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I logged my activities at 15-minute intervals for the whole year (samplesize.one)
690 points by HuangYuSan on Jan 3, 2021 | hide | past | favorite | 308 comments



I am always baffled how sad this extreme focus into productivity makes me.

If you discovered you were going to die in a year, would you continue to spend all your time being "productive"? I figure almost everyone would shift all their focus on doing things that "really matter".

Sadly I believe the world managed to make us feel guilty when we're not doing something that makes someone else rich (majority of jobs).

I'm a pessimist so I'd probably get very sad at some real data telling me how many hours I have wasted making someone else money.


Unlike many folks here, I agree with you (in that a lot of focus on productivity makes me sad).

For a point of contrast, though, every now & then I'll log my activities for a week -- just a week -- as a way of auditing my commitments. Am I spending a lot of time on things I don't value? Am I enjoying what I'm doing?

At this stage in my career/life, I actually want to put a limit on my employed hours. Side projects, family life, exercise, hedonism are the things I want to balance with that paid work -- I've done the burnout thing and am simply not interested in doing it again. These semi-regular audits are in some sense reassuring, in fact, and allow me to appreciate all the possibilities I have. "Ah, if I shift this to there, I can do this cool thing. Ah, I do spend five hours per week on leisurely and delicious morning meals. Life is decent!" And sometimes they find tasks or commitments I realize I want to eliminate, or point out that if I simply took ten minutes on Thursday to talk through with my spouse what I want to do on Saturday, then we'd have tickets to the museum/ingredients to make a roast duck/whatever -- the things I want to be doing on a weekend.


I really like the idea of intermittently logging a week, thank you for sharing. Your example of taking a short time to plan ahead with your spouse is a perfect motivation for me to try this, as it's an area I could really improve


I have to suggest two books here:

- If You're So Smart, Why Aren't You Happy?

- The Right Life: Human Individuality and Its Role in Our Development, Health and Happiness

Both books are focused on reshaping our effort and expliciting our real needs to make us happier.


From TFA:

> I knew I was spending quite a lot of it on social media, but I wasn't sure how much exactly. I also knew I was working quite a lot and wanted to quantify exactly how much (spoiler alert: not that much). I hoped that keeping track of what I do would help me to identify chunks of time that were being wasted and to turn them into quality time.

Tracking time doesn't inherently have to be to optimize for "making someone else rich"; she specifically did this with the goal of spending more time on things that "really matter".


I'll raise my head above the parapet and admit that I don't get it. How about just scheduling things? If you want to spend more time on things that matter, just pick a date and time, and get going.

That said, perhaps the alluring part was gathering data on one's self.


Because Akrasia. I currently am supposed to be doing other things but I am spending it on HN.


akrasia akrasia /əˈkreɪzɪə , əˈkrasɪə / (also acrasia) ▸ noun [mass noun] mainly Philosophy the state of mind in which someone acts against their better judgement through weakness of will. – ORIGIN early 19th century : from Greek, from a- ‘without’ + kratos ‘power, strength’. The term is used especially with reference to Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics.


So basically procrastination. Not exactly the same, but the same sentiment.


Procrastination would be one such behaviour, certainly. An example of a non-procrastinating behaviour that is an example of akrasia is poor diet adherence: I know that I will be healthier not eating this pint of ice-cream, but I do so nonetheless.


How about scheduling consistent time for work and then at the end of the day, logging whether the work session was 100% focus on the task or if there was any distraction.

Then you can see how many days in the month were focused, how much were distracted and if you care about it enough, you could set a goal that 95% of the sessions in a month should be distraction-free and keep working towards that.


'renewiltord mentioned Akrasia. That's one big thing.

Another thing is that you may not have enough time to fit the things you want with your schedule - and you first need to optimize your things in your life. That may involve optimizing your productivity at work, to free up time or energy for your own things. That also will involve taking a look at what you do around and after work. All of us live at least partially on autopilot, so bad habits tend to sneak up and stay unnoticed. You need to shine a light every now and then to identify and eradicate them - and then that's more time and/or energy freed up for doing the things that matter to you.

Perhaps a less contentious way of saying "focus on productivity" is to say "making the wisest use of the 24 hours one has in a day".


