I time tracked my life for a month. Here’s what I learned

As we slowly and tentatively emerge from the pandemic, many people are taking inventory of what we have now learned. What habits, behaviors, and existence (like distant work) will we wish to maintain, and which ought to we jettison? What will we really need our professional lives to look like transferring ahead?

To assist reply the query, I revisited a helpful train I’d first deployed two and a half years in the past: time tracking. For a month, I recorded all the pieces I did—from shopper work to showering—in an Excel spreadsheet, damaged into 15-minute increments. The method of meticulously chronicling your life is onerous; you possibly can’t stick with it perpetually, as a result of the method is so boring and annoying.

However for a 30-day interval between late November and late December 2020 (avoiding holidays, to make sure a extra consultant time pattern), I compelled myself to conform, as a result of I wished to grasp how my time utilization had advanced since I’d first completed the train in February 2018, and the way the pandemic may need affected my life.


Monitoring our time is helpful for a few causes. First, it permits us to see what we actually worth via our actions (say, watching TV) versus what we’d profess (studying Chaucer). Second, it pierces via our illusions: Creator and time administration knowledgeable Laura Vanderkam reports that many professionals systematically overestimate the quantity of time they spend working every week. And eventually, particularly if we repeat the train, time monitoring permits us to establish patterns which may be serving to us, or holding us again, in our lives. 

Analyzing and evaluating my information from 2018 versus 2020 revealed 4 key insights that may form how I take into consideration my post-pandemic future, and could also be helpful as you intend yours, as nicely. 

Even in a disaster, a lot stays the identical

Clearly, in an acute catastrophe like a hurricane, there’s a lot of short-term disruption. However for many people fortunate ones, the pandemic’s defining attribute has been its sheer monotony—the identical residence, the identical individuals, the identical routine. Between my baseline in 2018 and my new measurement in 2020, my anxiousness definitely went up. In response to my calculations, my time awake in the midst of the night time elevated 61%. However the banal realities of each day life stayed remarkably constant, from shopper work (1.8 hours per day in 2018, and 1.7 hours per day in 2020) to e mail (from 1.4 hours per day in 2018 to 1.5 hours per day in 2020).

The “Matthew impact” is actual

In 1968, sociologists Robert Okay. Merton and Harriet Zuckerman coined the time period the “Matthew effect,” from a Biblical story within the E book of Matthew through which (basically) the wealthy get richer and the poor get poorer. The pandemic has been a lot like that, too. When you’ve got a household, you in all probability had approach an excessive amount of household in 2020, with coworking spouses and homeschooled kids underfoot. And for those who’re single, you had been in all probability approach too single, with scared buddies opting to not socialize. (To not point out that the standard venues—eating places and theaters and bars—had been shut down.)

Accordingly, the quantity of time I spent on relationship decreased 29.5% between my 2018 and 2020 tallies, and the quantity of time I spent on meals decreased 39%, as a result of I was gobbling down Chipotle on my own as an alternative of having fun with a leisurely night out with buddies. In February 2018, I spent 19.3 hours per week socializing with buddies. I haven’t any quantity out there for December 2020, as a result of—depressingly—there was nothing to trace. One among my prime imperatives, now that I’m totally vaccinated and hesitant buddies are loosening up, is to prioritize reconnection.

It’s important to create your personal that means

With human connection radically diminished, you may have a few selections. One is to work all of the time—and certainly, through the pandemic I managed to jot down a guide (my forthcoming The Long Game: How to Be a Long-Term Thinker in a Short-Term World) and create a number of on-line programs.

One other selection is to park your self in entrance of the tv, which I additionally did. In 2018, I spent 6.3 hours per week consuming “leisure,” most of which was reside theater reveals with buddies—a joyfully social exercise. In 2020, I spent virtually the very same quantity of time (6.1 hours per week) watching Netflix on my own, consuming the whole lot of eight seasons of Homeland, 4 of Halt and Catch Hearth, three of a German spy present, and far more. It was high-quality TV, however a lonely pursuit.


To keep away from dwelling a wholly monochromatic life, I determined to reward myself by changing into immersed in two pastimes which will have gotten brief shrift within the pre-pandemic period. First, I began taking a weekly ping-pong lesson (seems, it’s an inherently socially distant sport), and I additionally cowrote an entire musical, which consumed a whopping 10.8 hours per week throughout December 2020, when I was pushing to finish it. My new sport, and ending a artistic challenge, gave a nice deal of that means to a time that in any other case would have smarted with its sameness.

Make restricted selections work for you

One vibrant spot between 2018 and 2020 was the dramatic enhance within the quantity of time I allotted to non-public well being. In 2018, I spent a median of 24 minutes per day understanding. That’s first rate, however in 2020, with socializing off the desk and most types of leisure closed, I spiked as much as 66 minutes per day, representing a mixture of train and bodily remedy for a banged-up shoulder I had willed myself to disregard in busier occasions. Due to my pandemic routine, it’s now virtually fully healed. As my social calendar has perked up in current weeks, I’ve already observed that it’s turn out to be more durable to keep up this degree of self-discipline, however I’m glad I exerted the hassle whereas it was potential.

Because the world opens up, we’ll possible discover ourselves pulled again into previous routines. Some will symbolize a completely satisfied return to normalcy (for occasion, a weekly film date together with your partner), and others a obligatory grind (a reinstated in-person employees assembly). However in lots of instances, we have now extra company than we’d think about in making selections about what our future appears like. By considering rigorously and consciously about what we preferred—and didn’t—about our pandemic lives, we are able to make higher selections concerning the future we wish to create for ourselves.