Time Management – Rebirth& Pursuit for Nirvana

I decided to call this post “Time Management: Rebirth& Pursuit for Nirvana” because it coincides with my birthday; my biological clock is fast ticking and very soon I will pass on to the world beyond. Seven(7) months ago today, I –as my western and capetonian comrades would put it– grew myself some balls and decided to move on with my life. Little did I know that moving on would be both a painful and trying phase. My reasons for moving on would strike the average human being as an act of madness and I will not talk so much about that. What I would like to do, however, is to share with you the difficulties I have faced these past seven(7) months. In particular, I would like to focus on time management and self discipline.

Before coming to the University of Cape Town, I spent the previous 3 1/2 years of my life being told what to do –I worked as a DBA (I basically sat on my ass the whole day, among other things checking logs, running SQL statements, checking audit trails and reconciling CDRs). I firmly believe that I became institutionalized in the process. The result of my being institutionalized was a chronic case of deep procrastination coupled with a massive productivity drought. The good thing though is that I realized it about 3 months ago and decided to do something about it. I was quick to approximate that I spent about 33% (~8 hours) of my time sleeping, but I had no idea what I did with the other 67%… I mean I know I had to feed myself, work, research, e.t.c, but I could not quantify how much time I spent on each individual task –I was literally living like the Korowai people of Papua New Guinea. *SMDH*

A quick search on the Web led me to a number of resource and I soon realized that I was not the first person to be faced with this problem. That is when I turned to Project Hamster Time Tracker. Hamster is an Ubuntu time tracking application that basically helps you track how much time you spend on user defined tasks. The basic idea behind how it works is you create different categories of various things you do on a regular basis and then later create activities that are linked to the categories. Every time you start performing a particular activity, you activate Hamster, making it possible for you to quantify.

I have been using Hamster for way over a month now and the results of the controlled experiments I have been running on myself are quite shocking to say the least. I cannot believe the number of hours I have been spending on Social Networking sites, Economics and History tutorials. The graphs below depict what has been going on in my life for the past one month. *SMDH*

I basically tracked my activities on a daily basis for a total of 34 days –between July 20, 2011 and August 23, 2011. The table and graphs below give more insight of what transpired during the period in question.

Category Activity MINUTES %
Day-to-day Sleep/Rest 12,793 27.55%
Social Networks 6,003 12.93%
Read News 2,265 4.88%
To& From Campus 1,267 2.73%
Shower 950 2.05%
Chit-Chats 649 1.40%
Supper 477 1.03%
Breakfast 245 0.53%
read 226 0.49%
Take a Break 149 0.32%
Check Emails 125 0.27%
Phone Calls& IM-Chats 73 0.16%
Lunch 58 0.12%
laundry 55 0.12%
Coffee 20 0.04%
Day-to-Day Total 25,355 54.61%
Future Plans Job Hunting 359 0.77%
Business Ideas 264 0.57%
Funding Opportunities 260 0.56%
Nirvana 81 0.17%
Future Plans Total 964 2.08%
Hobbies Youtube Channels 3,746 8.07%
Outing 725 1.56%
Movie 672 1.45%
History 529 1.14%
Economic Theories 522 1.12%
Music 173 0.37%
Techical Articles 137 0.30%
Website Article 98 0.21%
General Knowledge 70 0.15%
Hobbies Total 6,672 14.37%
Work Coding 4,824 10.39%
Reading 3,705 7.98%
Meeting 1,977 4.26%
Class 1,084 2.33%
Seminar 620 1.34%
Conference 543 1.17%
Writing 403 0.87%
Skills Learning 286 0.62%
Work Total 13,442 28.95%
Grand Total 46,433 100.00%

Clearly, the amount of time spent on Social Networking sites and Youtube tutorials is unacceptable. Also, I think I have been taking way too many naps –this is insane to say the least. The fact that Social Networking sites and Youtube tutorials are on the top 5 list is proof positive that I have been wasting way too much time on unnecessary activities.

What I do: Core Categories

Notice that Social Networking sites are are second from sleep/rest. Also note that I have been reading way too much news –an optimal solution would be to read news once or twice per day, drastically reducing the amount of time.

Core Activities

Activity Tags

The activity tags above give more insight on what exactly what being done during each activity; although this does not give a clear picture and some of the activity tags are duplicated.

I am a Night owl

Overall, the results have given me an insight on what I do on a daily and weekly basis and how much time I spend on each activity. The results have also enabled me to seriously look into patterns –I mean its absolutely unacceptable for a normal active human being to sleep for more than 8 hours. The number of hours I spend on unimportant tasks are ridiculous! Oh oh oh… and now I know for a fact that I am a certified night owl.

I have gone on a Facebook& Twitter diet 🙂 I intend to work towards a state of Nirvana were I can only update my Facebook status and tweet once a day at most. The idea seems far fetched, but now that I know what I have been wasting my time on, I can easily work towards that.


[1] Project Hamster, (N.D.). Retrieved  August 23, 2011, from Project Hamster: http://projecthamster.wordpress.com/
[2] Why I do Time Tracking, July 9, 2009. Retrieved August 23, 2011, from Swaroop C H The Dreamer: http://www.swaroopch.com/blog/why-i-do-time-tracking/
[3] The Way I Work: Matt Mullenweg, June 1, 2009. Retrieved August 23, 2011, from Inc: http://www.inc.com/magazine/20090601/the-way-i-work-matt-mullenweg_Printer_Friendly.html

  • Joshua Phiri

    I think I spend too much time on social networks as well. Oh yeah, I’m nocturnal too! I’ve also always wonder how I use my time. Lately, I’ve been timing myself a lot as an attempt to try and figure out were my time goes. It’s not very accurate though.

    • @Joshua, great. I never realized the full extent of it all until after the this. I don’t regularly log on to Facebook or Twitter now 😀