Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Grad School + Baby: Why Tracking Time is Useful

Last week was the official start to the fall semester, which also marks my official return to being a student. This time, things are a little different: I have a baby to look after in addition to figuring out my thesis.  I'm turning to some time tracking techniques I've used in the past to ensure I still get the chance to do fun things with the family (like camping).

My most valuable tool in tracking time is Google Docs spreadsheets.  They are accessible everywhere, and I love that I can have a tab open in my browser all the time to quickly make note of time-related things (I pin my spreadsheets as 'app tabs' in Firefox so they don't clutter my workspace).

Lately, I've been keeping a spreadsheet to track when the baby sleeps.  Up until now, we've always let her nap whenever she fell asleep, wake up when she felt like it, and put her to bed when we went to bed.  But as I start to have others look after her, it'll be well worth having more of a routine (babies love routines anyway).  By noting when she sleeps, I'm hoping to notice patterns so I can start to get her into a set routine.  We've already managed to (mostly) get her bedtime routine started around 9pm, so that's a good start!

I'm also resurrecting the time sheet I used a few years ago to manage my school-related time.  Basically, I list the activities I'm working on for a week, separating them into thesis-specific tasks and other endeavours.  These days, I'm using the stopwatch on my phone to track my time exactly, since I get interrupted often when I'm alone with the baby.  You can check out this semester's template here.  I'm hoping this will help me determine where I need to put more effort, and help me get used to a much more disjointed way of working.

This semester is a bit of an experiment to see whether I can work in new ways and whether my intention of mixing me watching the baby with having family come watch her will work.  We'll see what happens by Christmas!


Shrutarshi Basu said...

I'd be interested in knowing how this going. I've been having some productivity issues lately and considering some sort of time tracking and using Pomodoros. My only fear is that I'll forget to track stuff and end up with bad numbers.

Gail Carmichael said...

Started out slow because of my eye surgery and road trip (didn't track during those times), but good since then. I don't always use a stop watch but try to if I think I'll be interrupted by the baby. I did this before a few years ago and it worked well then, too. One important thing is not to worry if you have 'bad' data - any data is useful, IMO.

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