Hi, I agree with your view. And over a couple of years of (failed) scheduling/optimizing techniques, I learned a thing or two that I would like to share. The approach OP used in her article is undoubtedly, a great way of looking at your footprints. I used to do a similar (revising over time) thing, but looking back on how much time i "wasted" and how little i was "productive", was not worth the effort. Over time, I've changed and perfected (well, kind of) this approach to a new way.

The New Way* I divide my day in 3 sections. The first one, Morning Drill, from a set wakeup time (it really helps) until breakfast. I comprises things like regular morning routine, say exercise, freshening up, etc. It give me a good start into the day. I prefer not to do anything "productive/work-related" in the morning. Next, I take up my todo list for the day (i manage is using Todoist), understand my priorities and think of a general direction of the day, is it going to be a work-day or a fun-day?. I'm strict about my list, but not so much that I would not talk to anyone till i'm finished. I like to play it cool. The third section, i've finished all i had planned today, so i can do anything i want, read a book, go out with friends, and other cool stuff. This kind of summarises a day.

> All of us live at least partially on autopilot, so bad habits tend to sneak up and stay unnoticed. I love keeping notes, and reading old notes and revising your day, really helps for such a thing.

Results of new approach: When I go to bed, I sleep sound realizing the day wasn't a complete mess as opposed to drooling over "I've not been productive enough".

All in all, this was a wonderful article with beautiful insights and a magnificent approach of data science in daily life.

Conclusion: "The more you focus on productivity, the less you make it."

PS. I have been following *this approach for over 5 months now, and I've never been better.


Thank you for sharing this anecdote, it neatly fits in with a revelation that has been slowly unfolding in me over the last 6 months, graduating from my burnout stage of youth into a mores sustainable and enjoyable way of being and working.

Do your 3 sections have time limits? As in, the morning section is confined to 2/3 hours, the second section 8 hours and X hours for the 'freestyle' final section?


Hi, First of all, thank you for taking interest! > Do your 3 sections have time limits? No, as this would be against the fundamental idea of my approach. Usually, the first section (or "the morning drill", as i call it) lasts till breakfast. After usual morning stuff, if i have time left, i browse social media, tunein to a ted talk, check mails. After Breakfast, second section goes as long as there are tasks left to be done. It may be just a couple of hours, or the whole day. Then there is section three, which is nothing much to plan about. Before going to bed, I prefer writing a log/diary and setting up tasks for the next day.


Thanks for getting back to me and clarifying that point - I had assumed as much, but just wanted to make sure.

I recently watched a video[1] by a fellow called Lex Fridman, an AI researched, and a productivity power-house. A commenter on that video aptly pointed out that Lex comes from a lineage of hyper-productive and scholarly folks, and thus his rigid schedule of 10+ hours of productivity is not necessarily attainable for the rest of us mortals.

I think I have been trapped in a disillusion for a long time that:

A) I should aspire to perform 8+ solid focused hours of work per day, otherwise I am failing.

B) Most people achieve a solid 8+ solid focused hours of work per day.

In reality, due to some recent research and your initial comment in this thread, it has become clear to me that this is simply not the case. The reality is that it's much more of a 'different strokes for different stokes' scenario, and I think I'm gravitating towards the more 'structured unstructured' way of setting up my days, with less of a focus on expected output and more of freedom to enjoy the work and process without the paralyzing pressure of expectations.

I also think I'm nearing the 'final stages of productivity enlightenment', in which one realizes that the constant research and obsession with productivity (productivity porn?) is also a distraction, and that at some point you have to block it out and focus entirely on applying instead of finding the next kernel of truth.

On that note — back to work!

[1] "A day in my life | Lex Fridman" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0m3hGZvD-0s


Not everyone is able to stick to a schedule. This can be for internal reasons such as akrasia as the sibling comment mentions or for external reasons due to being in chaotic environment and not being able to change that.


Productivity is a scam. Jeff Bezos doesn't double his own productivity; he doubles Amazon's.


There are other productive activities besides those that increase your wealth. For example, if I'm trying to learn an instrument, then I would consider practicing to be a productive activity. In this sense productivity is not a scam at all; it's a necessity to live a good life.

Speaking purely in terms of money: yes, doubling the productivity of those working for you is better than doubling your own productivity. But many of us don't have that option. If you are a normal employee, increasing your productivity is one of the few ways to increase your earnings.


But, to that point, why not just ask Alexa or Siri. I’m certain they have increments at a finer granularity of time than every 15 minutes.


