My day job is funded by a number of different research grants, and each funding body wants to know how their money is being spent. I therefore need to log my activities on a pretty fine-grained level (15 minute increments is the recommendation), and each activity needs enough space to record what was done and for which grant.A summary of this information gets transferred to an electronic timesheet system at the end of each month, and my journal provides a more detailed paper trail should the auditors ever decide to pay us a visit…
For this type of log, a conventional “appointments calendar” layout is ideal. I use a Leuchtturm with dotted grid paper and write out each day’s calendar as I get to it – it only takes a few moments each morning, and allows me to intersperse my time log with pages of notes on specific topics, designs for web pages, and so on. I don’t really do much bullet-journalling in this notebook any more, since I manage my ToDos electronically using Omnifocus.
For my personal timekeeping, on the other hand, the emphasis is on improving productivity – I’m much more interested in the type of activity than the details of which task was done. How much time am I spending consuming content (TV, films, games, internet) compared to producing it (fiction, blog posts, drawing)? This is where Spiraldex comes in.
Spiraldex is a modification by Kent of Oz of Chronodex, which was created by Patrick Ng as a way of graphically recording your day’s activity using the metaphor of an analogue clock. You decide what activity categories you want to log, assign each one a colour, then fill in the diagram as appropriate. I’m using a further-modified version (left) that starts at midnight instead of 6am – perfect for night owls, shift-workers or weird people like me who wake at the crack of dawn!
Just to be thorough, I log my creative activities in three separate categories: writing, including outlining and editing; author business, which is anything writing-related but not actual work on the prose, i.e. everything from blogging to doing my accounts; and “other”. This last is a catch-all category for my non-writing hobbies (journalling, drawing, knitting, spinning) and also reading, which is a more active pursuit than merely consuming media, as well as (in the case of reading fiction) tangentially related to my writing career.
I’ve created a PDF with a dozen copies of the diagram on it, so I just need to print out a sheet every couple of weeks and cut them out. Each day I pop a blank spiraldex into my Midori Passport and transfer it to my MTN when I complete my day’s journal entry.
Designing data visualisation is something I do regularly in my day-job, so I appreciate the elegance of this method – it gives you an instant visual summary of your day, which means there’s no getting away from the fact that you spent three hours watching Doctor Who when you should have been writing! I’ve only been using been using it a few weeks, and already it’s making me more productive.