What Do You Do All Day?

We’ve all heard the story of the stereotypical stay-at-home mom — you know, the one where her husband comes home to find toys strewn about the house, dinner preparations barely started, the kids still in their pajamas, and a frazzled wife.

And he says to her: What did you do all day?

But what he really means is, Were you talking on the phone and eating bon-bons while I worked all day?

And suddenly she is contemplating all sorts of creative uses for that cast iron frying pan that’s sitting on the stove waiting to be cleaned.

For the record, my husband has never said that to me.  He knows better. But some days I actually wonder, myself.  What do I do all day?

So I began keeping a time sheet.  I wanted to know how many hours I spend actually working.  (By working, I mean blogging and designing blogs and fielding emails and book keeping and photo editing and twittering/facebooking/skyping and just about anything I do here at the computer that pertains to my blogs or DCR Design.)  For almost two weeks, I’ve been keeping track of every minute I spend working and how much time I spend on each task.  It’s been quite eye opening, and if you work from home, I highly recommend it.

I was actually shocked at how few hours in a week I spend truly working.  I guess when you work from home, and your office hours range from five a.m. to midnight, six or seven days a week, it seems like you’re working all the time, even if you’re not.  But add them up, and you may be surprised.

Not so surprising, but equally eye opening is how much time within those work hours I spend fielding emails and skyping — not designing or writing.  Sure, a lot of it is necessary, but I’m trying to pare it down and be more efficient and intentional about the time I spend working.

All this begs the question: If I’m not clocking full-time working ours, what else do I do all day?  Perhaps I should keep a time sheet for how I spend the rest of my time.

Cooking and laundry and shopping and errands probably take up the bulk of it, and who knows how many hours I’ve spent in doctors’ offices over the past few years between the kids and me.  I think I’ll start adding non-working activities to my time sheet and see what I discover.  My guess is I spend more time fooling around than I realize (or want to admit.)  Probably we all do.

What do YOU do all day?

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50 thoughts on “What Do You Do All Day?

  1. My DH would not dare ask me either! But actually right now he is sitting about 6 ft from me working, so I guess he already knows what I am up to.
    There is a Firefox extension called pageaddict that will track all your online activity for you and you can review it daily or weekly to see where you spend your time. VERY eyeopening to say the least.

  2. This is a good idea. I have done it before at work, to see how much I actually get done and that alone was eye opening. But to try it at home would scare me I think…I don’t do enough and I know that already.

    1. I know I do enough; I’m always doing something. It’s just that I thought I worked more hours in a week. I’m kind of glad to know that I don’t. It makes sense, I guess. There’s a lot to do to run a household. But still, I thought I was putting in 30-40 hours a week of work, and it’s more like 20-25.

  3. I work from home as well (but not self-employed) and I set definite working hours. It serves 2 purposes 1. my colleagues know when they can reach me and when I am online 2. it does not take over my whole day. The hours may not be the same everyday but they are set. It also keeps me focused when I am working and I won’t check personal email or facebook. On the days when I am dragging and wanting to play on the computer or read a book, I use a timer. Just like an interval workout, I’ll work on the house or other obligations for 10 mins then play for 10 mins. I get alot done and am often surprised at what I can get done in 10 mins.

    I like the idea of timing your other tasks because they can take a surprisingly long time. It takes 45 mins total to walk and get the kids from the bus, My 30 min run takes an hour and 15 mins because of warming up, stretching, showering and dressing. Those are the things that you should track because you can see where your day goes.

    1. I’ve been told to set definite hours, but I dunno, that just doesn’t seem to work for me. I’m not a very schedule-oriented person, lol.

  4. I just installed the pageaddict thing to firefox. Something tells me I”m NOT gonna like what I see!!

    I too get lost and end up doing, ahem, nothing for a good portion of my “working” time. Ugh.

  5. I think this is an issue for people who work from home or at the office. I work full time in an office and spend most of my day answering emials and phone calls. Much of it is not truly job related. My office seems to have the CC everyone mentality, which means we all waste a great deal of time reading through emails that do not pertain to us. ahh, the moder age!

