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Debugging your day

To fix something, you need to be aware of where the bug is.

Time is our most scarce resource. Yet we lose a lot of it, or we invest it into tasks that are not the highest leverage.

In today’s society, we make a lot of choices. We can opt out from a lot of them, but there’s one that will forever be there: where to spend our time.

And, since time doesn’t stop, it’s a continuous choice. It’s made up of thousands of smaller choices per day.

While I won’t get into that scale, I will offer a guide on how to debug the high-level choices we make with our time.

Time-tracking tools

I used Toggl, both in desktop and mobile, to track my time. Its main use is for freelances to bill their time, but today, we won’t bill anyone. Rather, we will use it to create a log of our daily activities.

In Toggl, you can create Projects. I created many, such as:

  • Aragon: My time devoted to the Aragon project

  • Home: My time devoted to home tasks. Those can be from turning on the dishwasher to ordering groceries

  • Bureaucracy: The burden that the nation state and many companies put on their user to fill pieces of paper

Inside the Project, you can create Tags. Those tags can get into the specifics. For example, for Aragon, some of those would be:

  • Product: Working or thinking about product

  • Writing: Writing blog posts

  • Ecosystem: Catching up with the Aragon ecosystem and talking to people

  • Management: Calls and time spent thinking about the team

Constrained time-tracking

I don’t use time tracking tools everyday. What I do is use them from time to time for a week.

After a week, I stop and review my report on the week.

During the debug week, you should exclude exceptional tasks. And also you should try to pick a standard week, as similar as possible to the rest of your weeks.

After tracking for a week, then I check top-down. What are the projects that took more time than expected? If something is out of order, for example if I spent 25% of my time doing bureaucracy, I debug deeper.

I go to the tag level, and see what are the specific tasks that caused that bottleneck.

Is it a bug, or a bottleneck?

If you get to the tag level and debug the issue, at least you know where you shouldn’t be spending that much time.

Now, there are two options why you are spending more time than you should on tasks:

  • Either you shouldn’t be performing that task at all. Then it’s a bug in the system, and you should try to think about ways you can offload it

  • Or either you should, but it’s very under-optimized. Then it’s a bottleneck in your system, and you should think about how to resolve it. Tips for making tasks more efficient are outside the scope of this post, but I’ll get to it during the series

If you have arrived here, then you have a clear picture of how your day could be more productive. By allocating more time to what matters, and less to the bugs and bottlenecks.

Recurrent debugging

This is a good habit to do every quarter. Depending on how aggressive you want to get on optimizing yourself, you may even do monthly. It is important to do it many times during the year, since habits change and may introduce new bugs or bottlenecks.

That’s it! I hope this very simple guide helps you be aware of your time and debug your life 🕐

What’s life, if not time and what we do with it?


You can find more posts about personal productivity in my series about it.