But I never said tracking time inherently does that. I agree with you. It's a great way to put things in perspective.

It's just my personal experience that the majority of time we label as "productive" is in fact productivity for the sake of someone else profiting on top of it. I have nothing against the OP or the article.


Most people work for someone else, the productivity is a for a paycheck. But secondarily you are also learning skills which can either propel you up a career ladder or give you the basics to start your own business. Sour grapes over how much profit shareholders are getting does not serve ones own interests—either start your own business or maximize your own salary/billable rate in the labor marketplace, but don’t cut off your nose to spite your face by focusing on how much profit-sharing you are not getting in one particular situation.


Sometimes it's just more pleasant to focus on the work, even if it's boring and we are doing it for someone else. We have to spend the time anyway, we could spend it by being alert, or distracted and drifting off. Being alert feels good and there is some satisfaction from the work being done. Being distracted is mentally draining. Also, it's not only the stake holder that is profiting from the work, it's society as a whole - we all depend on this work.


> he specifically did this

You got the wrong pronoun. "One gal's quest to optimise her life" is the blog's subtitle.


Ah thanks! My bad. Corrected.


Are we even allowed to assume 'gal's 'use she/her pronouns' though?

More seriously, I never had a problem using 'they' for gender unknown, indeed it was normal and what I was taught in school, and then it suddenly seemed to be he vs. her with 'they' as some weird third thing even fewer people 'identify' as. For centuries we've happily referred to an unspecified person 'with they/them pronouns'.


It seems like its still safe to refer to someone of gender unknown as "they/them". It actually normalises the use of those pronouns which makes it simpler for people iddntifying as non-binary too.


I don't mean that it's unsafe, just that it's somehow become controversial or at least less usual, people laboriously writing 'he or she' where I'm sure they wouldn't have ten years ago; 'they' isn't a modern invention it was always fine, and I suppose for the modern world is more inclusive than 'he or she' anyway!


> Are we even allowed to assume 'gal's 'use she/her pronouns' though?

Fortunately we don't have to, because what she wrote was "One gal's quest to optimise her life."


> Are we even allowed to assume 'gal's 'use she/her pronouns' though?

"Gal" is unambiguously female, so yes.

> For centuries we've happily referred to an unspecified person 'with they/them pronouns'

We still do. That hasn't changed.


I have met people who are queer and don't like being refered to with "they/them" because they view these words as totalizing. A lot of trans people have a lot of disliking for cis gay men and call their own poor practices"homonormativity". As a result, they balk at being included as "queer" or even at the existence of terms like "LGBT" as they don't feel solidarity with CIS gay or bisexual men. Many of these queers embrace and demand recognition of their unique pronouns. If they prefer xe/xem, you may get an earful for saying "they/them".


As a side note... what does TFA mean? I've seen it a few times here. Does it mean "the f*cking article"?


Yep, you got it right. It used to come from "RTFA" (read the fucking article) years ago when people would ask questions in the comments that were clearly answered in the article, then eventually morphed to include FTFA (from the article) and just TFA.

Edit: just googled this to see if I was giving you wrong info also, and it looks like it came out of RTFM (read the fucking manual) for people in early Unix communities too.


If you’re being pleasant, it’s “the fine article”.

If you’re feeling cheeky, you can pick your own 7 letter word that starts with an “F”.


I thought it meant Thanks For Asking - But I was wrong.


I think it means "The Featured Article".


I always interpreted as "The Full Article" (as opposed to just the title).


I like this one ... I've always thought 'the fcking article' to be really passive aggressive.


It's a she ;)


I think "being productive" vs. "time well spent" and "doing things that really matter" is a false dichotomy. It doesn't have to be this way. I know that's a statement from a position of privilege— not every has a job where they can feel like they are in a flow state while working, but do you have any side projects or hobbies where you feel both productive and feel like it's time well spent?

Coming to this pretty late, but I've been fascinated with the concept of flow recently, which researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihaly described as:

  “The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times . . . The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile”
Again, not everyone is in a position to do this, but I think we should de-emphasize number of hours spent in "work mode" albeit inefficiently or without great focus or working on things that aren't super important and more time seeking deep focus and then time completely off to relax, recharge and let ideas background process/percolate.


