I’ve been continuing to work on the “producing versus consuming” tracking form, fixing various issues I’ve had with them. The underlying experiment I’m conducting is whether being mindful of when I’m creating/producing versus consuming makes any kind of difference in how I feel. I’ve made three form variations so far.
Draft 01: The Revised ETT Version
Draft 01 is an adaptation of the Emergent Task Timer, a form for time tracking.
This is a weekly version to track my trends over the week. The biggest weakness? I found filling in the bubbles a bit tedious, because I wasn’t using the 15-minute timer to accurately record what I was doing every 15 minutes. Also, I discovered I needed a bit more space to record my notes, and I really wanted a full 24 hours of tracking because my schedule has been wacky due to insomnia. You can download this version if you want to try it.
Draft 02: The Compressed 24-Hour Version
Draft 02 addresses the issues above. It’s got a compressed time tracking log that’s a little easier to fill out just by shading in rectangular chunks, and I’ve added a little more room between the sections. To demarque morning, noon, and afternoon, I use big black anchors to help me know what part of the form I need to fill in without scanning the actual 2400-style time markers.
There were four main issues I encountered:
- When I was focusing on a particular day track, it was difficult to orient myself on the right column of time. Filling in these boxes requires closer attention, spanning maybe about an inch of space at a time. That means the hour markers are not visible, so there is a lot of hunting back and forth. Blargh.
Although I’ve been using 2400 time for years in my time tracking, for some reason I found the extra conversion step too much for quick recording of my time usage. Just that extra bit of math was enough to make the process feel cumbersome, especially combined with the previous issue.
I still didn’t have enough space to write. While I didn’t want to make this version of the form overly complicated, I found that I needed more space to record WHAT I was doing to make distinctions between what I was doing.
The landscape format made the form too wide to keep comfortably nearby. It was always in the way, so I had to put it to my left, which I found irritating.
p>In a way, this form was a step backwards, though I do like the new direction that this time tracking bar is moving in. You can download version 2 if you’d like to try it out yourself.
Draft 03: The Single Day Version
This is the newest version. It’s now one sheet per day, which gives me a lot more room to write down notes. In fact, I’m not quite sure what to do with all the room, which is why the form design is a bit scattered in its appearance. I put in a reminder to think of my long-term goals at the top, because this is something that’s on my mind. I still want to track where my time is going, and also note how I’m feeling at a given time.
This design attempt to solve the deficiencies I noted in Draft 02. Holding the printout in my hand, I think it’s probably still a bit cramped for writing, but we’ll see. I’m about to transcribe the data from MON and WED (TUE was a “lost day”, mentally) and see how that goes.
If you’d like to give this form a try, you can download version 3; let me know what you think!
Idea: Turn it on its side instead of filling in bubbles, do something like an old-fashioned accounting ledger.
First column is date and start/stop time. Middle column is the widest, for notes, and use as many lines per note as you need. Third and fourth are for producing / consuming / gather / grind / socializing / puttering / sleep / mood. During the day, just put a mark in the appropriate column, then do the math once a day. Page-width permitting, you can add columns for anything else you want to track by time, such as billable hours. Or the producing / consuming columns can be added to an existing time log.
It’s not as pretty, nor as visual, but I find writing down the time faster than finding the right bubble to fill in, and the extra room to write is freeing.
That’s a good idea, Cricket. I might combine the journaling idea with the horizontal bars…I figured out a way to reduce the number of bars drastically while retaining flexibility, and the two-pass approach might work out well if it’s simple enough.
If I just wanted to track time, I could use my Excel spreadsheet for time tracking, but I’d like to see an at-a-glance picture develop over the day. The whole point is to avoid doing the math in a batch and have to correlate too many factors while doing the graphing.
I want to see the way you combine them!
More ideas: Put several empty dots beside each column. When you do the math, fill in a dot for every 5 minutes. (Can even skip the math, just count. If you start at 9:45 and end at 10:10, count/draw 9:50, 9:55, 10:00, etc.)
Excel’s conditional formatting does data bars. Select a region with numbers. It will put a coloured bar in each cell. The biggest number will get a long bar, the smallest will get a short bar. It’s by size of number, not rank (although I think there’s a setting to change that). Conditional formatting can do a lot of neat things.
You could also use a formula for the dots. Number of dots (x’s) = int(time / 5), maybe use the REPT() function.
Actually filling in the dots manually might help you feel the patterns more than letting Excel do it.
It’s tempting to measure too many things with one chart, such as predicted time to finish the task and estimated, number of interruptions, types of interruptions (as in Pomodoro). Maybe measure one metric each month rather than all at once.
ooh, this definitely has me thinking dave. let me play around with it and i’ll provide feedback next week. thank you!
Hey, Dave —
In my messing around with this form, my thought has been to wonder about rotating it tau/4: run the timeline and the category boxes down the left edge of the paper, similar to the ETT, and space for notes.
That might be just particular to me, though. I just like taking my notes horizontally, rather than vertically. And since I really do fill it out every 15 minutes, it’s hard to make my notes across the whole of the time period of a project like you do.
Just throwing out my observations and ideas — looking forward to seeing what else you do with it, and what insights you gain. :)
Amanda: I’ve been thinking that I need to turn this into a different kind of log too. The vertical note keeping really kind of sucks! Good call! I will forgive your trendy use of Tau :-)