Last week I shared one of my favorite productivity hacks: tracking your time. This simple act helps keep me on task during the day, plus gives me some cool insight on where my hours actually go.
It all goes back to Peter Drucker: “What gets measured gets managed”, right?
My Results – How I Spent My Time
OK, so the advantage of using a specialized time tracking app — and NOT Excel — is many will give you cool summary data and sexy graphic reports.
But me being old fashioned had to do it the old school way. So chalk up a couple extra “content creation” hours to organizing and analyzing my spreadsheet.
The data I’m using runs from Monday, July 20th through Friday, September 4th. I took 3 trips during that time — Fort Worth for Podcast Movement, Seattle, and Chicago. They were mostly weekend trips but did cut into some of my standard “work time.”
For instance, I was only in the office 4 out of 7 Fridays, and those days tended to be pretty light.
Other than that, it was pretty much business as usual.
Average Start Time (Monday – Friday, at home): 7:24am
When you’ve got no commute, might as well get an early start.
A Miracle Morning practitioner I am not. My most common first entry of the day? Email.
Average End Time (Monday – Friday, at home): 7:57pm
This number is a little misleading, because I’m never working straight through until 8pm. Usually I’ll call it a day sometime between 4pm and 6pm, take the dog out, clean up, help with dinner, etc.
Then I’ll jump back on later in the evening to clean up my inbox, do some writing, social media, or whatever other projects are pressing. When Bryn’s out of town for work travel, I’ll work much later, like until 10:30pm or 11:30pm. But generally I’m not much of a night owl.
Average Hours Worked (Monday – Friday, at home): 8:06
I only counted days I considered real “work days” — not work I did while traveling.
Average Hours Worked (Saturday and Sunday): 2:39
Ahh yes, the life of a self-employed hustler means I do usually do some work on the weekends. Especially when Bryn’s off shooting a wedding, it’s like bonus hustle time.
Often the weekends are reserved for one-off projects and client work.
Total Time Spent on Email: 35 hours, 10 minutes
Average Time Spent on Email (Monday – Friday, at home): 1:08
Of my 8 hours a day, a little over 1 hour of that is fully spent in my inbox. One of the best side effects of this time tracking experiment was limiting my inbox time. I have 10-year habit of leaving the Gmail browser tab open all day; it’s a hard one to break! But this definitely helped limit me to 4-5 batch processing sessions each day.
Of course this doesn’t count the email processing I do on my phone or on the weekend, but that’s another story.
Where Do My Hours Go?
I removed the email and general admin time (less than 4 hours over the 6 weeks; included cleaning up my hard drive, accounting, and dealing with a potential identity theft issue), and came up with this breakdown.
Note: This chart also doesn’t show 25 minutes that were dedicated to Udemy and 10 minutes that were dedicated to Prosper. Removing them cleaned up some clutter, and hey, cheers for mostly passive income!
Marketing and Content Creation
A big chunk of my time went to Side Hustle Nation marketing and content creation. This includes:
- Scheduling, preparing for, recording, editing, and publishing the podcast. (This was the biggest chunk at 36 hours.)
- Creating and editing blog content.
- Social media, including posting content to Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, and interacting in the SH Nation Facebook group.
- Preparing for speaking gigs (Podcast Movement and FinCon, in this case).
- Syndicating content to LinkedIn and SlideShare.
- Writing my weekly newsletter.
One depressing stat: I spent nearly 5 hours in AWeber filling in subscribers’ names. Many of my old form fields only included an email box, but not one for a first name. But since my emails use personalization, I figured this is important to find and fill in.
Worse, the time I spent is in addition to the time my VA spends doing this!
Simple fix: Go in and update the old forms to request a first name. The raw number of opt-ins will probably decrease, but theoretically the quality of subscribers should increase and it will save a ton of time.
Networking and Masterminding
Another 9% of my time went to networking and masterminding related to Side Hustle Nation. This includes tasks like:
- Conference follow-ups.
- Planning meetups like my recent one in Chicago.
- One-off catch-up calls with colleagues.
It also includes my practice of sending personal welcome messages to those who complete my thank you page survey. The goal of this is to start conversations one-on-one instead of just one-to-many, and build stronger relationships with new subscribers.
The people who write back seem genuinely impressed I took the time to message them, but most don’t respond at all. The last 200 messages I sent had a 25% response rate. It’s disappointing to actually dig in and see that number, but that’s still 50 people I got to connect with.
It costs about an hour a week, and I have my VA spending time compiling all the info I need to make the process faster. Worth it? Hard to say.
A couple one-off projects took up a bunch of time during this period, and those were redesigning one of my affiliate sites (hadn’t been updated since 2012!), and working on a program for SHN called Plan, Launch & Hustle.
The Amazon FBA business time was mostly shopping and packaging time. I try and tack on scouting trips to other errands while I’m out and about.
On Fiverr, since most of my active gigs are pre-made files right now, the large majority of the time spent was on creating new gigs. Sadly, the one I spent the most time on (6+ hours) has made only 1 sale so far! That’s a fat $0.67 per hour — the price of chasing passive income.
Dollars for Hours
The Side Hustle Coaching, Freelancing, Inner Circle Mastermind, and Clarity time are all straight “active income” plays; hours for dollars. I really enjoy all of these tasks so I don’t mind. Several people have asked when I’m going to raise my rates, so probably sometime soon.
One tradeoff I’m looking at is my practice of taking free 15-minute calls with new email subscribers. At the end of my giveaway ebook (The 5 Fastest Ways to Earn More Money), and in one of the early welcome sequence messages, there’s an invite to set up a free call with me.
While these calls are great (and very few people actually take me up on the offer), they usually go longer than the 15 minutes and sometimes take me off other projects in the middle of the day. A fun thing to do from an engagement standpoint but with obvious productivity tradeoffs.
One workaround would be to set up a dedicated time in ScheduleOnce every week for these meetings.
Active vs. Passive Income
The other thing I was curious to look at was whether my time was spent in active or passive income activities.
Like I mentioned, active income activities include:
- Mastermind hosting
- Side hustle coaching and consulting
- Clarity calls
Passive income activities include:
- Building assets (books, courses, websites, etc. — even Fiverr flops)
- Creating content
- Prosper investing (the 10 minutes I spent were playing around with my Lending Robot filters)
- FBA shopping
I also included my networking and marketing activities in this category, even though some of the results of those efforts will lead to active income as well.
So how’d I do?
The title is a little misleading. It should say I spent 5x more time on passive income activities. Which still has a hint of irony about it, if just in name alone.
Consider this: the person who can afford to spend 100% of their work time on passive income activities must either have enough in savings to live off of or enough passive income already coming in that they don’t need to concern themselves with active income work.
I don’t think I’m there yet, but I will say this: August was my best month in years, and the majority of the earnings were from passive income “seeds” planted long before August rolled around.
A couple examples:
- Kindle book sales. I didn’t write or publish any books during this experiment, but still earned author royalties.
- My Udemy course. I recorded and marketed the course in November of last year, and it’s still earning enrollments.
- Affiliate sales. I wrote a post last year on my (not so awesome) experience with WP Engine. Last month someone signed up for their service through my link.
Naturally, it’s my hope that the “passive income” hours spent during these 6 weeks materialize into actual dollars and cents down the road. I’m confident some of the effort will, and some of it won’t; such seems to be the nature of the game.
I’m excited to hear about your results from this experiment.
Did you find yourself being more focused and productive? Did you identify some tasks to eliminate or outsource?
Let me know in the comments below.