Wednesday, January 4, 2023

What Have I Been Doing With My Time? I did a "time audit' and here is what I learned.


See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.  Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. - Ephesians 5: 15 -17

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Lately I’ve been realizing that time is one of the greatest resources I have as a housewife.  I'm not earning a paycheck here, but I do have an abundance of time to use; I can use that time well or not so well. I can use this abundance of time to pursue my highest values and goals...or I can plop on the sofa and watch YouTube homemaking videos all day (I really could do that). I'm not really the type to just blow a whole day, but I can get sidetracked and fall into various rabbit holes without much effort. That can come in the form of social media, online reading, crocheting a blanket, or even Bible study (too much of a good thing is still too much). I have a growing awareness that every day is a gift and I want to use it to serve the Lord, as I will be doing for all eternity.

So I decided to pay more attention to my time and find out exactly where it was going.  As I searched online for time management ideas I discovered a practice called a “time audit”. Now this sounds fancy but a time audit is simply documenting all activities and how long each takes. 

I then took that information to help me make some changes about how I live my life. Let me share the process with you and hopefully you will be encouraged to do your own time audit and get a clear snapshot of how well you are spending your time.

A time audit is a simple procedure with five steps: 

1 - Take stock of core values and priorities. 

2 - Log current activities.

3 - Analyze the information.

4 - Decide on what changes need to be made.

5 - Map out a game plan.





Step 1 - Take stock of core values and priorities.

The first thing I had to do was think about what was truly important to me. Nailing my core values took some pondering and some inner work and I can see why many people avoid it. It’s much easier to just go with the flow and give our time and energy to what society, culture, and the media values. 

But I knew a time audit wouldn’t help me devote my life to my highest values unless I knew what they were,  which is why this step is key and should not be skipped. 


How do I know my core values? 

As a Christian, I have formed much of my value system through reading and meditating on Scripture.  A few scriptures that have influenced me:  Titus 2, 1 Timothy 5, Proverbs 31, 1 Corinthians 11, 1 Peter 3.  As I read these passages, I see clear instructions for women to prioritize their homes and family.

I’ve also been inspired by literature that shows the goodness of domestic life. Some of my favorites are from the late 1800’s and 1900’s:  “First We Have Coffee” Margaret Jensen, The “Little House” Series, Laura Ingalls Wilder, “The Book of Stillmeadow”, Gladys Taber, and “Living a Beautiful Life”, Alexandra Stoddard.  

Finally, a spiritual classic,  “The Practice of the Presence of God”, written by a French monk in the 17th century, taught me to appreciate humble, everyday work and that I can draw close to GOD through it. 

So basically, I had to figure out what I was doing here on Earth and why.  My fledgling Values Statement looks like this:

Amy’s Core Values Statement


Who am I?  A child of God, a woman saved by grace, a disciple of Christ.


What am I here for?  To serve God with a quiet mind.


What things are most important to me?

From my study of the Christian Bible and reading about the women of the past, I have learned about biblical womanhood.  One passage in particular, Titus 2:3-5, gives me a set of core values. My life is about learning what these things mean and putting them into practice: 

  1. To love my husband

  2. To love my children

  3. To be discreet

  4. To be chaste

  5. To be the keeper of my home

  6. To be good

  7. To be obedient to my own husband

Sketching out the ideal day.

As I thought and read about biblical womanhood, I found myself in my spare moments sketching out an ideal day at home. I made a list of all the things I wanted to do here, then scheduled a block of time for each one:  having relaxed meals with the family, cooking, cleaning, organizing, crafting.  I wrote it all out. It made me happy just seeing it all on paper: my dream of devoting the majority of my time to my family and doing my work without hurry and distraction.

Thinking about my ideal day motivated me to complete the time audit and also gave me clarity as to how to use the results and take action.

Step 2 - Log current activities.

The next step was to actually audit my time. First, I picked a normal week to record my activities. Next, I chose a time tracking tool. Pen and paper worked just fine for me and I simply listed my activities with the times (see photo below). For the digitally inclined, there is also time tracking software.  


My extremely informal method of time auditing.  (LOL = Load of Laundry)


I logged everything, from small tasks like checking my email or emptying the dishwasher to bigger tasks like prepping meals. I added up how much time I was spending with my laundry every day (LOL is my acronym for Load of Laundry). I audited my interpersonal communication like chatting with family members, messaging and phone conversations and recreational activities like brushing my cat, reading, scrolling on social media and watching a movie.  By the end of my time audit, I had a week’s worth of personal data to tell me where my time was going and how long it took me to do certain activities.


Amy’s Daily Log (I timed myself doing these daily activities over the course of the week and what you see here are the averages.)


