Wednesday, November 30, 2011

How I am spending my time

I have mentioned previously that I keep a log of how I spend my time. When I was doing my PhD the interesting question was what percentage of my time was spent on “uni work”, and how was I spending the rest of my time? That way I could look at the graphs and easily decide what I should change if I wasn’t happy with my progress. I have maintained those logs since finishing that degree, and even made use of the data when applying for my visa to move to Sweden—the abrupt increase in the amount of time spent doing “social” activities when I met my partner was part of the documentation that we really do have a relationship with one another.

However, comparing “uni work” to all of the other aspects of my life is not the full story. This morning I was struck with the inspiration that I should also track what sorts of “uni work” I am doing. Since it has only been one month since I started my new job it seemed like a good time to set up the spreadsheet to calculate that, too. I have created five broad categories into which all of my “uni work” tasks fit. I then compared the data in my descriptive log of what tasks I accomplish each day (e.g. “revised figure 2.5 to show____”, or “received a copy of my hire paperwork from HR and filed in in folder ____”) with my numeric log showing how many hours in each day were spent on uni work, and have estimated the split for each day since this job began. In addition, I also calculated my time for most of October, since I did my job interview, began reading the literature my boss gave me as background reading for this project then, and attended two different short courses during that month.

Setting up the spread sheet and doing those estimates took all morning, but since that was 58 days’ worth of data that means that I spent less than 4 minutes a day on this project. Now that the spreadsheet is set up it should be even easier to keep it up to date by entering in the new data, and I think that I can easily spare 4 minutes a day for the return of seeing the distribution of how I am spending my time. This will be particularly useful as my boss told me that the teaching component of my work should only be 10 to 20% of my time, and this way I will know if I am falling under, meeting or exceeding this target.

The categories I chose are:

* Research: which has three sub categories, the first of which is my current job (3D geochemical modelling of ore deposits in northern Scandinavia), the second and third are finishing up the papers based on my PhD and last post-doc positions.

* Learn: reading literature, attending courses, attending conferences, talks, and seminars, studying Swedish, etc.

* Teach: teaching classes, teaching prep, meetings about teaching, etc.

* Admin: administrative tasks, filing, computer maintenance issues (install programs and hardware, backup, etc.), paperwork, work-related travel, funding applications, updating logs, cleaning/organizing the office, meetings on any of these sorts of topics, etc.

* Netwk: networking, updating resume, updating LinkedIn and, interviews, public outreach, job applications (when this contract draws to a close), etc.

For the month of October I worked a total of 82.6 hours (which all counts as bonus time, as my job had not yet started). Of that time 68% was spent on “learn”-related tasks, 31% was “admin”, and 1% was “netwk”. There is still nearly half a work day left for November, but the month is close enough to done to report that my time this month has been split roughly:

38.9% research (10.5% this job, 20.5% last job, and 7.9% PhD research)

31.5% admin

12.5% learn

17.1% netwrk

0% teach

Assuming 8 hour work days, no work on Sat or Sunday, and only 4 hours for the one Friday in November which was a half-day holiday I should have worked 172 hours on this job so far this year. However, because I started work-related tasks back in October I am already up to 233.4 hours, or 135.7% of the hours I need.

Combining the data for October and November gives:

32.1% learn

31.4% admin

25.1% research (6.8% this job, 13.2% last job, and 5.1% PhD research)

11.3% netwrk

0% teach

It will be interesting to watch how the balance between the categories shifts each month.

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