  6. No need to track it. I spend too much time on the computer and not enough on regular housework. Tallying the time spent changing diapers, feeding kids, refereeing fights, and so on would probably exhaust me. 😉

    1. LOL, I hear ya. I’m not keeping a detailed list of non-work related things. But I’d kind of like a breakdown of kitchen work vs laundry vs errands vs hanging out with friends and shopping. KWIM? I’m just curious.

      I did, however, keep very detailed notes of work time. It’s interesting b/c I realize how much time email takes up (esp with the design work) vs the actual designing and writing. I’m not going to keep it up forever, but for a while I will, just to see if I can get more efficient with my computer time.

  7. I’m not a stay/work at home. I leave home and drive to a place where I sit at a desk. And truth be told, I am at work right now and I am on here leaving you a comment. But since I am sitting at my computer at work, does that mean I’m working? Wait, don’t answer that.

    1. And see, THAT is precisely what I’m wondering. Those who are logging 40 hours a week in an office, how much of that time are they TRULY working. Not to suggest that people are being lazy or irresponsible; it’s just amazing how easily you can get distracted no matter what you’re doing. And of course with some jobs, there isn’t always something to be doing.

  8. I would love to keep a little time sheet of my activities. I’m think I probably spend more time on fruitless activities than I’d like to admit, but who knows? I may be a workaholic, too.

    1. I think I’m a bit of both. I get sidetracked sometimes, but most days, I’m pretty much intensely working when I’m at the computer.

  9. I tried keeping a running log of what I did for my Shaklee business, but I did not keep track of the time. Honestly, with two little ones still at home, it’s hard to keep a running tally of time for discrete tasks. What I have tried to do is keep checklists for the house, plus a loose work plan for my blog and my Shaklee business.

    I also have a schedule for my day outlined in my planner to make sure I do hit all the priorities in my day like writing, doing our finances, and prepping food in the kitchen (a must for a family of seven!). I don’t stick to the schedule especially this week with all the volunteer time, but it helps to remind me of my priorities.

    As another commenter said, some tasks take more time than we think. I may have school pickup at 2:50 to 3 for my three oldest children, but we leave the house at 2:30 to 2:35 which means the two year old has to be up from his nap about 2:25. On the flip side, getting everyone in the car, out of the parking lot and home could take as long as 15 minutes or only ten.

  10. I’m sure I could be more efficient if I tracked everything, but I think I would just burn out that way. I would rather make a list of a few things that I need to do and specify time to do them. I know I need to work on getting more done, but too much planning takes the fun out of it for me(like cleaning out a diaper pail is ever fun!). I work and have a 14 mo old son. In reality I want to be more efficient so I can spend more time enjoying this time since I know it won’t last.

    1. Yeah, it was a fun experiment. I’m not going to do it forever. And I totally agree — enjoy that little guy. He will be 10 and off at school and gallivanting with friends before you know it! TRUST ME. 🙂

  11. I have a crazy tight schedule, and I have to be structured about it so that I can focus on this 15 min. If I try to see the whole day at once, I get overwhelmed and just sit on the couch. Punkin going to school this year was supposed to help, but since there was not an available spot for Little Man, I now have the same overwhelmed schedule with carpool and homework added in. I keep telling myself- just a year, right?

    When I did what you are doing – and then mapped out a “perfect” day where I try to see what is physical possible to accomplish, the amount of time I spend in the car blows me away. For example, our gymnastics place is only 15 min away, but that means it takes me an hour just to take her and pick her up. And that is with no waiting or chatting time factored in.

    And the top culprits for “losing” time and getting off track with my schedule are the computer and the phone. I am working on training myself to only check my emails 5 or 6 times a day instead of 50 or 60 because I can lose a couple of hours reading blogs, following links – even it is only 10 min at time. And I very, very rarely answer the phone while I’m schooling Little Man because i have trouble getting back to it, or when Punkin is home b/c I treasure the few minutes I actually get with her.

    Can’t wait to see where you lose time! Maybe I’ll learn a few tips!!

    1. YES! I’m learning that it’s better NOT to look at the email every time it dings. I am trying harder to focus on each task individually, rather than jumping around from email to writing to designing and back around. I had to, so I could keep an accurate time sheet, and I see how that helps me be more efficient and not get sidetracked with email conversations and skype and facebook and such. Some of that can be considered working, but sometimes it’s just me being lazy and procrastinating b/c I don’t want to face the task at hand.

