Where does the time go? Charting your daily routine

A question a lot of us mull over is “Where does the time go?” in our daily lives. I wanted to explore if there was an easy way to understand and improve our daily routines.

What’s the simplest visualisation?

The answer I thought of was a clock. I marked points around the clock with the start and end points of each daily activity. At this point the clock began to resemble a pie chart. I extended it to encompass the whole 24-hours of the work day, including sleep.

This is the clock I imagined:

Visual Day Basic

You can see at a glance the amount of time spent on each activity. In this example, work and sleep both occupy over two-thirds of the entire day. Only two hours were spent on hobbies, less than one-tenth of the day.

Can we add more detail?

To get more value and understanding, we need more information. At the moment, the above chart could apply to most of the population and it is not telling us much about the individual. Let’s see what happens when we take each segment of the previous graph and add another level of detail.

  1. ‘Work’ becomes ‘Programming’
  2. ‘Dinner’ is actually ‘Cooking’
  3. ‘Hobbies’ is split up into ‘Gym’ and ‘Side Project’

Visual Day

This has become much more interesting. You are starting to see a picture of the individual outside of work. This person spends most of the day programming but also has a keen interest in fitness and health.

You could split ‘Work’ up into its subcomponents too. This could be interesting if you wanted to compare roles or companies. On the other hand, most of us have less control over our working day, so other people would learn less about us as individuals.

Would it change over time?

We can compare the same person now and two years ago. Here are the charts:

Visual Day Two Year Comparison

Although work and sleep have stayed the same, the rest of the chart is very different:

  1. The entire day has shifted back by an hour (work starts at 9 am not 10 am)
  2. Eating out has been replaced by cooking
  3. The individual is performing less exercise overall, and has swapped running to gym
  4. There is less going out and more staying in

These observations are useful to see how your life is evolving. For instance, if learning Spanish is your number one goal, are you gradually increasing the amount of time you dedicate to it? If you are tired at work, have you changed your lifestyle to incorporate more sleep?

How would individuals differ?

Here are two work days from individuals in different jobs:

Visual Day Vocation Comparison

If the accountant wanted to adopt a healthier lifestyle, he could look at the chart of a healthier friend to identify changes he will need to make to reach his goal.

These could be:

  1. Reduce the amount of TV
  2. Replace shopping with cooking
  3. Increase the amount of sleep you get
  4. Commute by bicycle instead of by tube

Any conclusions?

I like the idea of representing your life on a clock. The clock concept answers the question “What do I do?” and “What does that person do?” It helps to highlight periods of time to reclaim from activities you do not want to do, so that you can reallocate this time to activities you do want to do. You could also measure how you are progressing by comparing the clock with a month ago.

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