We’ve all read a million “Productivity Hacks.” A simple google search will turn up with a gajillion-million people telling you how to find more time in your day. Personally, I love productivity hacks. The fact of the matter, though, is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Productivity hacks that work for me might not work for you. Not only that, but what works today may not work tomorrow. In the same way that we have phases of life, there are phases of focus and interest.
Increasing Your Productivity Is Important
There is always more to do. Every day there is a new obligation, a new responsibility, something new to take on.With a growing to-do list and ever more things to get done, it can sometimes feel overwhelming to try to get everything you need to get done. I was just talking with my friend Glen about how sometimes a todo list can feel like its hanging over your head in such a way that prevents you from even getting started!
I was very into paper planners for a while. Then I moved and found myself unable to lug paper planners around. Then I went back to a paper planner, but a different one that really worked for me (I’ve been using the same one for a year now!). I liked tracking my food in writing. Then I moved onto the MyFitnessPal app because there’s nothing more convenient than being able scan a barcode. Not everything is about digitizing, though. Dropbox vs Google Drive, Overcast vs the Podcast App- there are lots of phases for tools and one is not more right than they other, they are just about trying to figure out what works best for you in that particular phase. To me, productivity is maximizing your output through managed effort. We all have the same 168 hours in a week. It’s all about how you use them.
The 168 Hour Project
Tracking a week of my life in half-hour increments is not an idea that just magically came to me. It was something I first read about in Laura Vanderkam’s I Know How She Does It. Despite being a fellow Princeton graduate, what actually inspired me to pick up Vanderkam’s book was the recommendation from my sorority mentor (Rah rah for KKG!). In my first year post-grad, I mentioned that I struggled with managing work, my then-long-distance relationship, my life obligations, and the things I wanted to be doing. I felt overwhelmed and burdened. My mentor suggested I Know How She Does It and I could not be more grateful that she did. The book profiled the high-income family-women that I hope to live similar lives to one day and the moral of the story was that it could definitely be done.
While I’ve sporadically tracked my week in the past, I’ve recently started to share them once per month in an experiment of sorts. In many ways my February 168 Hour Snapshot was just a starting point. It gave you and me a sense of what my week looked like. I would say I’m settled into a routine most of the time- er, well, as routine as life can be really.
I shared after reflecting on that last experience that there were two specific things that I wanted to improve in my schedule. First, I wanted to do more of my freelance work in batch work. Second, I wanted to theme my days. I did not expect a flip to switch and these things be done. Making changes like these are slow and require constant trial and error. They’re something I’m going to be continuously working on.
Budgeting Time Like Budgeting Money
There are only so many hours in a day and thus in a week. In the same way, there are only so many dollars in your paycheck and thus in your bank account. I’ve always believed that the way you spend your money is indicative of your values. (The Budgets and Cents Podcast had a great episode on this subject called Defining Your Values. Strongly recommend!) The same is true for your time! We’ve all heard the saying that you have time for the things you make time for. I could not agree more. It’s why you will always find time when you need it, but blow off the things that weren’t that important to you in the first place.
I’m not really willing to lose sleep over things, but when they’re important I will. This is the manifestation of this. I value my sleep over most things, but there are a handful of things that I’m willing to give up some sleep for.
Real Life Schedules
A disclaimer: I purposefully share these nearly a month after they’ve happened because the internet can sometimes be a scary place and I don’t want anyone knocking on my door. That being said, they’re as accurate as possible.
That being said, here is my schedule for the third week in March.
[table caption=”Week 11 of 2017″]
5AM,,,,,Casey came home,Up for Rugby,
5:30,,,,,,Back to Sleep,
7,,Wake Up/Eat,Eat,,Wake Up/Eat,Wake Up,Wake Up
7:30,Wake Up/Eat,To Gym,To Gym,Wake Up/Eat,To Gym,Cuddles,Freelance
9,Laundry Fold,From Crossfit,From Crossfit,To Bank,From Crossfit,Work on New House (Tile Demo),Freelance
9:30,Work ,Eat,Eat,Bank/From Bank,Work,Work on New House (Tile Demo),Work on New House (Tile Demo)
10,Work,Work,Work,Work,Work,Work on New House (Tile Demo),Work on New House (Tile Demo)
10:30,Customer Support Call,Freelance,Work,Work,Work,Work on New House (Tile Demo),Work on New House (Tile Demo)
11,Work ,Freelance,Work,Work,Work,Work on New House (Tile Demo),Work on New House (Tile Demo)
11:30,Work,Work,Work,To New House,Work,Work on New House (Tile Demo),Work on New House (Tile Demo)
12PM,Work,Work,Work,From New House,Work,Work on New House (Tile Demo),Work on New House (Tile Demo)
12:30,Work,Work,Work,Work,Work,Work on New House (Tile Demo),Work on New House (Tile Demo)
1,Freelance,Freelance,Work,Work,Work,Work on New House (Tile Demo),Work on New House (Tile Demo)
1:30,Work,Work,Work,Work,Work,Work on New House (Tile Demo),Work on New House (Tile Demo)
2,Work,Work,Work,Work,Work,Work on New House (Tile Demo),Work on New House (Tile Demo)
2:30,Emails,Work,Work,Work,Work,Work on New House (Tile Demo),Work on New House (Tile Demo)
3,Go to New House,EBA,Work,Shower,Nap ,Work on New House (Tile Demo),Work on New House (Tile Demo)
