoming more productive. Let’s be clear. Productivity isn’t the end-all-be-all result we should all be chasing. So, let’s frame it differently.

Productivity, in this case, means resting (or dedicating your time to less energy-consuming activities) when you need to. In contrast, your more energy-filled periods should be dedicated to the activities that – you guessed it – take up more energy.

To conclude, understanding your rhythm means you can take steps to be less exhausted. It also means being able to finish the work you need while focused (hence raising your productivity and efficiency)

Pretty good motivation, don’t you agree?

Being Unaware of Distractions

Different types of media are all around us. Marketing, entertainment, social media, hobby-related websites, etc. are competing for our attention at every step.

Let’s not forget that most of the above-mentioned employ marketing experts. Some of those experts are the most talented in their field. Hence, it’s absolutely understandable to get distracted.

Distractions are very insidious since most people don’t perceive time accurately when they’re distracted. For example, how many times have you been scrolling (insert social media of choice) only to find out you only have a few hours of sleep left before the next workday?

Understanding just how much time you spend on distractions can have a sobering effect. People who want to spend hours upon hours on social media are exceptionally rare. Yet, if they don’t notice the sheer amount of time they’re wasting, it can creep upon them.

As you can see, there are some very real problems you can solve by taking a closer look at the way you spend your time.

Which Categories Should You Track?

There is no universal human being. That means there is no universal answer to this question either.

For example, a person who goes to the gym two or three times a week can track their total time, or divide it into cardio vs weight training. However, a dedicated athlete could take a more serious approach and track individual muscle groups, etc.

This is a good rule of thumb in time tracking. However, you shouldn’t be so taken up with tracking your time as not to notice how much of it goes into the process.

Here are some of the categories we suggest tracking:

  • Sleep
  • Work
  • Social time
  • Food
  • Gym
  • Transport
  • Shopping
  • Housework
  • Hobbies
  • Downtime
  • Other

Let’s see how time tracking can help with all of these categories

Sleep

Humans spend around one-third of their time sleeping. At least they should. However, if you look at the time we invest in work (usually eight hours with the addition of commute), hobbies, social and interpersonal relationships, housework, etc. you’ll see that eight hours are usually impossible to achieve without slowing down time.

Tracking your sleep can show you just how much of it you are losing. Combined with the other activities you’ll be tracking, you will be able to see how to achieve optimal sleep hours.

p.s. remember when we talked about personal rhythms? Some people need less sleep, while others cannot function properly without more than the recommended eight hours.

Work

Tracking work time is a specific category. Many companies already have a time tracking system of their own. That is to say, you can use this data to fill the gaps in your daily time tracking.

On the other hand, for example, if you are a freelancer, an accurate time tracking platform is a great way to understand your work. These platforms usually have the option of also tracking tasks, projects, clients, etc.

Additionally, you can set up your hourly fees in the program, so it calculates your salary. Finally, many of them deliver different reports based on the data you’ve entered.

Social Time

Many people have faced the conundrum of adulthood. That is to say, they have very little time for their friendships. Additionally, even when they’re free, their friends are often working, or otherwise busy.

Tracking your social time can encourage you to create a schedule of sorts. Try to go out with your friends, or simply visit a family member once every two weeks.

Of course, some of us can’t see our friends due to their location or covid restrictions. Fret not! You can still organize a Zoom coffee break or even watch a movie together. The technology many remote employees use is widely available now. Hence, you can use it for private purposes as well.

Food

There are many options when it comes to tracking food. They are as varied as their purposes. Yet, tracking the time you spend eating can also help you.

Namely, you will be able to track your food-related time habits. You may notice some patterns that explain your issues. For example, you may not be aware of just how often you order takeout.

On the other hand, your meals taking too little time can mean you’re eating your food too quickly. This, in turn, can be the cause of some digestive issues.

Finally, having a successful meal plan doesn’t necessarily mean meal prep and reducing calories. Different problems can be solved simply by having your meals at the same time every day.

Gym

As we have mentioned, there are many ways to organize physical activity-related time tracking categories.