Your viewpoint still dismisses one of the best categories of "time wasting"/"things that really matter": time spent socializing with friends and family.

There have been a few studies that were pointing out people in Southern Italy live very long and happy lives (I think happiness was self-reported), despite living in relative poverty compared to developed countries. Sun + healthy diets + lots and lots of intense social interactions with family and close friends.


> I think happiness was self-reported

Isn’t that implied? How else can you measure happiness aside from someone telling you they’re happy?

Somewhat of a genuine question — curious if studies/surveys use some other way to measure happiness.


I did see one such study that looked at emotional expressions/body language rated on a Joy-Sadness Display Scale by 5 trained observers in addition to self-reported measures: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/233265431_Experienc...

Of course, this wouldn't really work for a longitudinal study.


Personally I consider time with friends and family productive time and most definitely time well spent, but surely you have noticed that even these moments can stretch out into unproductivity - maybe some members of the family or friend group want to go home and spend their time on their own things, so a little planning is useful even for family/friends/relaxation.

Productive usage of my time means I am not doing simple things the hard way, that I manage my attention, and that I spend time on things that I care about, not that I stop caring about my family.


That's funny of you to say.

Extending my example from above, American dining habits are: you stay in the restaurant for about as much time as what you need to eat/drink, then you go away (maybe gently nudged by staff to get out if you stop ordering something after 1 hour or so). Italian dining habits are: you go to dinner and you stay there until everyone has discussed about everything they wanted to discuss, no matter how long that takes.

I imagine for someone from the Italian culture your perspective would seem completely alien.

And regarding family members or friend that want to leave, surely everyone is mature enough to just get up and go when they have to. Why do you need to manage that for them?


Regarding my family/friends, I was talking about managing myself, my own time, not them - in this particular case I meant that I could predict when I can be home to do my own things, for example.

My perspective never disallowed me from staying at the table for hours until everyone was saturated with friendly banter. I spent many months in Italy, Croatia, Spain, Georgia, Poland and elsewhere doing just that, and I consider it time spent productively - relaxation and socialization is important to me.


> + lots and lots of intense social interactions with family and close friends.

As an introvert, I find “lots and lots of intense social interactions” draining (by definition).

Granted, I do enjoy hanging out with friends and family, but often feel drained a bit afterwards.

Of course, I’m not advocating being a loner. I wouldn’t like that either.

My main point is, I wonder if extroverts — or those that are energized from intense social interactions — are more destined to be happy vs. introverts.


> I wonder if extroverts — or those that are energized from intense social interactions — are more destined to be happy vs. introverts.

Sadly for introverts, that seems to be the case.

Source: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/quiet-disadvantag...


> My main point is, I wonder if extroverts — or those that are energized from intense social interactions — are more destined to be happy vs. introverts.

I don't know. I'll actually extend your question to its extreme:

Does anyone know what the evolutionary advantage of being an introverted individual in a very social species is?


I expect introverted individuals playing on their own in the wilds (or "hunting") are nature's answers for societal insurance. If some catastrophes strike at the tribes/HG bands' main encampments, some cultural memory and genetic diversity persist for the next band to reclaim that site.

After all, humanity natural niche is persistence hunting and gathering-scavenging.

And of course, hunting itself took a long time to do, especially if you are doing persistence hunting with primitive tools and maybe fire. A long time to be lonely and tolerating it.


The long life thing heavily correlates with the lack of quality in record keeping.


In Italy? Italy's not a third world country... Do you have any proof for that?


I think this might be what parent is referring to: https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/sunday/audio/20187...

Although as far as I can see, the paper has not been peer reviewed yet (but it's also quite old)


Yeah, but I wasn't talking about isolated cases and small regions and centenarians. I'm talking about whole countries and big regions:

https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistical-atlas/gis/viewer/?...

If you go strictly by the numbers, Scandinavia or Germany should be at the top: higher GDP, higher salaries, higher HDI (maybe even quite far away at the top).

Yet that doesn't happen: https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/web/products-eurostat-news/-/E...

The top 5 regions in the EU for life expectancy, both male and female, are in Southern Europe.


Sorry, I suspect sharing will just lead to an argument over perceived insults I don't intend. Consider my original comment a friendly warning. Should you think it's worth following up on, I think you'll find it easy to find evidence. If you don't, that's okay too.


