Sign and clock for Time Deli and Catering in San Jose, California

Image cc license from Flickr user Thomas Hawk: http://farm5.staticflickr.com/4011/4440874971_5fce369d98_b.jpg

Time is running out. Time keeps flowing like a river. It’s just a question of time.  A query of iTunes reports that I have 42 songs with the word “time” in the title.  I have it on good authority that it would be possible to write a few lines of code to figure out how many times the word “time” appears in lyrics from the 18.6 days of music and audiobooks in my iTunes,  given the appropriate skill set, files of all the song lyrics, and enough time.

However, time being limited and deadlines looming, this experiment remains hypothetical because I simply don’t have the time to spend on it. Earlier this year, I bookmarked and clipped articles on time from Grad Hacker (February’s “Setting time boundaries”) and Hack Library School (“It’s OK to not have time,” also from February), thinking I would read them as soon as I had time. Fast-forward four months and here I am, finally reading posts on time, trying to find some solution to my situation of feeling over-extended, overwhelmed with work, and wondering how much more I could get done or how much better I’d be faring if I only had more time.

As previously discussed on this blog, I keep statistics for our library, in an effort to quantify what we accomplish and what we produce. X number of publications catalogued, y number of reference queries of z duration. However, I could not use this same tool to effectively estimate how much time I spent on a given subject or activity. Following a recommendation, I created an account with Toggl.com and started using the Toggl app for iPhone to try to answer a very important question: where does the time go?

Toggl allows me to track how much time I spend on types of activities; using the app’s Project field, I can group together similar activities — for example, the project “Periodicals” encompasses such activities as subscriptions renewals, check-in of periodicals, follow-up on missing issues, etc. The tagging feature also allows me to indicate if an instance of an activity relates to a particular client.  This is useful, for instance, when tracking how much time I spend on finding an article for a single client; checking our resources and the Internet, then making a request through inter-library loan encompasses two different activity areas for the same request.

A month and a half into this experiment, I am fairly pleased with the Toggl system. I like the reporting feature, which gives details on how many hours, minutes and seconds were spent on different projects. Particularly, I love the  pie charts and bar graphs, which help me visualize the allocation of my time.

I still need to work out how to quickly shift from task to task in the app. A webpage or a PDF is loading and I will take this chance to check my e-mail, but I lose time from one task or the other as I try to stop the current timer, then open and label a new timer. Also, it remains a bit awkward to try to change tasks on the fly — if I’m cataloguing when someone comes in and suddenly I must shift gears to reference services to help locate a book or resource, I’d rather not interrupt this by fiddling on my iPhone to change and resume tasks in short order.

While I may not be substantially closer to figuring out how to master my time and maximize on what little I have, I feel less overwhelmed with this additional time management tool at my fingertips.


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