They say that when people start to track what they eat they generally start eating less, just because they’re being conscious of what they are eating. The same rings true when you look at how you’re spending your life, what time you dedicate to different things. Over the past month or so I’ve been taking a look at how am I spending my life, where is my time going and how do I feel about it all.
I wanted to map what my life is actually like and compare it to what I want it to be. The difference between what it is and what I want it to be signals where I need to make changes. To do this, I’ve found a few tools that I’ve really liked and thought I’d share some of them here.
Track your life with Life Cycle
This is a pretty neat app that automates the tracking of your entire day and it does it pretty well. It uses your GPS to figure out what you do where and then tracks how long you’re doing it. You tell it where you work, it tracks time spent at work. You tell it where you work out, grocery shop, get dinner, do errands and it tracks it all. At the end of the day you get a snapshot of what your day was.
So here you can see I spent 7 hours and 23 minutes sleeping, 6 hours 28 minutes working, and so on. The app interfaces with the iPhone’s health app, tracking your steps and it also connect to their other app, Sleep Cycle (more on that in a minute).
Track your sleep with Sleep Cycle
This is from the makers of the Life Cycle app and interfaces with it, its basically required to use. Basically it analyzes how you sleep by detecting movement on your bed and breathing patterns. It operates on the premise that when you are in deep REM sleep (the kind that really gets you rested up) your body actually prevents itself from moving so we don’t act out our dreams and many other reasons. This means when we are in deep sleep, we don’t really move. The app tracks this and measures your sleep patterns.
Understand better how you work with Rescue Time
If you’re like me, when it comes to work, it’s almost all done on a computer. Rescue time puts a little program on your computer to track exactly what you’re doing and for how long. It can spit out reports to show you exactly what you’ve been up to, it can categorize those into “productive” or “non productive” activities.
This is really good for those who get distracted easily on the web or on their computers. We know that just because you’re on your computer, doesn’t mean you’re actually working. Since using this app (over two years for me now) I’ve found that I get on my computer, do only work, then shut down and move on with life. In short, I don’t waste time, get my work done quickly and get on with more important things.
Dig into emails with Gmail Meter
One of the lessons I learned from using Rescue Time (above) was that I spend a lot of time in email. Email is often a terrible use of time. The saying goes: “an email inbox is a convenient way to organize other people’s priorities.” I use an add-on to Gmail called Gmail Meter which analyzes your email. I’ve taken some drastic steps to help reduce the number of emails I receive. For example I used to receive around 400 emails a day, now 170 email per day. I still have a very long way to go.
It also shows your top people who email you. This helps me identify people who I need to break it off with if they are endless emailers or validate that the emails I do get and send are productive.
So What Does This All Mean?
After sitting with this data, I break out my life into three main categories: Recreational, Sleeping and Business Activities. Having objective data is a very important step because we can get down to specifics and reality, not guesses and gut feelings.
I then can ask myself, what do I want my life to be like? What do I want a day to look like? Then after that I can delve into things more specifically: what do I want my free time (recreational) to look like? When I run my business, what should that look and feel like? How much sleep do I want to make sure I have?
The important part here is defining what will make you happy and then comparing it to reality. The gap is where I need to focus and make intentional changes.
For me, email is a huge issue. I also spend more time driving that I like. My average sleep time is around 8 hours, which is good, but I need to work out more.
You can use fancy tools like I have here or simply jot down in a notebook. The point is, how often do you take inventory on your goals and your life? Most people don’t. Most people do nothing or at best, work of guesses.
- How do you track your time spent?
- How do you keep on track to your goals?