Ok, similar question for Spain or Greece. Spain and Greece both aren't super rich by developed country standards and yet their life expectancies are very high.

Do you think they're all doing it to piss off richer countries? :-)


I think you have a very narrow understanding of what "productive" means. You can produce or make progress towards anything that you value. Making other people money is just one avenue.

If you had a year to live, you would definitely want to be productive. There's a lot that needs to get done to wrap up your one single life well, so that your time on earth wasn't lost. Just getting your will and testament done, talking to all your loved ones, getting your affairs in order for any dependents, tying up any loose ends so they aren't inherited, cleaning up your house for the estate.

If you know older people, you'll see them doing these kinds of activities in their later years. That's still being productive. You're still making progress.


>If you had a year to live, you would definitely want to be productive.

You'd be surprised.

That's more of rat-race-disease artifact, where a person is measured by their "achievements" and "success" (as opposed to being intristically worth).

Many people of many peoples would want to either relax, love and be with family, or enjoy themselves (and more likely a healthy combination of the two).


And unless you're completely free of obligations, you'd want to maximize the time you spent "relaxing, loving and being with family, or enjoying yourself". This requires some thought and effort - and that's precisely being productivity / optimizing your life.


So much this. The productivity craze is dumb and your definition is much better. Prioritize what is important to you. If you are able to, that's productive! Screw other people's definition of productivity.

Dying of cancer? Enjoying a walk out with friends - who knows how many times you'll be able to until you are bed ridden and in pain constantly despite meds? You're "productive"! Ask me how I know... (no don't....)


That's basically an alternate take on Maslow's Pyramid of needs. [1]

However, it's a model which isn't free of criticisms. For instance:

> In their extensive review of research based on Maslow's hierarchy, Wahba and Bridwell found little evidence for the ranking of needs that Maslow described or for the existence of a definite hierarchy at all. [2]

or

> Maslow's hierarchy of needs fails to illustrate and expand upon the difference between the social and intellectual needs of those raised in individualistic societies and those raised in collectivist societies. The needs and drives of those in individualistic societies tend to be more self-centered than those in collectivist societies, focusing on improvement of the self, with self-actualization being the apex of self-improvement. In collectivist societies, the needs of acceptance and community will outweigh the needs for freedom and individuality. [3]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow%27s_hierarchy_of_needs [2] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/003050... [3] https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Maslow%27s-Hierarchy-o...

Your statement also hides an assumption:

> unless you're completely free of obligations

Your obligations might be different from my obligations. And then there's the question who determines those obligations. Those same family and friends? Employers? A legal framework? Cultural norms and values? Religion even? To what extent are those truly set in stone? And to what extent are many mundane obligations a figment of your own mind? Something you subconsciously force upon yourself to make sense of the world and maintain your own identity? And how does all of this tie into a philosophical tradition of discussing determinism and free will?

The same is also true when it comes to "enjoying yourself". Ultimately, what one person enjoys on their own accord could feel like an absolute requirement or obligation to someone else. Context matters a ton in that regard.

For instance, you might live in a context where you love making artisan bread as a hobby or a pass time. Something you don't need to do - you can easily buy bread - but something you do simply because it brings you happiness. And at the same time, there are people for who making bread at home is something they have to do if they want to food on the table, which turns this into an obligation.

> This requires some thought and effort - and that's precisely being productivity / optimizing your life.

Talking about productivity and optimization only works when you do so in a concrete context. When you discuss priorities, and, crucially, acknowledge that the next person will have different priorities from you simply because their life is uniquely different from yours.

Tracking time and assigning value to what you do with each hour of your life can be worthwhile, but it can only empower you if you are also intrinsically motivated to engage in an activity.

It's perfectly reasonable to track the time you spend reading books, and set a goal to spend more time, reading more books in 2021 compared by last year. It's unreasonable to expect that this line of reasoning applies to everyone.

Plenty people read simply because they enjoy reading, but they feel absolutely no need to track the number of books they have read, or put an utilitarian meaning or assign economic value to how much they read.


Being productive does not mean working towards some kind of publicly recognized success. Exploring your mind in meditation 6 hours a day would be both productive and relaxing, leading to a greater happiness. Playing a video game 6 hours a day would just "kill" this time and bring little-to-no benefit to one's overall well-being.


> If you had a year to live, you would definitely want to be productive.

