One of the perennial questions I ask myself (and, if you trawl my archives, blog about) is how to spend my discretionary time wisely, and not waste it.
To that end, I have created THE BOOK OF TIME.
Despite the glorious title, it’s simply a folder with a piece of lined paper for each type of activity I like doing during my discretionary time. Each paper has a column for date, activity and time spent on that activity.
It’s handwritten because I find it easy to forget and ignore files squirreled away somewhere on my computer. Instead, this will sit on my desk or in my bookshelf, where I see it every day. I chose a dark and ominous folder to give it some gravitas- which is why I call it THE BOOK OF TIME. Over-glorifying it is partly a trick to ensure I commit to it, and partly because it’s a fun title. Who doesn’t want something as majestic and doom-laden as THE BOOK OF TIME sitting next to them on their desk?
The idea is that every time I play a computer game, or read a book, or do some other discretionary project, I record the date, what I did, and how long I did it for, on the relevant paper. I also have a “General Log” page where I enter all activities organised by date.
I am hoping for three advantages.
Firstly, seeing a long list of all the time I’ve spent toiling away on various projects will help me appreciate the progress I am making- especially for those less tangible activities like fitness or shorthand practice where progress can be a little harder to measure than say, “reading one book a month.”
They say you can get really good at something if you spend hundreds of hours on it- well I won’t know that I’ve spent hundreds of hours if I don’t record those times.
It’s also useful for computer games. I find that my discretionary time is more pleasurable if it is memorable; but computer games can easily be forgotten in a sea of gaming. Recording my activities helps me remember where I have been and the fun and the productivity I have had in the past.
Secondly it will help me work on a variety of activities, rather than gorging on computer games all the time. I can flip through the book and realise that I haven’t spent any time on my blog lately, while my “computer game” entries are growing rapidly. That’s one of the motivations that drove me to write this post!
Thirdly, it gives me some personal accountability each day. This is why I created a “General Log” for all activities organised by date. Yes, it does mean writing two entries for each activity, but it allows me to see every discretionary project I’ve done today in the one place. Thus I can review the day and see if I was productive and wise with my free time or not. If I am, then that’s the encouragement I need to keep it up and build some momentum. If not, then it gives me the chastisement I need to tighten up my act.
Things THE BOOK OF TIME is not:
It’s not a diary. It doesn’t do forward planning. It’s a history book.
It does not record everything I do- only particular projects I want to do in my discretionary time. Still, ‘tis a pretty broad list- I added in “social stuff” because I want to spend some discretionary time that way, and I added “computer games” because I’m not trying to delete them from my discretionary time, and incorporating it allows me to monitor my time use. I haven’t added university studies because it’s a record of the time I can spend at my discretion, not the time I spend on my external commitments.
It’s not a complete solution. I still need a diary, and the book will only work if I actually use it. Nor does it magically force me to be productive. I could have a BOOK OF TIME and only ever enter computer games. It’s merely a tool I can use to monitor and record my free time usage so I can improve it if I so choose. The choice rests with me.