My Week without Internet Access

As I mentioned in my first post, I recently spent 8 days without an Internet connection at home. Now I find that Bob Walsh has stolen a bit of my thunder with his last two posts ("80/20 Your information feeds" and "Signs of Plague"), but there's a broader implication to his last post; Where does all my time go? My week without Internet access, and the increased productivity on my mISV product forced me to, once again, revisit my old friend "the time study" (everybody groan here).

Everytime I mention this technique to people, they tell me "I don't have time to collect metrics on how I use my time". My contention is that you don't have time not to. If you spend an extra 15 minutes each day, it generally won't take long to realize an ROI (Return On Investment - Time is an asset just like money, only scarcer). If you're thinking about the full-blown type of time study pursued by large multinational corporations or the government (and those have their places as well), I'd have to agree. There are however, two methods that will serve the small organization or mISV well. The first is simply a mental exercise and the second is a quick-and-dirty paper study.

In its simplest form, a time study can simply be a Gedankenversuch during which you mentally review how your day was spent. While this may seem trivial, I often find I fail to complete this mental review at my busiest times (i.e. when I need it the most ... usually due to a looming deadline). As an added motivator, also imagine what important work could have been completed in that "wasted time".

My favorite version of personal time study is to simply use a notepad to jot down each task and its duration. If this method consumes more than 15 minutes a day, you're capturing more detail than you need. After a week, total up the time in each of your categories and you'll have a pretty clear picture of how your time was spent. Determine which of the activities were worthwhile in obtaining your goals and which should be reduced or eliminated. See ... you're done and it didn't even hurt.

Now everyone is wondering about the results of my time study ... here they are: I 80/20'd my information feeds (I was reading way too many opinions ... I already have my own!) and turned the e-mail dinger back off (a recent KMail update had turned it on). I also realized that I'd been refreshing certain pages far too often. Even checking for new posts on BoS can cost you a lot of time if it causes your brain to context switch.

For those who thought I was going to bash some hapless ISP for my outage, I'll include one last paragragh. Due to a change in billing procedures, my Internet service was suspended because Verizon couldn't determine the proper billing address. My DSL modem is connected to the end of the same copper loop as my phone service so the answer seems obvious to me ... Oh well. One side benefit is that we switched to a much better ISP. We're using line-of-sight wireless links that will provide up to 6Mbps service as the business grows. We also get a fixed IP address and no blocked ports. New ventures can live on the servers in my basement, and can be co-loc'd there once they are hosted elsewhere.

Have a great holiday weekend (well, some of you anyway) ... from my home in the birthplace of Memorial Day, Boalsburg, PA

Excellent idea, here's a excel form I've used

A time study definitely will open your eyes to a very disturbing trend - the more time you spend online, the less that time has to do with your critical (moneymaking) work.

Here's a link to an excel file I've used to track my time as quickly as possible: http://safarisoftware.com/timeauditform.xls

It's easy to use: enter this week's 10 main activities. each quarter hour, enter the number of the activity you spent your time on. Watch the chart build as the week goes by.

Not perfect, but it will give you very good feedback for very litle effort. Enjoy!