Making Time Tracking “Buckets” That Work for You

Hyper-Tracking isn't always a good thing...

Under-tracking isn't either, so how do we find the right balance?

There's no one-size-fits-all for how we spend our time; nor should there be.

In my previous article, How to Track Every Moment of Your Life (and Why), I wrote extensively about:

  • why it's important to track our time,
  • how to decide what our time is worth
  • how to weed through the types of tasks worth spending time on, and
  • available technology

I also touched upon my personal metrics and what a "post-tracking" analysis could look like.

Listeners of The Make it Snappy Productivity Show asked me to shed some light on which buckets I use to carry my time, and hence, served as a catalyst for this blog article

Keep in mind (disclaimer) that what works for me, may not work for you! 

In fact, we had a discussion on my Blab broadcast to cover the "bucket basics" as well.

My Time Tracking Buckets

My "time-tracking" buckets and sub-buckets are outlined below.  The app I use, ATimeLogger 2, allows for parent (buckets) and child (sub-bucket) relationships, which is a great feature.

I like evaluating my "buckets" because it provides a nice 30,000-ft perspective of how I'm balancing life.  Nevertheless, the devil's in the details, and the "sub-buckets" are where the real work gets done.

Note that I’ve included my ATimeLogger 2 icons for each task, some of which I took the time to customize, a pretty cool feature the app provides as well:


Bucket #1: Health & Wellness

The most important, yet underrated bucket I tend to neglect the most is Health & Wellness, especially on the sleep front.  The following sub-buckets comprise how I spend my Health & Wellness time:



The more I sleep, the better I feel, the more productive I live.

Tracking sleep is probably the most important task I can keep tabs on.



My morning ritual consists of:

  • Prayer/meditation
  • Journaling
  • Personal development

As a “flex” morning ritual task, I try to workout four days per week.  I found it valuable to track workout time separately, but not so much for the above bullets.  

When I hit my morning ritual consistently each week, i.e., the numbers come it at/around five hours per week, my end results are usually better and my productivity on point.



Ahh, yes, the lovely weekly review, made famous by David Allen's Getting Things Done.  

I also include monthly, quarterly and annual review time, but the lion's share of reviews for me are daily and weekly.  The more I review, the more productive I am. Tracking the time I put into this sub-bucket keeps me in check.


Workout, Shower & Dress

I lump these three activities together because shower & dress are driven by my workout.  If I get dressed without working out, I typically lump that into my “Morning Ritual” category.

The more time I spend exercising, the better I feel and I want to make sure I’m meeting my fitness goals over time.



The more I read, the more I grow.  I have a personal goal of reading at least 12 books this year.  

Tracking my reading time allows me to determine how many hours it takes me to achieve my reading goals, and re-calibrate if necessary.



I track breaks to determine if there is a correlation between the number of breaks I take and my productivity. 

Research has shown that this is indeed, the case, but I want to experience it for myself.



Productivity with purpose!  Church activities fill me up, and I like to know how they interact with my success in business and my family dynamics.



My evening ritual consists of:

  • Shower and PJs
  • Journaling
  • Evening reading

I’m much more scattered and inconsistent with my evening rituals, but if I’m participating in them regularly, they start at 9:15PM and help me sleep better and longer.

Bucket #2: Family

In order for me to walk the talk, family needs to be first.  I didn't take the time to go through all of the ones pictured above, but here are a few of my ever-important sub-buckets that comprise my Family time bucket:


1-on-1 Time (spouse)

Am I investing in my marriage?  Are we having “date nights?”  If not, it will show up and Nazach and I can talk about why we’re not able to make this happen and whether it’s adversely affecting our relationship.


1-on-1 Time (Kids)

When I talk about productivity with purpose, this is category is the cat’s meow.  I’m doing all this so I can spend more quality time with my boys.  

For me, 1-on-1 time is quality time, no questions asked.  If it’s just me with with my two boys, I lump it into this category as well.  

I’m pretty good at gauging whether my time is split evenly between both of my sons, so I don’t currently track 1-on-1 time with each, separately.



I track the quality time all five of us spend together (yes, five! Nico Emmanuel was born on April 7th - click here for our official announcement).  

Whether it’s going to Chuck-E-Cheese (hate that place), hanging out at the park, or even watching a movie together, we consider this family time.  Family movie time for us is different than Nazach and I vegging out and watching Netflix or The Kardashians (not that I do this or anything 😃 )

Bucket #3: Business

Admittedly, I spend most of my time tracking my business activities.  In terms of process improvement and opportunities to improve productivity, I look no further than Bucket #3.  My sub-buckets are extensive, but all serve a purpose and allow me to make strategic decisions. 


Retainer Client

My largest client has me on retainer.  Although I don’t report hours to this client, I like to track how much time I spend doing work for them and how productive I am at achieving our agreed upon deliverables.



This is a big one and the fuel I use to justify my time-tracking efforts.

When I first started my podcast, The Make it Snappy Productivity Show, I was spending over eight hours per week (all in).  

Tracking my podcast time allows me to easily track the value of my outsourcing strategy.  I have outsourced podcast editing, show notes and scheduling.


Office - Processing

I have some administrative tasks I have not yet eliminated from my life.  It’s important to tabulate how much time I spend on admin over time.



Blogging takes time and my return on investment isn’t always clear. I’ve almost given up blogging several times because it’s a marathon game, not a sprint, and low engagement can be frustrating. 