Neaten bedroom, raise blinds, freshen up. 10 min

Make coffee and breakfast.         30 min

Eat breakfast / check email.         30 min

Write the Morning List.        10 min

Pray and read the Bible.        50 min

Dress for morning           5 min

PUPA         10 min

Start a load of laundry.           5 min

Wash breakfast dishes.                 20 min

Swish and Swipe bathrooms.           5 min

Make the bed.           5 min

Supper prep         10 min

Transfer the laundry to the dryer.   5 min

Write (book, blog, class material) 1.5 hour

Twitter breaks         30 min

Iron, fold and put away laundry. 30 min

Walk. (Exercise) 30 min

Take bath and dress for the day. 30 min

Make and eat lunch. Do lunch dishes. 30 min

Check the morning list. Make calls. 10 min

Gather supper items and start meal prep. 20 min

Finish blog post. 1 hr, 30 m.

Twitter breaks         30 min

Crafting         30 min

Daily Focus (some kind of weekly housekeeping task - 

cleaning, planning, shopping, 

cleaning, project, car, purse, review) 1.5  hour

Tea time (read homemaking magazine) 30 min

Declutter or clean in the weekly zone. 15 min

Afternoon Tidy 15  min

Prepare supper. 1 hour

Eat supper with family         30 min

Wash dishes and tidy the kitchen.         1 hour

Start laundry for tomorrow/ tidy basement. 10 min

Check the morning list/ calendar. 5 min

Read/ Watch TV/ Sofa snuggling 1.5  hour

One last tidy         15 min

Prepare for bed 15 min

Sleep         8 hours


Total 24.5  hours

Step 3 - Analyze the information.

After recording all my activities, I broke them down into categories for more insight into where most of my time was going. One thing that helped give me perspective was the American Time Use Survey Summary - 2021 A01 Results. The survey measures the amount of time people spend doing various activities, such as paid work, childcare, volunteering, and socializing, which gave me insight and perspective on my own time use. 


Group according to activity

The categories I assigned were the same as the Time Use Survey: Household activities, Work (for me this would be outside ministry), Eating and Drinking, Leisure, Personal Care. Putting various activities into categories allowed me to see the balance of my daily life.


Household activities (Homemaking) Total 7.5 hrs

-Meals (Cooking, cleaning up). 3.5 hours   -Housekeeping (Cleaning, tidying, laundry 2  hrs

-Household mgmt. (calendar, meal planning, bills/paperwork  30 m

-Weekly tasks (Cleaning, Meal Planning, Errands, Car/Purse)1 hr,30 m 


(Average woman 2.5 hours)

-Meals (cooking and cleaning up) 1 hr, 11 m.* 

-Housekeeping    1 hr, 42 m.

-Household management. 50 m.

            

Outside ministry (Work)  3 hrs/day**

(Average woman 7.5 hrs/day)

(Average man 8.1 hrs/day)

                        

Eating and Drinking 1.5 hours


Leisure 5 hours


Personal Care (includes sleeping) 8.5 hours


Total time of all activities  25 ½  hrs


Childcare 

(as an empty nest couple, this doesn’t apply to us, but I’m adding the average time investment from the Time Use Study (2021) as a reference.

-Primary Childcare (reading to or providing physical care as in feeding or bathing)  (anywhere from 45 min. - 2.2 hrs/day depending on the age of child)

-Secondary childcare - having a child in your care while doing other activities (5 hours)

Group according to priority

I reviewed my time log and labeled “high priority” activities that align with my highest values.  For example, loving and caring for my family is high value so anything that keeps the home going like grocery shopping, cooking meals, taking my mother to the doctor, writing my daily to-do list are high priority activities.  I want to grow spiritually, so my morning devotion is a high-priority activity even though it falls into the leisure category.  It might not be “productive” in the traditional sense, but it’s meaningful to me.


My current “highest priority” activities: (essential responsibilities)

  • Bible study and prayer

  • Eating breakfast and lunch

  • Daily bath and getting dressed

  • Sleep

  • Checking my calendar and writing a to-do list

  • Daily cleaning, tidying and decluttering

  • Laundry

  • Daily Focus (weekly cleaning, planning, errands)

  • Making a healthy dinner

  • Sitting down to dinner with my husband each night 

  • Cleaning up dinner

  • Spending some relaxing time together in the evening


High priority activities:

  • Exercise

  • Phone calls to family


I gave some thought to my low-priority tasks.  Again, my list of core values helped me to identify what are NOT the most important activities.  So what am I doing that has value but not top value?  