Again, tracking the time you spend working out – no matter at which level – can motivate you to keep at it. Seeing how far you’ve come is a great motivator, after all.

You will be able to see which elements of your life impact your habits. I.e., stress at work can reduce motivation. However, so can sleep issues or your food intake, etc.

In other words, humans are complex systems. Yet, we don’t have little lights that turn on as soon as something is wrong. That is why we are suggesting paying attention to different time tracking categories.

Namely, the categories we are suggesting are delicately intertwined, and paying attention to them means having a holistic insight into your physical, mental, social, etc. state.

Transport

Tracking the time you spend commuting is useful for multiple reasons. Firstly, being in a moving vehicle can impact our physical state, as we – even when sitting – are using different muscle groups constantly.

Secondly, if your employer is refunding you for gas, tracking this category is very important. Some employers even track employee time considering their commute. In that case, it is absolutely clear why you’d track this category.

Finally, we tend to not count the time we spend in different vehicles. So, our days can seem shorter for no apparent reason. Commute can be only one part of the ‘’lost’’ time, but it is still important.

Additionally, you can turn this time into a more productive period. For example, you can read or listen to an audiobook on productivity.

Shopping

This time tracking category shows how much time you are spending in different stores. It includes grocery shopping, going to the mall, visiting online stores, etc.

Besides being great when it comes to managing your finances, tracking the time dedicated to shopping is also useful by itself. You can see whether you can save time by, for example, buying groceries in bulk for the upcoming period.

We suggest reconsidering shopping as well. Is this an activity you enjoy, loathe, or are indifferent toward? After looking at these facts, you can decide your priorities and re-think the way you shop.

Housework

Housework consists of all activities in and around your home aiming to keep the place clean (or at least liveable).

The time needed for these activities often gets “eaten up” by different distractions. We are either too busy or too tired, and the chores keep piling up.

Tracking this category can often mean the difference between getting your chores done and not. In other words, tracking time can mean making time in some situations.

Finally, tracking your housework can increase the positive habits you have regarding chores. Namely, once you see how much you can achieve in 20 minutes (or half an hour), you’ll be more motivated to do it.

Hobbies and Free Time

Hobbies and free time are time tracking categories that signify all activities you do for pleasure.

Whether you spend your time listening to music, spending quality time with your pets, building airplane models, etc., you should track it. Again, tracking time can be a great incentive to dedicate more of it to these enjoyable activities.

We have already discussed the multitude of apps and websites that track different media we consume. Their purpose is, among other things, to help us find other pieces of media we’d enjoy.

So, are you missing movie nights regularly due to a lack of time? Tracking other categories can help you find more time for the things you enjoy.

Other

While you can choose between the importance of the earlier options, we cannot overstate the importance of tracking the time when you aren’t doing anything. This is the time you tend to see as “lost”.

In other words, tracking this time will help you identify both your distractions and the amount of time they take away from you.

This category also requires a clear division and subcategories. These categories can include

  • Gaming
  • Social media
  • Procrastination
  • Binge-watching media

And others.

That is to say, you should use these time tracking categories and their subcategories to detect the causes of your most common distractions.

This way you will be able to redirect your time into more productive activities. And, let’s be clear: When we say “productive” we mean the activities that improve your quality of living, rather than specific work habits.

How to Track Different Categories?

To be able to track all the time tracking categories important to you, you will have to create a new habit. Namely, you will have to get used to having a timer running at all times.

Start the timer once you start an activity and restart it once you start doing something else. Write down the time each activity takes. You can use different dedicated apps, or a simple pen-and-paper method, depending on what feels most comfortable to you.

Some people need to track their time every day to keep themselves in check. However, if you feel like you can drop some of the categories, you can do that. This depends on your discipline and how much help you need.

Final Words

So, you’ve decided to track your personal and professional time. Great choice! Our advice is, first and foremost, not to expect miracles. At least not at once.

Switching time-wasting habits and distractions for constructive activities, or simply activities that bring you joy takes a lot of time.

So, don’t be too harsh on yourself. Start again when you fail, and fail again. The joy you will be getting from having more time for yourself will be worth it.

 

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