The 6 Benefits From Doing A Time Study

In the last two weeks my focus has been on mastering one things that will propel my life and career forward with ease...

Habits.

Popularized by James Clear the common accepted model for habits today exist as: cue, craving, response, reward.

Everyday our environment is creating triggers that cue up the habit. We then effortlessly execute these habits with very little conscious thought.

Far too often you'll hear someone you know talk about how they want to build better habits whether that's going to the gym, eating healthy, saving more money, etc. Yet, they continually fail to do what they've set out to do after a short period of time. Why?

We have preset patterns of behaviors we're already engaging in everyday before we decide to implement a new one it's important to really know what those are -- to make the unconscious conscious -- so that we can replace the non-constructive ones and use our habits to build momentum towards the future.

James Clear has a strategy he uses to build new habits easily called "Habit Stacking". It's the easiest way to take advantage of preexisting patterns in your life. Using the are automatic behaviors as a cue for future habits.

There's a simple exercise to make unconscious habits conscious.

Before you jump into just stacking all your habits there's a step you should do first and that's conduct a time study.

It's very simple to do. However, it requires conscious effort on your part.

To conduct here's exactly what you need to do:

1) Set a time frame in which you're going to conduct the experiment

2) Write down what you're doing every 15 minutes that your awake

3) Work to objectively record your actions without judgment

There's no reason to overcomplicate it, in fact I put together this template that was the exact process I used to study my actions for a full week if you want to try it out for yourself.

There's 6 important takeaways I learned in the process.

When I was first began this process I figured that I was already knew what my habits were going to be. After all, I can tell you exactly what I did last week on any given day that you ask me. However, what I didn't realize was all the "micro-habits" I formed around the bigger tasks I engage in each day (like my morning routine, work, and nightly routine. These takeaways are in the context of my own experience conducting this experiment (not all of them may apply to your life, but many will):

1) Most people have 10-12 behaviors they constantly engage in.

When I look back at everything I did throughout the week objectively it becomes very easy for me to realize that there's only a handful of habits we all have. It's surprisingly low in quantity although we hardly realize we do them daily. For me these were a healthy mix of both constructive and destructive habits. It's easy for me to see the 3-4 behaviors that when I change them my life will become marginally better if I replace them with things that compound better.

2) The voids of time are constantly filled with distraction

I noticed a common theme that was recurring throughout the week. I filled all the voids of time. If a meeting ended 5 minutes early I knew I wouldn't be able to get any real work done in that span and instead of letting myself digest the information that was discussed I would hop on social media distracting myself momentarily. This was a huge momentum killer to my productivity that remained unnoticed before I started doing this.

3) You're more efficient when you know you're being watched

On the first day I recognized something was happening...

My behaviors were changing because I knew I was going to record them. The Hawthorne Effect was something that became difficult to work around. There was a benefit in a boost in productivity because I knew I should be doing something beneficial with my time but I also realized it was going to bias my results in getting to the truth. I had to navigate around this by filling things in post completion instead of at the start of every 15 minute block.

4) The effects of blocking chunks of time make a huge difference

As I started blocking out periods of time for different activities I realized what a big difference context switching has on your quality of work. Going back to my second point, the more often you're switch context the less creativity your really able to put towards your work and the less focus you have to really grind anything out. The periods in my day when I didn't work in a block were also the periods there was the most volatility in what I was doing (and the least productivity). It's one thing to hear about chunks of time for work but another to see the difference in output.

5) There's a lot of task I do each day that leverage can be applied

Leverage gives us the ability to gain back time and there's many different areas in my life that I can apply leverage to save myself probably more than an hours worth of mental though. Eating is the easiest one this can be applied to. For a while I was using a meal service which was saving me ~10 hours a week (between going to the grocery and cooking). I got sick of eating the same things each week. Now I am back to cooking and it's clear how much time it really takes up in your day. My solution to this is just starting to cook in bulk -- somewhere between meal prepping and cooking each meal.

6) I have habits with a lot of products

This was another thing I was hoping to gain out of this. Identifying the products that have formed habits in my life and I realize there's about 3-4 different products that have done a really good job of cementing themselves in my daily routines. As someone that builds software these are products I want to study -- understanding what makes their user experience so sticky so that I can replicate it in my daily work.

These 6 takeaways are incredibly powerful to help me begin to apply new habits in my life. I can start to implant constructive habits into the areas that I do the same things repeatedly at the same time and apply these lessons to get more output for my inputs. I urge you to try out this experience in your own life over the next week.

FOOTNOTES

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