We can learn a lot about ourselves and our habits once we take measurements. It’s easy to know much you spend on your lunch if you record the details at the time of the event.
In this article I explore some areas for measurement and how this has been of benefit to my life.
In December 2011 I started using a smart phone application called Tap Log. This program allows quick and easy capture of numbers and text by just pressing a couple of buttons. Dates and times are captured automatically.
The Train Trip
I travel to work on the train. I have a choice of two railway stations near my home. I can walk to Turramurra station in 20 minutes or I can drive to Wahroonga station which is two stops further. Driving to the station creates the feeling of saving time, but how much?
On Tuesday I drove to the station so I decided to measure the difference in “going home” time. I used the Tap Log smart phone application to capture the times I departed Turramurra station (6.26), arrive at Wahroonga (6:30), walk to where I parked the car (6:37) then drive home (6:41). Although the drive home is four minutes, the Wahroonga option is 15 minutes compared to 20 minutes walk from Turramurra.
What did I learn? Walking to the station only costs me an extra 5 minutes of commuting time but I enjoy the walk for many reasons. I get 20 minutes of exercise, I don’t waste petrol, I can listen to a podcast on my iPod and I can catch the express trains which don’t stop at Wahroonga.
Timing an Activity
Often I procrastinate on doing a task because I think it is going to take a long time. I don’t want to do the task because I think it will consume a lot of time which I would rather use for something else.
Now I like to time these mundane activities to see how quickly I can get them done. I used to think vacuuming took hours on Saturday morning, so I timed it. Knowing that a stop watch was running, I completed the task of tidying and vaccuming in 40 minutes.
The lesson I learnt from timing a variety of activities is that an activity usually takes far less time than I thought or much, much more. Instead of procrastinating on a task, I now measure the time. The long term benefit is that I build up knowledge to plan my days.
Despite nearly failing first year Accounting at Sydney University I have been interested in tracking my income and spending. I like to know where I spend the money and how much I am saving. When I was in high school I used to buy 3 column cash books and record my pocket money (allowance) and money earnt from my lawn-mowing “business”.
Computers make tracking so much easier and I use the Quicken Personal Finance software. This does a terrific job of recording and reporting, however it does depend on my ability to remember the details. I use the Tap Log program on my phone to capture cash spending. You may think it strange that I track everything, but small things add up and having this information forms a kind of journal of my life.
My bank statement details are entered into Quicken so I can easily analyse such things as loan repayments and investment portfolios. Otherwise how could I do financial planning without the required information?
Timing my Day
For the last two months I have been using Tap Log to record when I go to bed, when I wake up, the time I leave home and arrive at the office, lunch breaks and my going home time. I am also recording time spent on my leisure activities such as piano practice. I hope to learn a lot and will write a blog article about my findings in the near future.
Tools for Tracking
I encourage you to start tracking your life. There are many tools available for capturing this information – for example, smart phone, Pocket notebook or diary. The method you use should be easy to do with no obstacles otherwise you won’t bother recording.