Low Priority (but productive) activities

  • Reading good books

  • Crafting and gardening

  • Writing tweets, messages, blog posts, books for women

  • Modest amount of social media

  • Tea time and homemaking magazines


Time-Wasters (questionably productive)

  • Twitter arguments, excessive replies, replies to rhetorical questioning 

  • Facebook, Instagram

  • Reading random stuff on my laptop and phone

  • Watching TV (very much depends on the content)


Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense. - Proverbs 12:11, ESV

Step 4 - Make observations and draw conclusions.

Now that I have raw objective data in front of me, I was able to make some observations and draw conclusions about how I am doing with my time.

My time use is pretty good.

When I looked at my list of activities, I saw that I was already doing many of the things that are part of my ideal day and line up with my core values:  providing service to my husband while also making time to take care of myself and family.  My ministry to others, at the moment, is in writing and blogging and counseling on social media and I am consistently doing that daily.

Action:  Yay!  Celebrate!


Housework is a full time job.

Housework + meals (prepping, serving, cleaning ups) takes about the same time as a full-time job (7.5 hours/day). I need to take this into consideration before committing myself to outside activities or ministries.  Being a wife is a career in itself and I need to remember that anytime I add something new to the schedule, something needs to be subtracted. 


Action:  Pause, pray and check priorities before committing to any new responsibilities.


There is room for improvement.

Activities in my “ideal day” that are currently not getting done:

  1. Writing letters to children (evenings)

  2. Making visits and taking food to the sick, older folks, and new mothers (Thursdays)

  3. Teaching Christian womanhood classes and podcasts (Tuesdays)


On the other hand,  I am beginning a ladies’ class at church in the new year (2023), so I’m happy to be making progress on achieving that goal.


Action: Writing letters to the children is something I’ve been neglecting for years.  I need to start putting that on the weekly to-do list and think of a good time to do it.  


Use low priority, but enjoyable, activities as a reward (within reason).

Low-priority activities often do give instant pleasure and enjoyment, so what I plan to do is use them as a reward for myself.  For example, if I spend my time wisely during the day, I will give myself permission in the evening to read or watch tv.  If I write for 25 minutes, I will give myself 5 minutes of checking my email or Twitter notifications.  


Action:  when planning the new schedule, use low priority but pleasurable activities as a reward and a motivator.


I spend a lot of time on meal preparation.

I am currently spending 3.5 hours on meal preparation and when I compare that to the average time most women are spending, (around an hour) I question whether I am spending too much time on this activity?  Meals are a high priority task, and I am not too worried about spending a good chunk of time here. But even so, could I become more efficient in that kitchen?


Action: Do a follow up time audit to clarify how much time I’m spending on meals. Make out a list of simple meals.


Social media and internet use are my weaknesses.

When I add it all up, it looks like I’m spending close to an hour a day on social media.  I think this is way too much time that could be profitably used on more writing and reaching out to others within my own family and church. I definitely want to start putting more limits on social media. 


Action: I will cut back on my tweeting and spend that time instead writing my books and blog. I can post links on my social media. Blogging instead of tweeting means my content will be better organized and it will be easier for my followers to go more in depth into my writing. 


We always try to make time for a meal together at the end of the day and 

Consider it a high priority activity.

What about writing?

Next to keeping my home, probably my largest time investment is my writing, to which I devote 2-3 hours daily.  The value of this time investment is debatable, especially since it is a low-priority activity.  There are many other things I could be spending this time doing. I keep at it though because I want to eventually publish a book that might help other women, especially younger women (how many women I’m not sure), to minister to their families and to see this as Christian service and a high priority activity for older women.  I also envision a business/blog/book I will call “Domestic Traditions”.  The upside of a writing/blogging/vlogging ministry is that I can use my talents without leaving my home.  I can reach out to others, but stay connected to my household.

Even if I never publish, writing has these benefits:

  • keeps my intellectual skills progressing and hopefully slows down memory loss and cognitive decline.

  • helps me to think through my life and the way things have turned out (which has been a little puzzling and unexpected in some ways). 

  • forces me to work through my own thoughts and emotions and learn how to respond in a godly way.

Hmmm…with all the benefits to my having a sound mind, maybe writing isn’t a low priority activity after all?


Action:  But If I want to be a writer, I have to devote a block of time to it daily.

Step 5 - Map out a game plan.

Now that I have gained all of this insight, it’s time for the fun part: Creating a game plan to maximize my time and energy and live a beautiful life in harmony with my values. This step is a matter of brushing off my time management skills (like forming habits and routines, scheduling, delegation and planning) and tweaking the time allocation for all of my activities.


Next time we will look at how to schedule the ideal day.


(All photos are my own.)













What Have I Been Doing With My Time? I did a "time audit' and here is what I learned.

See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.  Wherefore be ye not unwise, ...

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