Tracking Activities for Fun and Something Other than Profit

I’m trying something new this year. No, it’s not the Bacon Club Chalupa, although, that does sound pretty good. I am, in fact, loosely tracking my daily activities!

My sister got me a Rocketbook (that’s an unsponsored link, sadly) for Christmas a couple of years ago, and I’m always looking for new and interesting ways to use it. I’m also always curious about where all of my time goes in a day. Thus, the activity tracker was given life.

In years past, I would have taken on a project such as this with the sole purpose of feeling bad for not filling in every box, every day. Today, I’d like to think I’m a bit better adjusted, and hoped tracking my daily ins and outs might give me some insight on why activities do or do not happen in my day-to-day life. The format is inspired by any number of bullet journal-style mood trackers that I’ve seen online. I’ve thought about doing one of those, as well, but the prospect was too depressing. Also, I don’t think I can do one because they always look so pretty! How do you people journal like this?! I have good handwriting, and any journals I’ve ever done look like a child spilled an inkwell on the page.

Anyway, I decided to track six areas, each represented by a different color because I gotta use these colored Rocketbook markers for something:

  • Exercise
  • Drawing
  • Game Art for Staff and Shadow
  • Writing/Coding
  • Family Time
  • Video Games/Reading

Work, eating, sleeping, crisis aversion, and household chores are all a given (well, sleeping can be a challenge in this house), so I didn’t bother including those. Watching TV or movies or whatever is also not included because it’s a passive activity, and is usually done at the same time as something else. Persistent existential dread? Also a given.

No, I wanted to track the activities that are, arguably, the most important to me, but are the first ones to be shoved aside by life when it decides to get in the way. This is particularly true of the first four. Family time and video games/reading are a little more protected, but they frequently suffer, as well.

So! As you can see from the progress thus far in the photos above, I’m really knocking exercise, family time, and video games/reading out of the park, while drawing, game art, and writing/coding are receiving quite a bit less attention. I am motivated to do all of those things, but much of my free time has been spent improving and/or cleaning up our new house, and otherwise settling in. And, don’t forget, I also have a day job, a three-year-old, and a wife who might like to spend time with me, occasionally (I hope), so I’m trying to squeeze a fair amount into a given day.

In general, I’m pretty loose with the requirements of filling in a box. It kind of depends on if I feel I’ve earned it or not. For instance, I’ve sometimes filled in the video games/reading box after powering through three pages of Harry Potter while on the toilet. The one exception to this is exercise. I’m strict on that one—I have to hit my steps goal and gain ground in my current program, or the box stays empty. I’m really proud of the exercise commitment—I’m finally accepting the idea of taking care of myself being the first, best step to doing all of the other things. (Now, if only I could apply that mentality to getting enough sleep.)

Having tracked my activities for six weeks now, these are the areas in which I’ve benefited the most:

Accountability

I often get caught up in—and overwhelmed by—things like side jobs, household tasks, and perceived obligations that are not actually necessary or even asked for in our lives. When I don’t spend time doing the things I enjoy, it’s helpful to see it, to have a visual reminder of, “Hey, here are these things you like to do, but you’re not doing them.” It’s true that time is often short, but I’ve found that even on the busiest days, I can still find a little to devote to what’s important to me. Creators always say that if you really like something, you’ll make the time to do it, and I’d like to think I’m actually doing that now, even if it’s not that much.

Speaking of time….

Relieve Worry of “Not Having Enough Time”

One of my goals for this year that I listed in my previous blog was that I wanted to stop worrying about time, both in the sense of not having enough of it or spending too much of it on one thing or another. By tracking my activities, I’m able to see that I actually am making time to do the things I want to do, even when it feels like I’m not. It may not always be a lot of time, but it’s there. That’s reassuring.

Setting Realistic Expectations

Now that I have a better grasp on the amount of time I have to devote to these activities, I also know not to demand too much from myself or my time, a mistake I make frequently. For instance, with everything going on at the moment, now would not be a good time to start a novel or some other big project. I now know my limits and that I’m already spread pretty thin—adding another obligation will set me up for disappointment and give me ammunition to take shots at myself that I don’t deserve. I’ve learned the hard way, so many times, not to take on more work than I realistically have time to do.

