(Alternate title: A Completely Un-Scientific Study of More Than You Could Possibly Ever Want To Know)

Some of you may have noticed that this page used to be password protected. I wasn't sure if I wanted to post this because frankly, I don't think many people would care except for me and my weird habits of making pie charts on a Saturday night. The more I thought about it though, I realized that I don't particularly mind posting it since it'll be really interesting to look back on 5 years from now when most of what I'm doing online today will seem incredibly archaic. Think of this as making the lives of future anthropologists a tiny bit easier :) -JV

The question “what do you do on the computer all day?” is one that I often hear - either from my mom, my friends, or even myself when I wonder where the hours have gone. I often don’t know how to reply. I know I spend some editing photos or on Flickr. I also IM a lot and read through whatever is sitting in my RSS reader, but what I do specifically is a mystery.

Part of my 101 in 365 is to spend less time on the computer. I’ve definitely been spending less time in front of the screen, but mostly by coincidence. I figured that the best thing I could do to convince myself to pull myself away from it would be to do a sort of audit of my use - to track every single website, app, and tool I use in a given day to see where I’m wasting time and what I could do to make myself more efficient and less prone to mindless clicking. I searched around for a while for a good app that would let me track what I do without being really creepy (oh look, more mindless clicking!) and settled on <a href”http://www.slifelabs.com/”>Slife</a>.

I’ve had it running in the background for 9 days now, but I thought I’d just take 7 of those for “a week in the life.” I’d say this was a pretty typical week for me, so this should be a pretty good snapshot. All of these percentages are over an observed time of roughly 58.34 hours (which means that I spend about 37% of my week in front of the computer).

An Average Week

What I Do In A Given Week

Nothing too out of the ordinary here, though I was quite happy to see that I only spend 37% of my week in front of the (or I should say my) computer. That’s not nearly as bad as I had been anticipating! The fact that I’m only spending 10% of my week doing Sun things now is quite a relief. Last semester that would have been closer to 25-40% depending on the given week.

My Computer Use In a Single Week

App Use In One Week

The Culprits

The obvious offenders here are pretty standard considering my interests. I spend a good amount of my time in Bridge and Photoshop (both CS3) and IMing, of course. The ones that threw me off, though were Twitter and DVD. I didn’t think I spent all that much time looking at Twitterific but I guess I do! I also watched 3 DVDs this week, so that shot the DVD count up. I’d say an average week would be 1.5 DVDs with movies that are significantly shorter than The Grapes of Wrath. The “others” category is comprised mostly of Evernote, Skitch, Transmit, iCal, Pages, Keynote, and a few other very infrequent ones.

The Biggest Time Sink of Them All

Safari. For the purposes of this list I’m combining my use of Firefox and Safari. The only reason I used Firefox at all was because of the annoying 500 error Gmail was throwing last week. Slife says I spent a total of 29 hours, 52 minutes, and 39 seconds in a web browser. It doesn’t take into account the time I spend watching online view at hulu, abc.com, netflix, etc., which I would estimate as another 5 hours/week. This means that I spend almost 60% of my online time and 22% of my entire week staring at a web browser. That makes me feel really sorry for myself, actually!

Web Habits

Web Use In One Week

Since most of my time is spent in-browser, I thought I’d break that down too. Though I think the blogging number is a bit inflated compared to my regular blogging habits (though the time spent putting this post together would actually increase that number by a lot (and yes, I see the irony in this)), the rest is pretty much what I was expecting. I’m still not sure whether I think Netflix should have been counted in this category since I really just stuck it on full screen and stepped away from the computer, but since it does involve being in-browser and at least in the vicinity of my computer (same for online TV), I don’t think it’s completely out of place. A better breakdown:

Flickr

I consume more Flickr pages than anything else. My rough estimates put it at 608 pages (and this was a slow Flickr week for me) for an estimated 5 hours and 25 minutes this week. I spend an average of 4 seconds on a Flickr photo page page (I make quick decisions about what I like and what I don’t), and 30 seconds - 3 minutes on pages with videos. I also spend an average of 2 minutes in a discussion forum page. I spent a total of 13 minutes this week looking at my contact’s page, but I tend to go from the homepage directly. I spent 31 minutes in Organizr. Not too shabby. I wouldn’t mind spending more time here and less time at facebook or in the everything else category.

Video Things

Since I’m working on the AFI Top 100 Movies list and a good number of those are available on Netflix Instant View, I watch at least one movie/week that way. The Online TV portion is shows such as Gossip Girl, One Tree Hill, The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother, and whatever else I missed when it was actually on TV.

RSS

This one is a little tough. The number here represents the time I spent in Google Reader itself. I couldn’t figure out a way to parse all of the individual pages that I visited from clicks in the reader. I tend to do most of my RSS reading in Google Reader, save for things that are in the delicious popular feed or a few others that I prefer to see on the actual site. I would estimate that at least 5% of the Everything Else category could be dedicated to things that I was referred to via RSS.

Everything Else

The Everything Else category is the one that I need to curb a lot. This is the mindless clicking portion. While some of it is made up of Google searches, some random web design things that I was looking into as a redesigned jennvargas.com, and the 20 minutes I spent withdrawing invites from when LinkedIn hijacked my address book, for the most part the pages that fall into this category are ones that I could really do without.

So What's the Point?

Well the point is I need to peel myself away from my beloved MacBook Pro. I’m going to keep Slife running in the background for another 3 weeks and revisit the data on March 1. The goals are to:

  1. reduce the time I spend in front of the computer in a given week to somewhere under 30%. This means I need to reduce the number of hours I spend on the computer each day by 1.6 hours. 7 hours/day is still a lot, but it's cold out and there's not much else to do. It's a good place to start.
  2. of the less than 30% I spend at the computer, the time lost in "everything else" should be cut down...let's say to 40% (hey...baby steps!) which means that I need to cut back my mindless browsing from 4.26 hours/day to 2.88 hours/day. Wow, 4 hours/day is actually a lot of mindless browsing. Definitely something to work on.
  3. I'm only getting slightly less sleep than I should. 8 hours/night would be the equivalent of 33% of a week. That sounds like a good number. Hopefully I can distribute it more uniformly, too. 4 hours one night and 12 another isn't exactly ideal!

That’s not a bad start. It was definitely a great exercise to see where I’m spending all of my time because there’s nothing worse than getting to Friday and having no idea what you accomplished over the course of the week. Hopefully seeing all of these bad habits spelled out right in front of me (in pretty graphs, of course) will help me kick my butt into gear and actually start spending more time offline.