3:30,House Photographer,EBA,Work,Work,Nap,Work on New House (Tile Demo),Work on New House (Tile Demo)
4,Go to CleanEatz,Work,”Get money, Pay Keith”,Work,Clean,Work on New House (Tile Demo),Work on New House (Tile Demo)
4:30,Buy Food,Work,Get check from Ashley,Work,Organize,Work on New House (Tile Demo),Work on New House (Tile Demo)
5,Go Home,Work,Dinner,Work,Shower,Work on New House (Tile Demo),Work on New House (Tile Demo)
5:30,Work,Work,TV,Nap,Cook,Work on New House (Tile Demo),Work on New House (Tile Demo)
6,TV,Work,Read,Nap,Cook,Go Get Food,Work on New House (Tile Demo)
6:30,TV,To Haircut,Freelancing,Nap,Dinner,Dinner,Work on New House (Tile Demo)
7,Eat,Haircut,Freelancing,Show Angie New House,The Walking Dead,Sons of Anarchy,Work on New House (Tile Demo)
7:30,Clean,Haircut,Freelancing,Show Angie New House,The Walking Dead,Sons of Anarchy,Home
8,Read,Haircut,Freelancing,17.4 at CFR,Date Night Hanging Out,Sons of Anarchy,Shower
8:30,Freelance,Haircut,Freelancing,17.4 at CFR,Date Night Hanging Out,Sons of Anarchy,Laundry
9,Bed,Stop by New House,Freelancing,17.4 at CFR,Date Night Hanging Out,Sons of Anarchy,The Walking Dead
9:30,,To Home,Freelancing,Organize/Clean,Date Night Hanging Out,Sons of Anarchy,The Walking Dead
10,,Dinner and Bed,Rest,Bed,Bed,Bed,Bed
The skeletons of my weeks are pretty much the same week-to-week, when I’m not traveling. As I right this, I can’t help but chuckle at what I wrote last month:
I’m up around 6 AM most days Monday to Friday. I’m working to make that a little bit earlier during the day and would like to eventually get it to 5 AM. Even when I’m awake by 6, I’m not always getting up and being productive right away. Some days I rolled around in bed for nearly a half hour before reading.
Reading before I get out of bed is another staple of my day. In the same way that I encourage people to pay themselves first on their budget, I read first thing each morning to pay my mind first. It’s a great way to make sure I get some reading done almost every day. After breakfast, I head to Crossfit Raeford, where I attend the 8 AM class every day.
Well… you see… this week, I woke up at 7 most days, the opposite of “working to make that a little bit earlier during the day.” Whoops?
Notice the lack of reading? I wasn’t into the book I was trying to read and this was one of two consecutive weeks of my reading dry spell.
At least I made it to the gym three days a week or else you’d think I was a fraud.
Rolling with the Punches
This week looks seriously different from the last snapshot I gave you. There were many things that happened in the days just before this log begins that directly affected what you see here. First, on Friday we closed on a home! I’ve mentioned it in passing a couple of times, but the house was a big deal! (I’ll definitely share more soon.) Second, Sunday was when the good ol’ clocks sprung forward for DST, explaining my later-than-usual wake up times. Third, Casey went into the field on Sunday; you can see on Friday when he came home!
Let’s dig into this schedule a little bit more deeply…
On Monday, there was a lot of getting situated and work- typical Monday things. I also had “before” pictures of the home taken by Erica Goodpaster- Real Estate Photographer. Erica is a member of my gym and took some really great photos! I can’t wait to share them when I share more about the house! Tuesday night, I got a haircut at The Paul Mitchell School in Fayetteville. It cost me less than $25 for a haircut, a deep conditioning, and their clarifying shampoo. The tradeoff is that anything there takes forever. At least, I’m really happy with my haircut! Nothing special happened on Wednesday. Thursday, I got to watch the 17.4 workout announcement at the Box with my friend Angie.
Casey came home on Friday morning, as I mentioned earlier. We got to catch up on the previous week’s episode of The Walking Dead before having a casual date night at home. I don’t remember for sure, but knowing us we probably made homemade pizza.
Saturday, I was supposed to referee, but I was walking out the door, things changed, so of course I went back to bed. When we got our day started, Casey and I started doing all the things we needed to to get started on the our work on the house. We demo’ed nearly 500 sq ft of tile on our own! After a long day of work on Saturday, we relaxed with Sons of Anarchy, which we have since finished. After a long day of work on Sunday, we relaxed with the live episode of The Walking Dead.
I would say that of the two things I wanted to improve on, I did make progress on working in batches better, but I still wasn’t good at it. This is one area where I would really like to continue to improve. When it comes to work, I’d prefer to work 6 really intense hours than pitter-patter for 8. For me, batch work is similar. I’d prefer to just really focus and get lots of things done than just meander through progress. Also, for some reason I really believe that batch work will make the difference in helping me get further ahead in crossing things off my to-do list. Similarly, I’ve been wanting to theme my days. I think these two are intimately related lifestyle changes that I’m working on.
I really need to start waking up earlier, too. I’ve been saying this for a while, but I’ve recently started to concretize this goal: I’d like to be attending the 530 AM class at the gym by June 1. After a discussion with a dear friend, we’ve concluded that by May 15, I should be waking up at 430 each day for me to really have success at going to the gym at 530. Time will tell!
Remember, you too can track your own 168 Hour week to track your time! Let me know what you find out when you do!
Tell me: have you ever tracked your time? Did you find it helpful?
Emilie is an Army Wife, Data Engineer, and CrossFitter with a love for working through her thoughts in this space on the internet. She lives with her husband Casey and their pup Bo in Savannah, GA.