  12. Wow! I think I’m the only one trying NOT to have a tightly defined schedule. I think we have too much scheduled time in our lives and I’ve worked really hard over the past few years to free up our time so that there is, in fact, time to just be. As far as spending too much time on the computer, moving my computer to the basement cured that. No longer was I walking by and just “stopping for a second to check my emails”. Nope, any time I spend on the computer begins with the very deliberate action of heading to the computer. The first few weeks after I made the move, it was really interesting to note how many times I found myself heading to where the computer had been only to stop myself. It had become a habit rather than something I was deliberately choosing to do.

    1. Erin, I totally agree about having time just to be. I’m actually not a very scheduled person. I have begun taking weekends off from the computer, for the most part. Sometimes I do a bit of writing on Saturday, but for the most part, I stay away from the computer. I’ve been doing more reading on the weekends, and I love that.

  13. I work 8 – 5, M – F. I usually get here between 7:30 and 7:45 and leave at straight up 5:00. Due to the nature of my job I spend a lot of time waiting on other people. When I’m waiting I’m online doing blogging stuff, visiting other blogs, commenting, twitter, blog frog, etc. I guess I’m lucky that I have this “wait” time to do other stuff, but in truth it is very frustrating.

  14. It’s so funny that you ask – I was a substitute yesterday in a kindergarten class and had to take a little boy to the nurse’s office. The nurse asked him if his mom works (so she could call and let her know what was going on) and the little boy said, “Well, my dad’s a doctor so HE works; but my mom just stays in bed and takes naps, I think.” It was all I could do not to laugh out loud. Turns out he has a one year old sister, so I’m POSITIVE that she’s not napping all day!

    As for how I spend my day, I have joined a tennis team so that takes up two mornings per week. The rest of my time is spent subbing at school, driving carpool, grocery shopping and planning meals, laundry, wearing out the dog, keeping in touch with friends/family by email/blog and straightening up the house (not necessarily in that order).

  15. I totally get that. TK dared to ask me that question once since M was born. It was that in addition to why didn’t you get more packing done today? There are so many days in the last few months where I could not tell you what I did all day but I was busy. Much of the day was spent nursing or running A to the potty or making lunch/cleaning lunch or getting one or the other to nap or washing/folding/ironing.

    I did a post last year on what I do in the morning before I arrived at work. I should dig it out and see if it has changed since I am back from maternity leave and now have two. Thanks for the post idea! 🙂

    1. LOL. I didn’t say I wasn’t doing stuff that needed to be done. I was just surprised that I wasn’t at the computer 40+ hours a week.

  16. I kept track of my time awhile back too and was also surprised. I spent a TON of time reading my blogs. Lucky for me, this is a large part of my job, but I still took the time to unsubscribe from many to pare the time down. I was also surprised how much of my time wasn’t spent on actual deliverables. I think this is actually pretty common, and it’s a great exercise to see where you’re spending your time.

    Not sure what tool you used, but you may want to check out toggl.com and chrometa.com – both great for time-tracking!

  17. I totally agree that it would be a fascinating thing to do, whether you are at home or in an office. I do know that since I began blogging regularly, my time has definitely shifted and I probably cook less (or cook ahead less) and write more. But I am a heck of a lot happier doing it.

  18. I have one school aged child so life is pretty much a breeze. I gotta say that when I was home full time from December to May I was *very”* unproductive. Activities that should’ve taken just an hour or so were touted by me as my main accomplishments when my husband walked in the door. “I cleaned the bathroom today!” Umm…yeah, I was home alone x 6 hours!

    I get so much more done when there is some type of structure or schedule.

    1. Yeah, before I started doing computer work, I was that way. Now, I do accomplish a lot in a day, but I don’t really have much of a schedule.

  19. I work from home 2 to 3 days a week and in my business office the other days, and I would say I’m more productive at home. I do editorial work, which is deadline driven, and my habit is to work in short but intense bursts of concentration that leave me mentally whipped when a job is done. At least when I’m at home I can use that mental down-time to start a load of laundry, do some dinner prep, or volunteer a couple of hours at my kids’ schools. I envy people who can stick to a schedule, even when they’re working at home. I don’t have the discipline.

