I consider myself to be quite a productive person and decided to find out if that’s really true. I noted down what I was doing across each day for a full week and tallied up the hours of each activity. The total is 108 hours (60 being sleep), equivalent to around 15.5 hours per day, and here’s how it looks:
Firstly, my work involves sitting at four computer screens and is unvaried enough to not require sub-categories. Miscellaneous includes a food shop, aimless internet browsing and several hours in bed either trying to fall asleep or having woken up and not bothered to get up.
9to5strength is mostly scripting/filming YouTube content, and my conversations were all face to face. I almost certainly cut down on aimless web browsing simply by being aware I was recording my activity.
One of the reasons I consider myself productive is that the 13 hours of commuting is spent multi-tasking. I’m studying a language on my phone, reading non-fiction, listening to educational podcasts and catching up with friends on WhatsApp. I wanted to give it the label ‘commute’ to highlight that I spend 13 hours a week sitting on a train.
Another thing I do is to prepare food while I’m getting ready. I can boil chicken and rice while I take a shower instead of supervising it for 20 minutes. We have an in-house chef at my office so that saves time on meal prep.
Adding up TV, work, 9to5strength and some of my commute/miscellaneous gives me around 77 hours of screen time a week. That’s equivalent to 11 hours a day staring at a screen. My four screen setup at work means I’m facing a wall of artificial light. I’ve already noticed my eyesight deteriorate and my optometrist encouraged me to look away and blink more frequently.
Luckily my work provide an adjustable standing desk and I have one at home too. If that wasn’t the case I’d have a similar number for hours spent sitting. That would be problematic, as we all know sitting is the new smoking.
I’m in the generation of lifelong learners where we must constantly evolve to stay employable. For that reason I dedicate 5-10 hours per week studying to improve my skill-set. I would typically watch one film a week but this happened to be the week of a new Game of Thrones season. I ended up watching an extended catch-up programme as well as the first episode.
I’d also highlight that without any dependants it could be considered quite a selfish/lonely life. I cook by myself, eat by myself, work out by myself and spend evenings and weekends in the office. My wife works a 9 to 5, and only half an hour of Miscellaneous involved anyone else (playing Scrabble). Even this article is pretty self indulgent, but it’s more of an exercise in personal reflection that I felt like sharing.
Try It For Yourself
If you consider yourself productive I would highly encourage you to repeat this exercise on yourself. You may find some surprising results. The idea is taken from the book The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker. In it, a CEO asks his secretary to note his hours spent on each activity in a working week. When he reviews the results, he finds it’s not at all what he expected. He under-estimates the time he spends doing mundane tasks that he could delegate. This also means he spends far less time working on the core problems his role should be fixing.
You’re unlikely to have a secretary to hand and so I recommend finding a way to prompt yourself every few hours to jot down your activity. I used a notepad app on my phone and spent meal times recalling what I’d done up to that point. Additionally I made sure to wear a watch and check it when I switched tasks.