My thing now is this app that I use to track every minute that I work. ATracker. I create categories for everything I do that is work related (email, chapter 3, meetings, teaching, Hartman, etc), and start the timer every time I do that task. Then, it will give you a calendar of what your day or week looked like, and a pie chart of how much time you spent dedicated to particular tasks. For instance:
I am of course, crazy, but there are a few tangible benefits to this system. First, when I set myself to a certain task, that is all I do, because that’s what I told my app I am doing. If if stop, I have to stop my timer. This helps me set the intention to work on one thing, and keep working on it until I consciously decide to stop or do something else. Second, it helps me see how little time certain things actually take. An email to my adviser, for instance, might loom large in my mind, but when I sit down and do it, it really only takes 3 minutes. I helps keep things in perspective and not create a procrastination mountain out of a molehill (using small things as an excuse not to work on big things). Third, it motivates me to make use of the time I do have. Let’s say I have half an hour. It is easy to talk myself into wasting that time, because how much can I possibly accomplish in 30 minutes? But it all goes in the app! Even if I work 12 minutes on something, it accumulates towards my total for the day or week and every little bit adds up. Fourth, it helps me see my patterns. I usually can’t do anything for longer than 40 minutes without taking a break (the sad, sad truth), and as the day wears on my attention span shrinks to 15 minute increments. I also can allow simple breaks to turn in to hour long lapses that are just a straight up waste of time. Seeing this on a chart makes me want to take advantage of the good chunks I do put in, and keep those breaks under control so I can use that time. I want to be working or NOT WORKING PERIOD, you know? Not spending all of my time in breaks from working. Finally, it is a way to set realistic goals, and set goals somewhat different terms than page output or finished products. My goal can be to try to keep my dissertation at 40% of my overall work week, which is as much about not letting other stuff take over as it is about writing. Its helped me come to terms with how little time I am actually able to work–anything between 20 and 30 hours a week is a passable week.