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I tracked every minute of my time for the last 4 months. Here are 7 totally unexpected results

Bilaniuc Dragos on July 14, 2021

A 30 minutes lunch break? Time entry. 12 minutes of arguing with mom? Time entry. 7 minutes of stalking my ex on Instagram? You guessed it! That w...
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Siddharth

Nice! I've been thinking of doing something like this sometime, and hearing your experience makes it seem easy!

I can see that your time is basically really broken up.

Broken up day vs normal day

Credit to Todoist, to which I've linked below

You should try time blocking and it's cousins task batching and day theming to bring all similar stuff together.

PS: Congrats on your first post!

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1Page

So true

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Bilaniuc Dragos Author

Thanks, Siddhart!
And thanks a lot for the insights, too! That's basically the next stage in my system: trying to block things together as much as I can :D

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Mike Lockhart

A few years ago (like 10?) there was a Life Tracking fad. I heard about it through Emacs Org Mode circles, and I thought about trying it myself. Unfortunately, because I was using Emacs, I ended up spending so much time setting up my tracking system that I never actually started to track. This is not to disparage Emacs, it's great fun! It's too much fun! Which was my problem.

I like your setup in Toggl, which I think is a big point for other readers to take away: if you're going to do this, then just start! You can iterate on the system with tags and whatnot later. In fact it would make more sense to do so after you have some data.

Great work on this first post.

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Bilaniuc Dragos Author

Thanks so much, Mike for the insights and the support!
Definitely agree with you there, the most important thing is to get the system going. After that, (at least in my case) it kept going from momentum. Once I had a few days nicely filled with all those time entries (and I could see that in toggl's weekly view), I just didn't want to leave any blanks in there.

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Mohamed Sami • Edited

Insightful & Interesting!

After reading this I too started to track and it's been going good for the past three weeks.

the truth is, it’s really not that hard.

Many thanks for encouraging me. I found many interesting patterns and results, Everyday I took few minutes to reflect. Now, I feel like everything is under my control. It has been easier for me to build new habits

it increased the quality of my “chill time”

This is The Most Truthful statement I have heard all this year

Once again thanks a lot for this post!

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Bilaniuc Dragos Author

Hey Sami! Thanks a lot, it's great to hear it resonated with you. And I'm so glad you already see some results with it!
Best of luck going forward, too!

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Samuel Suther • Edited

Really nice Idea, thanks for sharing it.
I will definitely try this too.
At your conclusion, you've wrote: Keep it simple. As simple as possible. Don’t overkill it with tags and projects (the way I did, in the beginning).

What you mean with that. Do you mean the topics, you show in your image are overkill... or is this image still the final (slimified) version ?

Can you give some suggestions how to work with Projects and Tags, and why you choose this way around you did? (BTW: What is the border between "money" and "career"?)

I wonder if there are arguments against having projects like "Business", "Family", "SpareTime", "Learning", "Misc".. and use Topics you do in this section as Tags (e.g. "reading Emails = Business, "watching nonsense at youtube" = "Misc").

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Bilaniuc Dragos Author

Hi Samuel! Thanks a lot for the support!

The areas in the image are the final version that I use today, as well. What I meant by "overkill" was that, initially, I was trying to put 4-5 extra tags on an entry (like, "free time", "habit", "on computer", "outside", etc). That's because I wanted to see nice reports for, say, how much time I was spending on the computer in a week. But that turned out to complicate a lot the process of starting a new entry - and, as I said, that should be as easy as possble, if you are to do it consistently.

I think your split seems really good! You shouldn't dwell on it too much in the beginning, either way, because you'll see what makes sense for you, as you go.

And to answer your question, the difference between money and career, for me, is that "career" reffers to entrepreneurship and things things that I don't do strictly for money.

Hope this clarified your questions a bit. Let me know if you have other thoughts.

Best of luck in your journey!

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Adarsh TS • Edited

This article was a real eye opener for me. I am going to try to track my time from today. Hope that it will go well and I get more control over my day.
Thank you for sharing your experience. Kudos for your first article 👏.

