In my last post I mentioned that I’ve started to collect data about how I spend my time.

My next milestone would be to write a tool that processes this data in some way. But in order to build that tool, I have to do consider what my end goals are. What purpose will this data serve? If I won’t look at it, won’t use it, then there is no point in collecting it.

Here are the questions I want to be able to answer:

Am I spending more time on Distractions than I realize?

I feel that this one will be the most straightforward to answer. Whatever method I end up using for categorizing/tagging my time entries, I’ll be able to answer the Boolean question: “Was this a Distraction?” or phrased in the opposite: “Was this a valuable use of my time?”

Am I spending enough time to fulfill my obligation to my Employer?

I am a full-time overtime-exempt fully-remote employee in a company that values asynchronous work and in an org that emphasizes Impact Over Activity. This means a great deal of flexibility in when and how I work, and I frequently end up at my most productive during the hours after my son is asleep. Generally, I am expected to Get Things Done, and it is more important that I get the right things done than that I spend 40+ hours doing “things”.

But even if no one in my leadership chain is counting the hours that I’m typing at a keyboard, I have an internal work ethic that pushes me to produce quality work, and quality takes time. If at the middle/end of the week I’m feeling down because I don’t think I’ve produced enough quality work this week, that would be an opportunity for me to look at the data. Then I can evaluate whether I’ve dedicated enough time in the week to work, or even if I’ve spent too much time at work as quality degrades steeply with overwork and exhaustion.

Am I spending enough time on tasks that will deliver Impact?

Continuing with the theme of “Impact Over Activity”, it feels important to me that I measure and evaluate for myself not just whether I’m doing “work” vs “non-work” but also that I’m investing my time, energy, and attention into activities that move me closer to my goals.

While procrastinating, it is common to find yourself doing things that appeared urgent or appeared easy, that may be technically valuable or important but that still are not the thing you really intended to do or that was most important.

I frequently find myself in a “reactive” state, particularly during my on-call rotation but also for several weeks afterward, where my mind is in an event loop looking for new Slack messages to respond to in record time. There is a real dopamine hit from helping my coworkers with the right link to documentation, the right answer to a question, the right meme, etc. These may well provide value, but if that is all that I do then I’m holding myself back from making progress on the larger projects that take deep thought, focus, and Flow.

How frequently am I getting into Flow, and under what conditions?

I love Flow. It’s a wonderful thing when you have it, but trying to quantify it or measure it is difficult. I will need to put more thought into how to capture this subjective data in the moment without actually interrupting flow.

If I’m going to dive into the subjective side of the data, it may also be helpful for me to track whether a task feels easy/medium/hard, or whether it feels enjoyable or odious.


For each minute of the day, can I answer these questions efficiently?

  1. Was this a Distraction?
  2. Was this for my Employer?
  3. Does this contribute toward Impact?
  4. Did this inspire Flow?

Or can I build a tool or system that will enable me to answer these questions effectively?