So, there you have it! I’m curious to see where things go from here, especially as we wrap up house projects and life returns to “normal,” whatever that is. If you’re having trouble finding time to do the things you want to do, or wonder where all of your time goes, or are looking to commit to a neglected hobby, you might consider setting up tracking activities, yourself! It’s surprising to learn where your time goes. And, your tracker might look more visually pleasing than mine! Good luck, and see you next time!

How I Spent My 2020

First, let me assure you that I am alive and well. I’ve been living happily (uh, well….) these past 10 days in the year 2021. Yes, we made it. Well, some of us.

2020 was supposed to be one of those glorious benchmark years. Look how far we’ve come! Look at the advances we’ve made as a society! Et cetera. But…nah. 2020 tested the collective mettle of humanity. Social unrest, utter political exhaustion, and a little flu bug called COVID—perhaps you’ve heard of it—soundly silenced any poetic waxing of our progress as a people. Instead, it kind of took all we had just to hold it together. And hey, to be honest, we’re still trying to hold it together, but it sure is nice to have that 1-ton, 20-pound gorilla off our backs.

On top of all that, 2020 was a big year of change for my family and me. You may have noticed this blog lay dormant since the beginning of June. That’s honestly not that out of the ordinary (see any number of months-long gaps in entries, circa 2016-2019), but it certainly wasn’t planned this year. A lot has happened since June. Mostly good changes or changes we wanted to make. Some unexpected, and some a long time coming. So, here’s the abridged version of how I spent my 2020.

Go on….

blackout

Listen, Learn.

Hey. Would you believe it if I told you I’ve had a lot on my mind lately? Following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, there are so many elephants in the room, there is scant room for another, and our feet are all broken. I don’t feel right saying nothing, or talking about creative pursuits, as usual, as though nothing is happening in the world. I feel bad, embarrassed, uneducated on the matters of race in this country. The best thing I can do right now is to listen, to learn. It was suggested I start here. Take care. Be good to one another.

Bart waking up

Anti-Virus, Week 9 – Routine Maintenance

It only took nine weeks of quarantine, but I think I finally managed to settle into a morning routine.

I’m a routine kind of guy. I get more done more consistently if I do it the same way every morning. The only problem is that I notoriously and spectacularly fall out of routine on a regular basis, and when I do, it’s difficult to reestablish. In fact, I’ve tried to write a morning routine blog on at least three separate occasions, but every time I start writing the blog, or almost write the blog, I fall out of the routine and feel like I’m not qualified to write it. Even this time, now that I’m finally writing it for real, I biffed the routine twice in the last four days, so I really need to step it up this week and reestablish before it all falls apart. I hope that actually writing this blog will help hold me accountable, as well.

Go on….

Scott and Picard have a drink

Anti-Virus, Weeks 6-8ish – Puking into the Dilithium Chamber

In reviewing my previous two blogs, I came to the conclusion that they stink.

No, it’s not because of the quality of the writing. Although, that wasn’t very good, either. But dang, it’s just a blog, not a TMZ article. Give me a break.

Truthfully, they were just too negative. (Not to mention they were me complaining about unimportant personal problems while there are a lot of people struggling out there with real problems right now. Pretty serious loss of perspective there, champ.) In each blog, my negativity hinged on my age-old enemy: time. I’m reminded of a Jean-Luc Picard quote from Star Trek: Generations, which I’m sure is technically not a very good movie, but it’s a sentimental gem because it was my favorite TV show brought to the big screen. When that happens at ten years old, it’s a monumental deal. My brother took me to see it. It was a lot of fun. Give me a break! The score is good, too. Anyway, Picard says,

“Someone once told me that time is a predator that stalks us all our lives. I rather believe that time is a companion who goes with us on the journey, and reminds us to cherish every moment, …because they’ll never come again. …What we leave behind is not as important as how we lived.”

Big surprise—insightful words from the Captain. The guy could be actively puking his guts out into the dilithium chamber after the O’Briens’ wedding reception and still be capable of saying something eloquent and wise.

Go on….

