Quantified Self – The Three-year Long Time Tracking Experiment

Between June 2011 and June 2013 I diligently tracked the way that I used my 24-hour cycles. I initiated this painstaking task after going through a long spell of productivity draught; I was obsessed with how exactly I spent my ‘Work -> Eat -> Sleep’ cycles. To achieve this, I used Hamster Time Tracker [1]. I recently decided to dig into this wealth of information and have spent the last couple of days analyzing it. While the data I collected is not 100% accurate, visible patterns emerge.

Summary – The Result at a Glance

Quantified Self - Time Tracking
Quantified Self – Time Tracking


During the period in question, my entire life predominantly revolved around Home and Work (Laboratory and SCAP workplace). I installed Hamster Time Tracker on the three computers I used at Home and Work. I ran a week-long pilot exercise and arrived at the five categories below. In addition, during the pilot phase, I got a sense of the types of activities I would eventually have to work with, suffice to say, these were open ended.

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When I finally started running the live experiment, I would export/import SQLite 3.x database to/from my dropbox folder whenever I switched machines. Analyzing the results was a fairly straight forward process; I exported the data to CSV and the rest is obvious.

Some Useful Patterns

  • I discovered that I slept an average of 5.1 hours per day (see table below)
  • Day-to-day tasks account for an average of 36.14%, implying that I had 63.86% of productivity time at my disposal
  • I work more and often in the morning (segmenting results into day slots– dawn, wee hours, morning, mid-morning, afternoon, evening–yielded even more interesting results…)
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Explaining Bizarre Patterns

  • The 5.1 average can perhaps be best explained by this article [2]
  • YouTube is on my Top-5 list because I am subscribed to tonnes of YouTube channels–I find that I learn best by watching. I am currently subscribed to 178 channels
  • SCAP represents 20 hours/week I had to put in when I was working part-time [3]
  • In 2011, I became obsessed with African American culture, I spent A LOT of time on sites like worldstarthiphop.com [4]. YES! I know it’s a semi-SHOCK site :p

Leveraging the Results

  • I was able to figure out when I am most productive and was thus able to plan my waking life accordingly
  • I knew where most productivity leaks were coming from (social networking sites for instance) and was able to cut down on those activities when I needed to reclaim time
  • I was able to identify tasks that I could easily perform when I was in ‘Zombie’ mode (e.g. current affairs)
  • Perhaps the most prized outcome was figuring out when I was most productive–I wrote more in the morning, I read more in the morning and did most of my coding late at night



[1] https://github.com/projecthamster/hamster
[2] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-16964783
[3] http://www.scaprogramme.org.za/participating-institutions/university-of-cape-town
[4] http://worldstarhiphop.com