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How I’m Spending My Time: Update

Back in September I wrote a short piece about how I was spending my time.  Since it’s about six months later I thought I’d update the graph.

Doug Quattrochi's Personal Time Tracking Data 2014_02_25

These are 40 day moving averages.  When I think about where my financial future lies, I think it’s mostly ArtistBomb and partly MassLandlords.net.  The way I spend my time backs that up.

The period in December where I focused less on ArtistBomb and more on the Worcester Property Owners Association (WPOA) coincides with the end of the restructuring effort at the WPOA.  This put in place a new Board of Directors and a new action team, and roles were changed for most folks.  Now WPOA is moving forward smoothly and the focus there is on MassLandlords.net, which I’ve spiked out separately.

MassLandlords.net has the potential to be a unified source of digital resources for landlords in Massachusetts.  I’m enormously proud of the work done by Stellar Web Studios and the WPOA Board of Directors to help get this project off the ground.

You can see that other projects, like the BagPack for Hands Free Groceries, and even this blog, are getting less attention now.  Partly this is because they’re getting less traction, partly it’s because they’re more clearly “lifestyle” activities.  Yes, I like selling little grocery carrying straps on the side.

ArtistBomb.com and MassLandlords.net have been improved by what I learned with Hands Free Groceries and dougjq.com.  So even if the latter properties aren’t as valuable, it’s not like the time spent there has been wasted.

Last month I commented on an article written by Rob Go that included the idea entrepreneurs should focus on “one company at a time”.  I think about that when this graph gets updated every couple of days.  Would either ArtistBomb or MassLandlords.net go faster if I wasn’t also actively landlording?  Yes.  Would they go faster if I were focusing on one and not both?  Yes.  Well, am I doing the wrong thing by splitting my attention so?

It seems like both businesses – ArtistBomb and MassLandlords.net — have the same kinds of challenges.  In particular, can you reach enough of your customers at a low enough cost to make it worthwhile?  The interesting thing about working both at the same time is that each has a different set of tools available.  So in theory I can work with two different teams trying different tactics.  What I learn at one can be brought to the aid of the other immediately.

From that point of view, I don’t think split focus is really so bad.  Not right now, anyway.

Thoughts?  Leave a comment.


Time Management and GTD During My “Search”

I’d like to share some interesting time management data I’ve collected over the last nine months.  When I first left Terrafugia, in October 2012, I started what my McKinsey friend called “search.”  That’s when your full time job becomes finding your next full time job.  I was busy with “search” the very first day off of work, finding entrepreneurial networking groups, looking into various business ideas, and meeting with all kinds of people about all kinds of topics.

After a time, it became clear that certain projects would earn my regular and ongoing attention.  The graph below shows one series for each such project.  The data begin on January 24, 2013, but they’re smoothed out as 40 day moving averages.  The vertical axis shows “level of effort,” or what percent of my working hours went to a given project.


A short legend:

  • mtl 7” is my rental property.  It’s a steady 10% effort except during vacancies, like in March and April.
  • ArtistBomb” is a bona fide tech startup with real potential; it’s where I put most of my effort now.
  • ghost bear” was the code name given to a project to develop a luxury consumer product.  This was canceled due to what we forecast as shrinking margins and rising development costs.
  • stocks, finances, and accounting” is the time I spend keeping my financial house in order.
  • wpoa” is the Worcester Property Owners Association, a volunteer effort with far-reaching possibilities down the road
  • blog/consult/elance” tracks my time developing this blog, doing ad hoc consulting, and learning how to use elance both as buyer and seller.  They’re grouped because these activities happen under the same entity.
  • the “bagpack” is the BagPack for Hands Free Groceries, a consumer product that was able to get off the ground. (We’re still looking for a real model.)
  • search” includes the wide variety of projects with which I’ve had some contact, including apps for local search, hardware and software for robotic vision, and just over a dozen other concepts pitched to me.  It also includes my networking time before I started representing ArtistBomb exclusively.
  • business of life” is my catch-all for things like “getting new tires” or “getting new cell phone.”  They directly benefit my productivity but can’t be allocated fairly to any project.

I find it interesting to look back and see how my attention has shifted hither and thither.  Some projects require constant nurturing, some develop wings and fly off on their own, some have to be taken around back and shot.  But that’s the risk with any new venture.  Good time management ensures that you’re getting the most out of yourself, even if sometimes you head down blind alleys.

If you’re interested in knowing how I track my time like this, check out my previous article.

What do you think?  Have you pivoted your time away from some things and onto others in the past year?

Where does all your time go?

It’s winter in Boston and it’s dark by 5p.  When it’s night already and you didn’t get much done, you can feel like the day just escaped you.  Here’s a trick to keep a sharper look-out on your time: keep a time log.  All you need is a small, reporter-style notebook and a pen.  Here’s how it works.

Your First Time Log

Just for a couple days, every time you switch from one activity to another, jot down the time and a short description of what you were doing.  Then, when you have a couple of days’ worth of data, look at where you spent your time.


Oftentimes, the simple act of paying attention to what you’re doing is enough to help you use your time more effectively.  But sometimes when you look back over a day’s work, you’ll see surprising things.  When I first tried this, I was amazed at how much time went to helping coworkers figure things out.  I had previously thought of these drop-in tasks as interruptions, but when I realized how much time it took, and how important it was, I started thinking about it as my major job responsibility.

That’s a good example of where time tracking can eliminate a stressful perception about “wasted time” that really isn’t.  It can also shed light on the timesinks.  Email, for instance, is crazy-inefficient compared to high-bandwidth phone calls or face-to-face meetings.  If you find yourself spending a long time in a general bucket, like “email” or “errands,” try to rephrase it in terms of what you’re actually accomplishing.  If the email is related to that new product launch, then that time spent emailing counts as “product launch” time.  If you thought about “product launch” as your goal, would your first action be to check email?

To summarize your activities, you might take a clean sheet of paper and write down in one column “activities,” and then in another column write down “blocks of time.”  You can get very sophisticated with this, and in fact, it’s the essence of cost accounting for professional attorneys and hourly contractors.


A few tips

  • There’s no need to be very precise, just put down times to the nearest quarter hour.
  • Try to make the activity descriptions useful for your review.  For instance, if you split your time among three projects, better to write down “project A” or “project B” rather than, “typing report”
  • If you’re focused just on time management while at work, leave out out-of-work activities.

I’m curious to hear whether you find out anything surprising.  Drop me a note, or leave your comments below!