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 this is what it looks like.
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. It should be noted 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 includes 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 without it I would, like some people choose to, spend 13 hours a week simply sitting on a train.
Another thing I do is to prepare food while I’m getting ready. That often involves boiling chicken and rice while I take a shower as opposed to standing there supervising it for 20 minutes. We have an in-house chef at work so those meals are simply walking to the kitchen and back, then eating at my desk as I work (no meal breaks).
Adding up TV, work, 9to5strength and some of my commute/misc gives me around 77 hours of screen time a week, or 11 hours a day staring at a screen. My four screen setup at work means I’m facing a wall of artificial light while the voice of my optometrist tells me to look away and blink more frequently.
Luckily my work provide an adjustable standing desk and I have one at home too, else I’d have a similar number for hours spent sitting, and as we know sitting is the new smoking.
I’m in the generation of lifelong learners where we must constantly evolve to stay employable, and so I dedicate 5-10 hours per week studying to improve my skill-set. I also probably watch one film a week but this happened to be the week of a new Game of Thrones season and I watched 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, spend evenings and weekends in the office while 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.
If you consider yourself productive I would highly encourage you to repeat this exercise on yourself and see whether there are any surprises. The idea is taken from the book The Effective Executive, where a CEO asks his secretary to note his hours spent on each activity in a week and finds it’s not what he expected at all. He under-estimates the time he spends doing mundane tasks that he could delegate, and very little 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.