Is toggl free to use? Did you buy the premium version?

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Bilaniuc Dragos Author

Hi Adarsh! Thanks a lot, I'm so glad you liked it!
Toggl has some premium plan, but for what I did, the free plan provided everything I needed.
I really hope you make it work, best of luck in your journey!

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Faisal Mukhtar

Nicely written article. I have already tried few times to track my daily activities. Some of the times manually by using a pen and paper. Some times with apps but it never seems to work and after few days, I forget about it. I really like your insight about time tracking and how it can help you become more productive.

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Bilaniuc Dragos Author

Thank you, Faisal!
I can see how you'd forget about it, but maybe the visuals in this app will help (especially that calendar view - fore me, it's kind of addictive to see it 100% full all the time :D). Also, maybe it helps putting it in perspective: it's about tracking the most important resource you have, the only one that never comes back...

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Ash

Fantastic post, thanks for writing!

I also time track, albeit on-and-off, and a lot of what you've put down here resonates with me. When I'm really on top of my time tracking I feel much more in control of my day, and just more on-top of things in life. I don't do as much social media scrolling, and I catch myself when my focus drifts from the task at hand sooner.

Thanks for the great post, and the reminder to step my tracking game back up! 🦄

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Bilaniuc Dragos Author

Thanks a lot for your support, Ash! I'm so glad it resonated with you!
I totally agree with the "feeling more in control of my day" part, as you already saw ;)
Wish you best of luck with your own tracking business! :D

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Oisín

Thanks for a wonderfully honest and thoughtful article!
If I could share one idea, we've grown to see frequent task-switching as bad, because the cost of context switching adds up.
However, if you're doing tasks with a significant component of learning, then it's actually better to switch tasks frequently, because that context switching moment forces you to review your memory of what you're doing, rather than grinding away on autopilot.
This idea is called interleaved practice, mostly in research on learning motor skills, but I think it applies to many skills that require procedural learning.
There are some great articles by musician and researcher Christine Carter on interleaved vs blocked practice, and the related idea of contextual interference (where you introduce variations to the task that force you to solve the problem again instead of repeating a solved motor path over and over).

Just wanted to point out that while "flow" is great for creating stuff, you can use context switching to your benefit in some situations. I actually do this at work, setting an 8 minute timer for normal work (coding, dealing with emails and chat), then 4 minutes to learn a little Rust, then 4 minutes for PyTorch, then back to normal work. If things are busy I'll slip in an extra work block between the Rust and PyTorch blocks.
It seems like it should be really inefficient for getting work done, but I somehow focus and get a lot done during each block. It's only been a couple of weeks trying this out though, so too early to say if it was a genius move or a huge mistake.

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Bilaniuc Dragos Author

Hey Oisín, thanks a lot for your support - and especially for sharing your insights!

It seems quite counterintuitive what you're saying - but I can definitely see how it could work! I think, like all things, context switching isn't just black or white. In some circumstances is clearly bad (and I can give you my personal example of "switching contexts" to instagram when I was in the middle of deeply focused work😅), but on other times, it cam be of great use, just as you pointed out.

I'm really curios what you'll think of it after you do it for a longer while 🤔

Again, thanks a lot for your insights, and best of luck in your journey!

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Johny Papajohny

Very nice and interesting article, Dragos! I am kind of time tracking like you do with a simple Excel file (well, I am not as thorough as you), but I think that using your method I will track my time better (and make the necessary fixes to watch those cute cat videos later :P) At least, I'll give it a try! Oh, and congratulations for your first article!

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Bilaniuc Dragos Author

Thanks a lit, Johny! It means a lot to me, that you like it!
And yes, I also explored other options to my time tracking. But, to be hones, what got me hooked to Toggl were the visuals. I just find it so satisfying and exciting to see that week view full of entries.
I hope you'll also make it work somehow. Best of luck!

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Simon Barker

Nice write up, i've been tracking time spent on side projects for a couple of years now but never graduated to full life tracking like this. I have a new role and project starting next month so I'm going to finally start!

