time management

How To Hold Yourself Accountable For Your Time

Have you ever tracked your time, to see how you spent it? Have you ever really counted the minutes you spent working, playing, eating, sleeping and socializing on any given day? You might be genuinely surprised by the numbers. I know I was.

I had a number of hours in my head that I felt like I needed to be writing every week. It was eight. That might sound kind of low for a budding writer, but hey, I’ve got a full time job, performances and practices (I’m on an improv team) and I’ve also got a social life to maintain. I had to be realistic, you know?

Recently there was a week where I had fallen behind on my writing goal. There just simply wasn’t enough time! Life got busy, it happens. I had a lot of stuff going on. Less than an hour after coming to this conclusion, I was on the subway headed home, and I was playing Angry Birds Space – a highly addictive sequel to a highly addictive little iPhone game. An achievement popped up on my screen informing me that I had been playing the game for five hours – and the game had come out less than a week ago.

I never would have realized it if the game hadn’t told me, but I managed to find time to play that game for five hours in less than a week without any effort. I just found the time wherever I could – on the subway, waiting on line, before I went to bed at night. And that was time when I could have been doing anything else – including writing.

After that day I decided to start tracking my time. I spent a full week look at how much I created (which I counted as any time I spent writing, performing, rehearsing, or meeting with my writing group where we share and critique each other’s work) versus how much time I consumed (all forms of media – movies, television, video games, podcasts, and even the internet). The results weren’t pretty:

Without making any adjustments to what I’d consider a normal week, I was more than doubling how much I created with how much I consumed.

That’s when I started thinking about what would happen if I started to hold myself accountable for my time. If I made it a point to create as much, if not more,  than I was consuming. Was it crazy? Was it possible? Could I stick with it? Well, I was determined to find out.

So I picked a month -July (after all my favorite TV shows had gone on hiatus – one less temptation) and committed myself to my “Create / Consume” project. I was going to document the whole thing, and I was going to give it my all, come hell or high water.

Here we are at present day. The project starts this Sunday. I’ve got all the details up on the Create / Consume blog. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I know I’m going to come out the other end a more productive person than I was before. I’m encouraging anyone else who would like to join me in this life experiment to sign up – and remember, you figure out what’s important to you, and tailor the experience to your life and your creative desires. But remember: this is supposed to be a challenge, don’t take it too easy on yourself.

I hope you’ll join me. If not, wish us luck.

-Matt

You can follow Matt Shafeek on Twitter as well as his official Create /Consume twitter page. His first blog before Create / Consume was about his experience giving up video games for a year, and when he’s not performing improv at the Magnet Theater in NYC, he’s often obsessing about Batman.

Photo credit: ‘Midnight Time‘ by Big Stock