    1. I don’t either. I’m totally undisciplined. The only habitual thing I do is to get up, make my coffee, and sit down at the computer and work until the kids get up. After that, it’s all about getting them to school. From then on out, my day varies depending upon what I have to do. But I like it that way. I’m a go-with-the-flow kinda girl.

  20. My husband loves to tease me about what I do all day. Thankfully he realizes that if I sat around and ate bon-bons all day that he wouldn’t have any clean socks! HA! I keep reminding my heart when it gets overwhelmed that my husband, my kids and my father(who lives with us) are my mission field right now and they are way more important than bon-bons.


  21. Boy! I am almost afraid to see where the time goes. I know that I am running all day, and don’t tend to sit down until after 9 p.m. I’d like to think that I work smarter, not harder, but sometimes I wonder. I have 4 boys, and I can’t even imagine what how I would do what I do if I had to work outside the home.

  22. My hubs actually did ask me that question one time. He was being mean – just asked….what did you do today honey? The next day I wrote down everything I did – at the time I had a 1 month old and a 1 year old (they are 11 months apart!). When he got home I gave him the list. I asked him to take the paper to work the next day and whenever he thought of us, look at the paper and pray for me. My sanity depended on it!!

    I know I spend too much time on my laptop. Sometimes I won’t allow myself to get on it!

  23. I work outside of the home, but I think I’ll try this when I go in to the office tomorrow. As far as being a SAHM or a WAHM, I am in awe of women who are able to do it. During our last staycation, by day 4, I was struggling! It is hard work to keep your toddler occupied all day, while trying to do things around the house…after having been out at the playground for 2 hours already! I was super exhausted after my days off!

    1. I think it’s whatever you get used to. Some days I think I’d do anything to dress up and go to an office and work uninterrupted (not that there aren’t interruptions at the office, I’m sure!) But then other days, I’m really glad I can work in my jammies till noon if I want. 🙂

  24. I already know I don’t do enough actual work LOL This computer is a time-sucker! But I love my online community so I can’t get too mad about it. It is crazy how much you *think* you get done though and then, when you’re looking back over the day, you realize you didn’t do much at all! LOL

  25. I work from home doing medical transcription and up until the last 4 years I felt like I had been very disciplined with staying on task. Enter my daily blog roll/facebook/twitter and now I spend way too much time reading through those!! I, too, used to think that I worked 30-40 hours a week, but I think it’s honestly more like 25-30. I love working at home but I do feel like I “work” all day with actual work and taking of everything at home. I have a deadline to meet every day (all my work has to be turned in by 9 a.m. the next day) so I really do need to be more structured, but I’ve justified reading all the above as if I was reading the morning newspaper for some or those that watch the morning TV shows. The computer (non-work activity) definitely is a time sucker for me! Like right now I need to get back to work!!!!

    1. Hey I used to do Medical Transcription! I remember those days well. I enjoyed it, but then I got out of it and never went back. And that is EXACTLY what I discovered. Thought I was working 40 hours a week and it’s more like 25. Which is good, now when my kids say I work all the time, I can say NO I DO NOT. 🙂

  26. Since the kids are back at school I have tried to make up a rough schedule for my child-free hours – jewellery making, laundry, exercise, grocery shopping, paper work etc – it was amazing how quickly the slots of time filled up.

    Two weeks on and i am “sort-of” sticking to it – and I make myself set the oven timer if I go on the laptop to catch-up on emails and blog reading – limit myself to 15 minutes or else 2 hours could fly by!

    I always used to think I must have had SO MUCH free time before the kids, and what did I do with it all! Now I think I must have had SO MUCH free time before kids and my laptop! Ooops – something not quite right about that!

  27. Hi Jo-Lynne, I’m late on responding to this, as I am behind in my blogging. I always enjoy reading your blog. When at home with my little ones I often asked myself the same thing until one day I saw an acquaintance at the bank who appeared upset. I hardly knew the woman, but said to her, I am going right home to put the kettle on and would love to have you join me for tea. She accepted and shared her tale of an unhappy marriage and upset. I thought, this, Lord, is why I am available. Proverbs 31:20, help the needy. I’m sure the time visiting with friends and shopping is also time that you attend to the needy. If “water fountain” time and lunches at work were added up………btw, don’t you wish you could “punch out” at 5? Keep up the good work :-), you are doing great!

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