The first step in measuring my capacity was figuring out what not to measure. It didn’t make sense to measure things I couldn’t change. Starting with a 24-hour day (or more usefully at 168-hour week) and then subtracting out time for sleeping, meals, driving, and other sundry tasks would imply that those were subject to my control, i.e. that I could choose to spend less time on them. So I what did was identify those things that made up what I think of as the “framework” of my day. For me, that’s sleep, work, and meals (though there will be more on that last item later). I made a conscious decision not to measure them but treat them as given. Instead, I decided to measure things that were different from day to day and I did for some sort of reason.
The next step was deciding what things were big enough to bother measuring. I knew that if I decided to measure things that were too small, I would (a) get overwhelmed by details, and (b) spend more on measurement – and fine-tuning my system – than on getting things done. I knew I wouldn’t get as much return out of the time spent analyzing things that were too short, so I decided to focus on tasks that took up at least a certain minimum amount of time. This is where I made a somewhat arbitrary decision, but one that worked for me: I was only going to measure things that took at least thirty minutes at a time.1
Step three was determining how to track my time. I already used a daily to-do list to track what what I was going to do, so I just decided to annotate this with how I spent on each task during the day.2 Easy peasy, as they say, which made it likely I’d be able to do it.
They also say that the proof of the pudding is in the eating3, and it turned that eating was about as easy as I thought. I’ve been logging this data since December, with only minor tweaks to the process along the way. What did I do with that data? You’ll have to come back for Part 3 to find out.
2 Again, basic Pomodoro stuff, though there’s some philosophical differences between this and the Pomodoro Technique. I was less concerned about the flow states that a continuous stream of Pomodoros gives you and more about chunking my time into boxes to measure it.
3 The proof is not, contrary to popular opinion, in the pudding.
4 I’ve actually switched to breaking down things that are less than one hour into 15-minute chunks, with a bias towards half-hours, but that’s a later refinement.