No, I'd want to be happy. It's the uniquely American Calvinist view that conflates these things.


Guitar makes me happy. Feeling stimulated and feeling like I’m progressing makes me happy. I can be productive in guitar. Where’s the conflation in this?


Progression in guitar makes you happy because guitar makes you happy. It isn't the other way around.


No, there is satisfaction in improving a skill. I enjoyed getting faster at end of night audits at my job in high school. I absolutely did not enjoy the audits themselves.


The original take wasn't about conflating satisfaction/happiness with progressing through hard, tedious work. It's, more to the point, equating both concepts. As in: You can only attain happiness and satisfaction if you improve/progress.

It's perfectly possible to practice guitar and attain some level of proficiency, while detesting the concept of playing the guitar. As in, looking at the instrument, how to play it and how to get better at it from a strictly utilitarian point of view. e.g. I learn to play the guitar because I need to become good at it because I want to get a well paid job in the music industry as a musician.

Inevitably, though, you will be wondering why you are pushing yourself through the pain as you drag yourself to your weekly guitar practice sessions.

Conversely, it's perfectly valid to simply pluck at the strings, gradually explore the instrument and what it can do, and become increasingly more interested, motivated, incentivized to play as time marches on e.g. because you like the sound, the feel of the strings, finding like minded spirits, enjoy the rhythm, the way it allows you to express how you feel and so on.

You becoming more proficient, in that regard, is subservient to the above. It's a function of the fact that you are intrinsically motivated to keep playing. Because you play the guitar for no other reason then that doing that resonates with who you are.


You should read the sentence immediately following the one you quoted. That comment didn't mean what you think it means.


Yeah, agreed. I don't think I know any person that's written their will, for example.


It's irresponsible for anyone with kids to have not done this.


Completely depends on where you live. Many countries have sane defaults for simple cases.


No country can have a sane default for “who should look after my kids if both parents die suddenly?”. That will always be a very personal decision that depends very much on your family situation.


The sane default is that the family is functional enough that the closest living relative will know best.


Which family? Mine or my wife's? Who chooses that?


Maximizing productivity in the context of the parent clearly meant "doing the most of the things you find important". That could be writing a will. That could be smoking pot. It depends on the individual's preferences.

I get that misunderstanding the parent comment is an easy excuse to signal your disdain for American cultural norms but it's really not necessary in this context.


Read the article.

The article has a completely different tone than what you are assuming from the headline.

~~~

    4 points per hour for the most productive activities (focused work towards uni & self-improvement and exercising)
    3 points for reading books
    2 points for reading blogs, listening to podcasts, lower intensity work etc
    0 points for things that are important but I do them anyway (socialising, sleep etc)
    -4 points for procrastination
~~~~

No mention of making someone else money. But a mention of being a procrastinator with life.


I did read it :)

My point is that the majority of "productive" things we do are geared towards our jobs. And the majority of jobs enrich the people at the top at the expense of your expertise and time invested. YMMV.

Not sure why so many people assumed I had a bad view on the article or the OP. I think what was done was fascinating, but it made me sad.


> My point is that the majority of "productive" things we do are geared towards our jobs.

There's a confounder here that's relatively specific to some types of jobs / industries (like IT): the same skills and knowledge that is "geared towards our jobs" is also used outside work. In our industry, a lot of people - including myself - are hobbyists. They enjoy the same stuff they also do for a living. In this setting, your personal pursuit for knowledge and fulfillment may look from outside as indistinguishable from your job.


Again -- I feel like I'm reading a different article. You're totally allowed to feel however you feel about the article.

"focused work towards uni & self-improvement and exercising" doesn't mean just learning a new language or getting experience with a new tool or framework. To me it means making time for mental health, emotional health (destressing), physical health, meditating.

Perhaps I'm reading it completely wrong.


I agree with you if productivity is work, but I also consider my hobbies productive. Netflix and Reddit and HN and the inane parts of the news I consider unproductive. And yet I spend probably at least 12 hours per week on those. It’s a scrolling addiction and (god how hypocritical is it for me to take the time to type this here) it’s good to avoid.


And that's exactly what I'm questioning. Why are Reddit and HN labeled as non-productive? Is it because it doesn't do anything to us or because we're trained to only label "skills" as productive?

I learned more through HN than I did with many books. Reddit improved my day through stupid memes that made me laugh more times than I can remember.