Also, I batch cook about 3 weeks worth of dinners and lunches and freeze them in to portions to have each day. I say literally hours a week 😀

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Bilaniuc Dragos Author

Hey Simon, thanks a lot for your support, and for sharing your thoughts!
I really hope you'll make it work, best of luck!!

And yess, that batch cooking really sounds like a life saver! Lately, I've been trying batch cooking for a week - but I'll definitely consider your, more "extreme" idea :D

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Ian McGowan

Thanks for a fascinating post - this was really interesting to someone that struggles with procrastination, very useful ideas. I read something about scheduling "fun" activities for a lot of the day, leaving a pretty minimal window for those grind-type tasks that you hate to do - sort of seems to fit into your "chill time" concept. And excellent writing too!

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Bilaniuc Dragos Author

Thanks a lot, Ian!
Yes, that's kind of my current "experiment" - to force myself to finish my "grind" earlier, so I can have more time for leisure activities.
And I have to say, the results are very promising. I seem to be getting basically the same amount of work done (even of more quality) in a much shorter time span. Maybe I'll write an article with some insights on that, as well 🤔
Thanks for the idea! And best of luck in your journey!

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Vera Pashnina

Wow! Cool post!

Thanks Dragos.
You are hero, really) I could never live like you even within 4 months. This strict time scheduling is killing me. Maybe because I am already super responsible and punctual😅 I would rather become more relaxed))
So if you would like to try stress-free task management I would recommend to start with Tweek Calendar — tweek.so

Thanks again and keep writing, I liked your post a lot!

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Bilaniuc Dragos Author

Hey Vera! Thanks so much, I'm really glad you like it!
Aaaaand, I really wouldn't call myself a hero 😅
This whole thing was more like a coping mechanism with my anxieties, as I said. Just happened to work really well for me, too. But I can imagine how you may need something else, in case you've already solved the problems I was dealing with :D
Anyways, the most important thing is to find something that works for you. Wish you best of luck in that quest!
And thanks a lot for the suggestion, will definitely check it out ;)

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Shukhrat Khodjaev

After reading this, I'm also tempted to start tracking my time. Results would probably be shocking but also enlightening to see how much of my study time is being wasted.. Overall, great article. Keep it up!

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Bilaniuc Dragos Author

Thanks a lot, Shukhart! I really hope you'll make it work somehow, as well! :)

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Juan Manuel Bello

Excellent!!! thanks for sharing, i'll give a try

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Bilaniuc Dragos Author

Thanks a lot!! Hope you'll make it work, best of luck!

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wingsico

Wonderful article! I have these problems for a long time. Thank you for sharing your journey.

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Bilaniuc Dragos Author

Thanks a lot for your support! I'm so happy you liked it!
Hope it gave you some nice ideas to try :D

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SillyCarbon

What you have done is truly amazing!

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Bilaniuc Dragos Author

Thanks so much!

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Rolando Medina

Thanks for sharing! I've been thinking into doing this myself for several weeks. It's nice to see the experience and from someone who already did it

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Bilaniuc Dragos Author

Thanks for the support, Rolando!
That's great to hear, best of luck in your journey!

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Ehsan Ghorbani

Very useful 👍
I hope I reach this point of control of my life in future 😬😁

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Bilaniuc Dragos Author

Thanks Ehsan! Really appreciate the support!
You know how they say, the first step is the hardest one, and in my case, I can definitely confirm that was the case ;) Best of luck out there!

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Ian Engelbrecht

Great article, I tried this before but didn’t have the discipline to keep it going. I’m inspired to try again

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Bilaniuc Dragos Author

Thanks a lot, Ian! I really hope this articles provided you with some useful ides, and you manage to make it work this time :)
Best of luck!

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John Kazer • Edited

Unexpectedly interesting and enlightening!
Did you annoy yourself and everyone else with frequent phone fiddling to toggle the next task?