Futurama - Garbage Ball

Anti-Virus, Week 5 Plus Video Game Talk

You know what? Forget even doing the one news dump a day. I’m just not checking the news at all. I’m better off living in ignorance than being disappointed in people. Or, maybe I’ll just get all my news from NPR from now on, as it seems as boring and unsensationalized as possible. Is that true? I don’t know; I haven’t checked.

Another challenging week at home has come and gone. I felt far less unease than last week, and although I thought I was doing well, I apparently am not. I fear I am becoming a less and less efficient employee as I continue to work from home—no focus, slower output. I’m short-tempered again, irritable, and prone to angry outbursts. Yesterday, I got irritated at people honking their horns at each other to say hello at the intersection outside. Amanda said, “See? You need social interaction. You literally just got pissed at people saying hello to one another.” I didn’t even notice that this was going on, and now I am ashamed of my behavior.

Go on….

The Twilight Zone - Time Enough at Last

Anti-Virus, Weeks 3-4

Week 3 can be summed up as, more or less, a duplicate of Week 2. In spite of what was happening in the world around me, I felt good about the use of my time and stayed positive and productive. I was Burgess Meredith in “Time Enough at Last” right before his glasses break.

Week 4? Oof. Not so much. I have been unfocused and distracted all week, and a general sense of unease looms.  Amanda and our little one are back, and that has been great and makes things feel more normal at home again. But, I can’t deny that it is taking me some time to adjust to being a husband and father again, even after just one week of being away from them. I apparently fell completely out of parenting shape while they were gone—my patience is still not quite at the level it should be, and I’m not proud of that. I need to do better. Easter was pretty good, but the day before, I hit a low point when I sat her in front of a cartoon just so I could have some time to veg out and do something for myself. This is something I rarely do—well, other than when one or more people in the house are sick with influenza or a stomach bug. For the most part, I’m not a “you do this thing here so I can do my own thing over here” kind of parent. Sure, there are plenty of times when I’ll tag out to Amanda when I get too stressed, but Amanda was in the middle of a project in this instance, so I sat the kiddo in front of the television and took time for myself. I felt incredibly guilty because I’m trying to spend as much time with her as I can while she’s little, since I can’t get that back, but it can be tough to do that day-in and day-out, especially with outlets for entertainment away from home (i.e. playgrounds, grandparents, cousins, and so on) currently at a minimum. We are exhausted.

Speaking of Amanda being in the middle of a project, we’ve also started some DIY home improvement work around the house while we wait out the virus. Amanda is the handy person between the two of us, without question. (She just built a small swing set for the kiddo, and I honestly couldn’t figure out how to remove the swing’s chains from their s-hooks the other day.) But, I chip in from time to time. Trying to balance that with my day job and with watching our daughter has been…well, again, tough. Working from home is nice a lot of the time, but not when my job, spouse, and daughter all need me at the same time. Those instances are pretty uncommon, but not impossible.

Simpsons - Le Grille
Me, trying to build ANYTHING.

Lastly, the economical effects of COVID-19 are hitting more and more people close to us, with jobs being eliminated and the sense of dread surrounding possible layoffs and furloughs on the rise. I already worry and feel guilty all the time—this doesn’t make it any easier.

However, in the meantime, all I can do is stay positive and keep myself distracted. I don’t look at a lot of news—I try to check no more than once a day. There’s not a lot I can do to stop rising death tolls and unemployment claims. I’m better off spending my time trying to be productive. I didn’t get much writing done in the past week, and my drawing has slowed, as well, but I am still knocking out two or three a week to stay in practice, which is a lightning pace for me when compared to my output in recent years. Like I mentioned in my previous entry, when my little girl is around, there is just not a lot of time. It’s not a bad thing—it just means being a responsible parent and changing priorities.

I have more things to talk about, but they are long discussions (including one about video games and how they fit into this isolated lifestyle), so I may just leave this entry as-is. It’s kind of a downer, but it fits the previous week. I’d rather be honest with you than try to convince you that everything is fine. On the other hand, it’s also been therapeutic to get this out. 

The good news? It’s Easter evening as I write this. A perfect opportunity for rebirth and to face the next week with renewed enthusiasm and resolve. Also, we made cookies this weekend, and if nothing else can raise my spirits, they can.

Thanks for reading, and have a great week! Hang in there.