Yet when I'm browsing those sites, I feel guilty. Even while writing this very comment.

That's what saddens me.


I don't think all of what I get on HN or reddit falls in either category. I get some good stuff there and here, and find fun stuff too. But I do notice booting up one or the other reflexively. That's the part I don't like. If I'm being intentional about it, it's okay, but on autopilot I feel guilt.

What really did it for me was blocking them on coldturkey for a day. I'd very much recommend trying out blocking whatever your habit sites are for a day. It's eye opening. I found myself doing "cmd+t news" or "cmd+t redd" idly simply out of habit. Likewise when I deleted the reddit app on my phone. When it's not coming from the executive function part of my brain, or even worse, when it's counter to my executive function decisions, it's not productive.

Basically, if it's a decision I look back on fondly, that's the criteria for okay. Some of the time on these aggregators meets that criteria, but not enough of it :\


I probably used productivity too carelessly in my article - I meant it more as 'doing things that make me happy/help me develop as a person' as opposed to 'doing things that feel nice and easy now but I'd rather do them less'. I consider hobbies, reading books, going on walks and things like that as productive and tried to reduce time I spent mindlessly scrolling social media.

I'm also doing my PhD so by trying to increase my at-work productivity I'm trying to make sure that I don't waste too much of taxpayer's money.

But I agree that optimising productivity too much could be anxiety-inducing and I was trying to be mindful of that while looking at my data and deciding what to change in my life based on it.


> If you discovered you were going to die in a year, would you continue to spend all your time being "productive"? I figure almost everyone would shift all their focus on doing things that "really matter".

But if you are going to try and do things that "really matter" don't you want to be productive at them?

I've seen a number of folks with ALS who have done amazing things with the time they had left, and I am sure they focused on their productivity in doing them.

This also isn't a hypothetical for me. I have a damaged spinal cord and have spent amazing amounts of time tracking data to try and improve my body and my life. Not the same as facing death since I am trying to optimize my time to get back to a point where my body is stronger and in less pain so I can spend more time with my kids and also do the other things I want. It is a very tough balance.


> But if you are going to try and do things that "really matter" don't you want to be productive at them?

I'd definitely try to, hehe.

For me it's more about what we categorize as productive than the experiment itself. The experiment is a great way to gather data. But the categorization made me really think about what people, in general, categorize as "productive".

Maybe sleeping should be way more important than many job related things, but by default we assume sleeping is just a necessity, many times sacrificing it in favor of the others.


Ya personally I consider sleep to be very very productive. I just spent two months doing cognitive behavioral therapy to improve it (went from ave 5.75 hrs to 6.7 hrs per night). Massive benefit.


Sometimes I get the impression 99% of HN comments are pretty much: I like X. I don't know why anyone else likes Y.

All right, yeah, desire vectors are different for different people, homie.


Tracking your time spent has nothing to do with productivity. It is simply data you may chose to act on or not.

If this person was out for optimizing income, tye6 would not have studied a PhD in the first place, because that's 6 years wasted, plus tuition on top of it.

You can your tracking to optimize for whatever variable you want to optimize. You could realize that you work too much and aim for working less. You could realize that you do social media too much and aim to do less of it, etc. It's up to you.

As for not making money. The world is, sadly highly biased towards rich people. If you are poor and happy (which is totally possible) you are still highly at risk that this state won't last. Without money, you are f*ed in this world. It's just the way it is. If you are dependent on income you are dependent on A LOT of things. The best you can generally do for your happiness is become income independent as fast as possible, which usually means to earn as much as possible as early as possible and then live from investments while focusing on everything that's not work.


I often feel the same sadness when thinking of how so many get pulled into losing their most vital years.

Decades ago I spent a day travelling with a company salesman. That afternoon we spent an hour non-productively talking. In a candid moment he confessed that, out on the road, he'd missed most of his children growing up. He encouraged me not to make that mistake. Somewhat later in another place, a college professor, in a non-productive moment, related a similar story and advice. These revealing moments changed my life.

Recently I saw the video "50 years off-grid" about a couple that moved onto 240 Cali redwood acres in 1968 and took back their lives. Eventually they grew and sold Xmas trees for support, and raised two children. Not for everyone ... but point being that there are options, depending on what desires we nurture and sacrifice for.

