Minding the Borderlands

Mark Koester (@markwkoester) on the art of travel and technology

The Kickass Time Ratio: My Equation for Calculating Efficient Time Usage

I track my time pretty obsessively. It’s part of my toolkit of productivity techniques and applications.

It also helps me to calculate my “kickass time” ratio according to my “badass time equation for efficient time usage.”

There are some great tools for time tracking. My favorites are Toggl for manual tracking and RescueTime for passive, computer-usage tracking. I’m an active user of both these services as well as other simpler time trackers. I’m also building a more focused time and activity tracker for language learners.

Both of these services allow me to create a clear portrait of my “spent” time during the past week, month and year. But the data I get from each method is different and, as such, it has allowed me to create a simple equation for determining how productive or efficient my time usage was during a particular period.

You could call it a way to calculate how productive you were during a week but I prefer to call it the kickass time ratio. To summarize, I take my manually tracked time and divide it by passively record, computer time to then determine a time usage ratio or the kickass time ratio. The higher ratio means I was more kickass that past week; a lower ratio means I was less kickass or just plain sucked.

Here’s what I record and how and my “badass” equation to determine my weekly time-spent-kickass-ness.

Weekly Time Reports: Passively vs. Manually Recorded Time Stats

Essentially RescueTime provides me a weekly report of how much time I spent on my computer as well as my productivity score according to which applications I use most. This is a great general guideline for knowing where your time goes. It’s my first advice to people interested in time tracking.

Unfortunately most projects will involve multiple tools and thus it’s difficult to see how one task relates to the general usage computer logs.

I use Toggl to track the time spent on my active, conscious activities. In the past, I’ve experimented with using it to track nearly everything from social time to eating time to showering and sleeping. It was cool for a couple weeks but this also meant a lot of time spent tracking.

Instead, I mostly use manual time tracking to record which activity or project I’m working on. Toggl then gives me a week report of where my active, aware time went. It also makes it easy for invoicing clients.

In the end, RescueTime and Toggl give me two time reports: passively recorded, computer usage time stats and actively recorded, my-doing-stuff time stats.

Out of a single week (a week being 168 hours), I generally have around 30-50 hours tracked in RescueTime and 15-35 manual hours tracked. I’ve been actively tracking my time for over a year now, so I am quite aware of where my time goes and how to optimize my work-life-productivity flow. I also got a ton of data now.

Note: I’ll admit that there is still a huge gap in my time tracking; that’s my mobile time. I’m not a huge phone user but I’m guessing this is an additional 1-2 hours per day via shorter sessions. Unfortunately it’s not currently possible to track my time via RescueTime on my iPhone.

At the end of each week, I spend about 30-50 minutes doing a weekly review. It’s mostly about answering a few questions and collecting the my key metrics into a simple report. I have a number of steps that help me close up each week’s open loops and check on the progress of various things I am working on. It helps me prepare for the week ahead. It’s also when I pull up my time reports and do a bit of simple analysis.

The Kickass Time Ratio or my equation for calculating efficient time usage

With over a year on both of these time tracking methods, I have a ton of data. During my weekly review, I’m also trying to best answer the simple question: how productive was my time usage last week.

Thus was born the badass time usage equation for deterring one’s kickass time ratio.

RescueTime works without me knowing it. Manual time tracking requires selecting a task, pushing start and then stop. For me, the key time is the consciously aware and tracked time. Browsing the net could be actively and productive or it could be procrastination depending on whether or not I’m working on a specific task. So, manually tracked time has a higher weight.

In the end, I end up with two numbers each each week. For example a few weeks ago I spent 31.9 hours on my computer and recorded 16 hours via manual time tracking. In contrast, last week I was on my computer for 45.5 hours and consciously tracked 32.9 hours. Last week and, likely this week, will be more computer-usage heavy since I’m doing more product development.

For me, the simplest way to figure out how much kickass time I had in a week is by dividing the total time of my actively recorded Toggl activities by the total hours of my passively recorded computer usage from RescueTime.

As such, a few weeks ago, I have 16 hours (actively recorded) dived by 31.9 hours (computer usage) and end with 50.1 “productivity” or kickass score. This is pretty low for me. In contrast, last week I was on my computer for 45.5 hours and consciously tracked 32.9 for a “productivity” score of 72.3. That’s a lot of kickass time.

Conclusion: Kick the Ass Out of Your Time, Be More Badass

There are a lot of other ways to calculate my time usage, and I’ve experimented with a few, but this simple calculation works quite well for my purposes.

While time tracking for me goes beyond mere data collection and reflects more the conscious effort to do things in the moment and be aware of what I do with my time, I do end up with some incredible personal data.

Knowing my time means I’m able to optimize in different ways. It means I can squeeze in work as a travel about the world, learn languages on the side, volunteer and speak at different events, and build and work on various different projects. All at the same time.

Often times it’s not a question of putting tons of time into your projects. It’s about putting in the right time and delegating to the best person to take it the next step forward. Know thy time and thee shall master it.

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