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Bilaniuc Dragos Author

Thanks a lot, John!
To be honest, not really. That's mainly because it's surprisingly quick to start a new entry (just open the app, scroll a bit and press "continue", as most times I was doing things that already had a previous entry).
And then, there's the option of maually modifying your time entries, in case you missed something. This is not as quickly, but it's very simple way of "setting things straight" when you're by yourself, in case something happened and I didn't get the chance to press "play"

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Muhammad Zubair ul hassan

Nice article, thanks for sharing it helps alot. Many of us feel that way. Moral for me: Sticking honestly to some thing unless it concludes is key to open next door.

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Bilaniuc Dragos Author

Thanks so much, Muhammad! That's a great insight, I totally agree with it (even though I'm not really applying it as often as I'd wish)

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Aaron

Nice post! I'll try something like this!

Can you share the categories in which you sorted the tasks?

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Bilaniuc Dragos Author

Hey Aaron, thanks a lot for the suppert!

You can see the categories in the first screenshot in the article. Those are exactly the ones I used :)

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hctrbz

Great article. Your insights have won me over. I'm going to try this.

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Bilaniuc Dragos Author

Thanks a lot, I'm so glad they resonated with you!
Best of luck with trying it out! :D

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Elizabeth Alcalá

Very nice post! I'll try it and see if it works for me 😅

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Bilaniuc Dragos Author

Thanks a lot! Best of luck in trying it out, really hope it'll work for you :D

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Maxi Contieri

Loved the article!

thanks for sharing it!

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Bilaniuc Dragos Author

Thanks for the support! I'm so glad you liked it!

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Carlos Alberto

What a good article, I am using clickup.com and calendar of google, trying to do something like your experiment, thanks for share your experiences..

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Bilaniuc Dragos Author

Thanks, really appreciate it! Best of luck with your own system :D

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Rama Sbeinaty

Love this article!
Always wanted to experiment with this and actually note where my time is going to gain back control.

Thank you for the inspiration and sharing the tools you used for this journey!

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Bilaniuc Dragos Author

Thanks Rama, I'm so happy you liked it! Best of luck in your own journey!

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Jon Telles

This sounds like my personal hell and I would never, ever force this upon myself.

Glad it worked for you, but this is nightmare fuel.

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Bilaniuc Dragos Author

Hey Jon! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
I wouldn't expect either, that the exact way in which I did things would work for everyone. But, from my personal point of view, living the way I lived before, with that constant anxiety of "time is passing and I have nothing to show for it" was an even greater hell. And, as I said, it quickly became manageable :D

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Saphirah J Pociluyko (she/her)

Congrats!!

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Bilaniuc Dragos Author

Thanks a lot!

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Beto Caballero

Ok, I will give it a try. Honestly it seems to be a very difficult task, but your experience may inspire some of us. I will share how it goes. Thank you!!

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Bilaniuc Dragos Author

Hey Beto!
Yes, as I said, in the beginning it will require quite some effort. But in my experience, after I got it going, it went quite smoothly.
But again, it's all about trying out things and seeing what works for you. If it doesn't, at least you know that :D
Best of luck!

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roman

Great ! I have been trying to keep track of my each minute as well. Did it for a while but lost somewhere in between. I will try toggl app.

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Bilaniuc Dragos Author

Awesome, I'm glad the idea resonates with you! Best of luck out there!

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Yogesh Beria

I did the same using an app called aTimeLogger and had the same experience.
I haven't been consistent recently in continuing this for very long but still strive to record as much as possible.

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Bilaniuc Dragos Author

That's great to hear, Yogesh! Best of luck!

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Bento

I loved it man ! What an amazing first article, keep going !!

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Bilaniuc Dragos Author

Thanks so much, Bento! I'm so glad you liked it! :D

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Sameera-Senarathna

Thank you for sharing your exprience. 👏.

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Bilaniuc Dragos Author

Thank you, too, for your support! I'm really glad you liked it! 🙌

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Shreyas Taware

Great article, really liked it! Will definitely implement your suggestions. Thanks :)

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Bilaniuc Dragos Author

Thanks for the support, Shreyas! Best of luck in your journey, hope you'll make it work!