However, the fact that I’m dedicating each month to a new productivity-based topic is making content creation easier, and further, since I’m now re-purposing this blog content for my podcast and Blab, I have more incentive than I previously had to keep this going. 

As such, tracking my time writing is critical because it’s a high commitment that I’ll be able to measure through reader, podcast and Blab engagement.


Serving Clients

This is the most important task I can track, and the one most directly relates to the success of my productivity coaching business.

Most people would classify the types of activities I do in this category as “Business Development.” I like to call it Serving Clients, because it reminds me of what my job REALLY is, and why I do what I do.  If I’m “developing business,” the focus is on me, and my results.

If I’m serving clients or potential clients, the focus shifts to them and their needs.  I believe wholeheartedly that I’ll “develop” much more business if I continue to focus on their needs, instead of my own.

If you want to setup a powerful coaching conversation with me, I'll waive my fee and give you up to two hours of my time.  Availability is first-come first-serve.  Please click here to set up a call today.



I spend some time promoting of my content (this blog, my podcast, my Blab broadcast etc.) outside of social media.  This includes any commercial email content and videos I create for my audience.



This category is dedicated to my “live” time with paid coaching clients.  I have goals for how  much coaching I do each week and this is the easiest way to track whether I’m meeting my goals, both in serving clients and financially.


Coaching (Pre & Post)

I added this category recently because I wanted to have a better idea of the amount of time I’m spending preparing for clients sessions outside of our in-person conversations.  

I need to understand whether my rates are appropriate and whether my current model is sustainable.  I’m constantly adjusting the value I provide and the cost of my coaching programs so this category is key in making these types of strategic decisions.



If I’m speaking at an event, I spend a ton of time preparing content and rehearsing and knowing how much time I spend in preparation and in practice helps me be more strategic about whether I agree to speak at an event.



All businesses should spend a reasonable amount of time outlining processes, evaluating metrics (like the time I track each week) and just overall thinking, or working on our business, not just in it.



There was a time when I was spending A LOT of time on a daily Periscope broadcast.  

Engagement wasn’t growing, but my frustration was!  Tracking my time on Periscope prompted my decision to cut the daily broadcast and only get on Periscope when the spirit moves me, which is what I'm doing now.


Facebook & Twitter

It was, and still is, hard for me to determine the ROI for the time I spend on Facebook and Twitter to bring my message to my audience.  

In the future, I’m going to separate out these two platforms, as I’ll be concentrating more on Twitter.



Blab is the social media platform I’m most excited about these days, but it can be time consuming.  For this reason I track it consistently.



I’ve been a little skeptical about the value LinkedIn brings to my business.  

Consequently, for the time being, I’ve decided to only dedicate a minimal amount of time to producing a weekly “article.” If I spend more than 20-minutes on this article, I feel like I’m wasting time. 


With all the other social media platforms I’m active on, LinkedIn is my lowest priority right now.  As such, I want to make sure my hypothesis is accurate and I’m only dedicating the amount of time I carve out each week…I tend to get carried away when I write articles so tracking LinkedIn time is valuable to me!


Product Development

This category is critical for me right now because I’m in the process of developing an exciting new digital product!  

I want to understand how long it takes me to produce this product so I can better estimate and strategize for future products costing and launch dates.

Bucket #4:  Home

The "Home" bucket is everything I do to help maintain our household.  It's one of the easiest buckets to outsource if necessary; from yardwork, to grocery delivery services, to having someone from Task Rabbit run errands for you, this bucket can provide some serious justification for lightening your load at home.



Plain and simple - should we hire a maid?  Crunching the numbers will validate our investment!



This category, similar to my reasoning for tracking “meal” time, is to determine whether I’m spending excessive amounts of time running around town doing errands and whether there are opportunities to batch, or at least be more deliberate about errand time.



DIY projects seem to plague my weekend time lately, and unless the kids are involved it’s not necessarily quality time.  

I like to know how much time I’m spending sanding down the kid’s play set, for example, and whether I should be hiring people to do these things!

Buckets WITHOUT Sub-Buckets:

There are a few buckets out there that are unique enough that I track my time spent in these areas separately, and aren't rolled up into a larger bucket.  Among my "childless" buckets are:


Meals: prep, eat & Cleanup

I track how much time I spend preparing and eating meals.  If my prep time is excessive, it provides justification for an investment.

We could take advantage of a grocery delivery service, or subscribe to an online meal prep subscription (Prep Dish, for example) to ease the time burden.



I track my travel time to see how much time I’m spending in the car week to week and tag a cost to my travel time on a given week.  

This helps me understand how well I’m batching in-person meetings and kid’s activities.



This should go without explanation, right?  It’s a great gut-check when I think I don’t have enough time in the day.



How much time do I just spend “playing around” on non-work tasks over the Internet?  This falls along the same lines as TV/Movies for me.

Making Time Tracking “Buckets” That Work for You

The categories I’ve outlined above all contribute to strategic decisions I can make with how I spend my time. 

Whether I’m checking email, or processing paperwork isn’t important to me right now, so I don’t track these things separately, rather I’ve chosen to lump them into my “Office -Processing” bucket.  

However, if email was a pain point for me (which it has been in the past) I would absolutely track how much time I spend in my inbox.

The type and number of categories you use for your own personal time tracking depends on how you want to spend your time and what you’ll do with the data.  Tracking for the sake of tracking is meaningless. 

I’ll say it just one more time, in case you haven’t heard me say it in the past…

There’s no reason to be productive if there’s no purpose behind it.

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