Hunting time-wasters down

In my Time management post, after describing what this is about, I explained that a good start would be to understand where I spend my time. To find out, I have tracked my time for a week using an Activity Log.

By keeping an Activity Log for a few days, you can build up an accurate picture of what you do during the day, and how you invest your time. You’ll find that memory is quite a poor guide, and that keeping the Log is an eye-opening experience!The Mind Tools Content Team

It was indeed an eye-opening experience. I did not expect this outcome at all! I thought that I could easily identify periods where I was losing time (e.g. waiting for someone else or other non-active episodes) and that by eliminating these time-wasters, I would save precious minutes or even hours… I should mention, however, that, at that time, I had already implemented better email habits (following some good time management tips).

“My first and biggest surprise was to discover that I do not waste time.”
“Really?”
“No! Let me explain.”

From Monday to Friday

As you may already know if you follow this blog, I had to put CogitActive on hold since that fateful summer of 2020 (see 100th post – a bittersweet celebration!). Naïvely, I thought that I would be able to manage it all, i.e. CogitActive, a full-time job, and being a good dad, but the truth is that I barely have the time to keep up with the demand of the weekly posting schedule for this blog. This entire whine, just to stress that from Monday to Friday (and often beyond that normal working days), I have to be at work (and I definitively do not have the typical 8-hour workday).

I will skip the part about doing the most important work during the right time of the day (a good time management advice indeed); as already alluded to, I have to work on CogitActive after work. Not only am I tired – both mentally and physically – but also I have actually to cut down my sleep, among other healthy habits, to find enough time. All wrong!

Morning & commuting

“How I feel (alert, flat, tired, energetic, and so on)?”
“Tired!”

Unfortunately, this could be the leitmotiv of this whole post: tired from morning to late evening. No wonder, right! What to expect from cutting down my sleep time? This inevitably translates into one bad habit: hitting the snooze button. Not only does this lead to extended periods of sleep inertia (feeling of grogginess after waking up), but also it costs time, a lot of time – around 15 min per day.

If I could be a little more alert, maybe, I could also save a few extra minutes while getting ready to go to work. Unfortunately, this would not be enough to put my morning jogging back into my schedule. Still, there is a 30-min potential gain here.

Working hours

This is where my previous statement – I do not waste time – applies. Believe it or not, from the time I reach my office to the time I leave work, I do not stop, not even for a second. As already talked about, emails were a big issue before (see Time management: basic tips), but turning off the alert that signals me when I receive one was enough to dramatically improve my productivity (i.e. less distraction/interruption). Checking and responding to them – in batch – during my downtime or less productive times (e.g. lunch or meetings) was the next big step.

“What about break(s)?”

Like many people, I eat in front of my computer (while still working); a bad habit from the USA. Not only do I barely take the time to eat, but also I don’t even take a restroom break – other than the one when I microwave my lunch. Talking about optimization!

That being said, in keeping with the issue of being sleep-deprived, I could probably be more productive if less tired indeed. While a good night’s sleep, as well as some physical activities (i.e. a healthy life put on hold two years ago), would help me to regain my full focus capacity, closing my office door was already a good step toward this direction.

“And what about socialization?”
“No time for that, unfortunately!”

“Coffee break? Cigarette?”
“I do need coffee (in big quantity to go through the day indeed), but I consume this essential fuel while working (and don’t waste time making it; I have a huge thermos). As for the other drug, not for me, I don’t have the time nor the money.”

Evening

The first part of my evening, that is the time spent with my family, could not be shrunk further. Not only this (supposedly) dedicated time is already far from enough, but often, I came back from work too late to be able to enjoy my baby boy (already asleep). This is not acceptable!

As for the rest of the evening (and part of the night), it is the only time I have left for CogitActive. Regrettably, not only is this time insufficient but also not the best productive time (i.e. not my prime time indeed). Often Pretty much all the time, I am too tired to work, struggling for everything requiring my brain – that is everything! Consequently, it takes more time and I have to delay my bedtime. A vicious circle!

“Would it be more effective to sleep instead?”
“Sleeping would definitively help. But what about CogitActive?”
“You could work on it during the weekend!”

Weekend

While my global feeling – put aside my chronic tiredness and the resulting problems – was that I had not many time-wasters during the week, things changed dramatically during the weekend.

First, to try to recover from my sleep deprivation, I decided to turn off my alarm clock during weekends. Note that with a baby there is no such thing as no alarm clock. While the extra sleep cycle (i.e. 90 min) thus gained might sound good, it is nothing more than the one suppressed every evening (see above). Do the math; 90 minutes multiplied by 7 days equals 630 minutes. Adding two 90-min “late” morning sleep during the weekend is not enough to compensate!

“Do I need to sleep more?”
“Yes, definitively! However, I already feel bad about losing three hours of working time each weekend. Losing ten and half hours per week is not an option.”

The worse, however, was to acknowledge, that I cannot work during the weekend! Not that I don’t want (even if I would like – when my job allows – to enjoy my weekends off as normal people do), quite the contrary actually, but I could not focus on any task for more than 5 minutes, being interrupted non-stop. Sadly, I cannot close my office door as I do at work; I don’t have an office, and no door to close either, for that matter.

I cannot ignore my family and I understand that my boy needs his daddy, especially when he could not see him much during the week because daddy is working late. Still, if I could have some uninterrupted working hours during the weekend that would be amazing! A separate room would be a good start, but for that to happen I had better monetize my podcast!


To sum up, keeping an Activity Log for a week was an informative exercise. Against my expectation, I do not waste so much time. I run/work non-stop – even if exhausted – and I don’t even take breaks. However, my productivity is badly affected by my tiredness. For this reason, taking some breaks, and what is more, having enough sleep, would probably be a good idea.

Losing time (i.e. sleep) to gain time (by being more productive) – is that a Catch-22?

For sure, it’s not an intuitive decision. Now, what is clear is that I have to find, somehow/somewhere, some time in my schedule to work on CogitActive. In the evening? Yes, but not at the cost of my sleeping time anymore. That is/was a bad decision. During the weekend? Yes, but for this, I need some uninterrupted moments. Any suggestion on that matter?

Still, this would be far from sufficient…

What do you think?
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