Time keeps on slippin’ into the future

I cracked myself up this evening at nephew Snufkin’s birthday dinner by saying “I see into…the future!” and when Stubb’s mom (who kindly humors everyone, no matter how cracked) said, “What do you see, dear?” I stared into my half-finished plate of chicken, shrimp, and rice and intoned, “I see…tomorrow’s lunch.

So I mentioned I have this application on my phone, TimeTracker, that lets you track time spent on different projects, and I’ve been playing around with it for a few weeks.  You open it up and tap on the project you’re working on, and a timer runs until you tap it again or until you tap a different project.  I wasn’t exactly sure why I thought this would be a good app for me except that I am always aware of time and how I use it, and yet also aware that I’m probably not perceiving accurately where it all goes.  Since I don’t always have my phone with me during the school day–it mostly sits in my bag under my desk, and I teach in other classrooms and prep in the workroom while my classroom is in use–I haven’t always TimeTracked accurately, and there have been days when I didn’t even try.  However, the results I’ve gotten when I have done it have been interesting to me so far.

For one thing, although I feel as though I’m grading all the time, and in fact I do usually do at least some grading almost every day, the number of hours really varies a lot and doesn’t always match up with how much I think about grading.  After first-semester exams, yes, I did grade a lot.  I estimate (because I didn’t log them all) that it took about 18 hours to grade 60 exams, calculate final grades, double-check everything, write comments for struggling students, and finish putting the semester to bed.  The first week of the new semester, of course, I didn’t grade much–except that I did give, grade, and record 60 reading quizzes, about 2 hours worth of grading. 

One surprise so far has been that administrative “trivia” at SA consumes a nontrivial amount of time.  Another is that I spend more time than I thought on a typical day on administrative matters at NLNRU.  Even fielding a handful of emails can take up an hour or more of the day, and would take more if I let it.  Using TimeTracker actually helps here, because it encourages me to stick with one batch of work until I’m ready to move on to another, so I don’t even deal with NLNRU emails if I’m reporting working on something for SA. 

Another surprise is that, based on the few days I’ve managed to track, I think I may actually not be working much more than 40 hours a week.  I do have the sense that there is always something else to do–but I seem to balance out the crazy long days with days that are more reasonable, when I’m home by 4:15 and I don’t do any work all evening. 

Whether or not I count commuting must matter, though, because I spend a heck of a lot of time in the car.  And it might be that it really doesn’t make sense to go physically to NLNRU more than twice a week, because of the sharp increase in time spent commuting when I do.  

 Anyway, I thought that this week, I would attempt to TimeTrack all hours spent going to, coming from, or at work.  The categories I’ve set up in TimeTracker are:

Commuting t/f SA

Commuting t/f NLNRU



(those two are there because I am curious to see real data for those)

Conference (a commitment unrelated to SA or NLNRU)


NLNRU Class Prep

NLNRU Teaching

SA Admin

SA Class Prep

SA Teaching

SA Grading


Writing biz

Now, I should say up front that I doubt I will do much writing during this, a typical work week.  I might get in a couple of hours on the weekend.  I’ll probably spend less than two hours on the conference, less than three hours on exercise, and less than two hours on housework.  The big time expenditures Monday-Friday will be NLNRU- and SA-related.  If this bores the heck out of you, feel free to tune out; otherwise, join me and find out how I really spend my time!

(P.S.  Recovering control freak?)

3 responses to this post.

  1. The element of TimeTracker that seems especially helpful is that you stick with one thing before switching to a different category because you’re tracking them separately. I so often manage to spread grading vocab quizzes or somesuch over quite a long stretch because I interrupt myself to do something else small. It all gets done eventually (or at least everything that absolutely has to get done does), but I too often have the sense that I’ve graded more than I actually have. In general, I must say that my grading load has actually gone down now that I’m a HS teacher, but it comes at a steadier pace rather than in a big bunch (most of the time — although in fact I’m heading into a big bunch now).

    You know, this strategy of recording time is actually how I turned my academic life around in college. My grades were unsatisfactory (in my eyes at least), and I decided that I was probably not studying as much as I thought I was, so I started recording my studying for each class in 15-minute increments. Eye-opening! Made all the difference in my last three terms of college.


  2. Posted by meansomething on February 2, 2010 at 7:14 am

    Yes, there’s always a certain amount of creep, in part because when I’m in my classroom or the teacher workroom, I’m interruptible by students or colleagues–but if I’m grading and I see a new email message appear in my inbox, I am highly distractible!

    I often think our students could benefit from keeping time logs as you did. A lot of them, I suspect, have an inflated sense of how much they are working. I’ve been there too…


  3. […] characteristic reaction to the prospect of sixteen days of largely unstructured time, I updated my Time Tracker phone app, which I haven’t used much in the last few years, and took off all the […]


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