Such chains have been woven and worn as far back in history as we can see. And still, true freedom can be a terrifying prospect. Which explains some modern leadership choices.


Just wanted to say - this is excellent writing!


    "Good morning," said the little prince.

    "Good morning," said the merchant.

    This was a merchant who sold pills that had been invented
    to quench thirst. You need only swallow one pill a week,
    and you would feel no need for anything to drink.

    "Why are you selling those?" asked the little prince.

    "Because they save a tremendous amount of time," said the
    merchant. "Computations have been made by experts. With
    these pills, you save fifty-three minutes in every week."

    "And what do I do with those fifty-three minutes?"

    "Anything you like..."

    "As for me," said the little prince to himself, "if I had
    fifty-three minutes to spend as I liked, I should walk at
    my leisure toward a spring of fresh water."


        ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince


Well, the answer is easy. We are all different.

We all have one only life, some people prefer to spend it watching football, some being productive, some helping others, and some ...

Of course you will also find people who are not happy at the life they have, and trying to live the life of others. But you will also find people being happy doing things that make other people sad.


Well, the answer is easy. We are all different

It’s so easy it gets skipped over in almost every thread like this, it seems, where someone goes off on some expedition of personal development and chooses to write about it to share with others where inevitably someone comes along to pontificate why anyone would even bother.

There’s not always going to be some neat, logical nor highfalutin reason for an individual making a choice about documenting, recording and analyzing parts of their life.

And that’s fine. Promise.


If you discovered you were going to die in a year, would you continue to spend all your time being "productive"?

No.

But if I discovered I was going to die in 30 years time, and I wanted to make sure my house was paid for, I'd done the things I want to do, and there were savings in the bank to make sure my partner was safe, then I absolutely would. Most of us are closer to that position than being on the verge of imminent death.


Yea, you have some larger goals, Everyone does.

Are you going to track goals every 15 minutes? I doubt it.


Another issue here is an extremely narrowed definition of productivity. It has cog-like traits, Fordian belt work comes to mind. Yes, in this context you can become less productive for one reason or another. But all these micro-optimizations will also affect the mind in the long run in a much more profound way. More than anything its higher forms - even of productivity - especially these connected with creativity.

You cannot fight this with a clock watch the same way the vast majority of people cannot lose weight by simply dieting. For this, you need positive incentives. Not to be misunderstood, sometimes you have simply to grit your teeth.


Did you read the article? "I work less than I thought I did and that's ok"


I did. But it also mentions procrastination as a -4 point and sleep as a 0.

And my sentiment is also from reading some of the comments here. So many people obsessed with productivity.

Some have a clear reason to do so, but I fear many do it because of outside pressures, or never even thought about it.


I don't think there is necessarily anything wrong with that scoring.

Sleeping is basically neutral (maybe it should give 0.5 points instead or something small that doesn't dilute the rest of the scoring system).

I'd also score procrastination negatively even if you are not obsessed with productivity. Procrastination can easily cause negative feelings (and for me is probably one of the biggest sources for them) and can be viewed as a separate thing as dedicated downtime.


Oh, neither do I.

What made me sad is that I'd likely have a very similar scoring if I did this myself.

For example, I wish I didn't score sleep as a waste of time, when it's likely more important than many of the things regularly deemed important by society.


The scores are relative to each other.

I certainly prefer to sleep than to procrastinate, so this matches up with your example.

And, I certainly prefer to do almost any task than procrastinate. Procrastination (by which I understand: wasted effort thinking about being productive without actually doing anything) makes me feel grim. I would have valued that time more doing almost anything else.

If sleeping helps me to avoid procrastination, then this scoring system still encourages sufficient sleep to do that.


This sentence is exactly the problem. Everything is focused around work and productivity. So much, that you have to pat yourself on the back when find out your work throughput was less than what you thought it was.

Why do we read about "I work less than I thought I did and that's ok" and not e.g. "I spent more time with my family than I thought I did, and that's great"?


same article says "I spent more time reading than I thought I did, and it's great"


Yes, drown somewhere in the text, and apparently not important enough to mention in the TL;DR.


> If you discovered you were going to die in a year, would you continue to spend all your time being "productive"? I figure almost everyone would shift all their focus on doing things that "really matter".

Nah. I'd ensure that my family is going to be well-cared for, that all affairs are in order... and then proceed to blow the remaining time on videogames and whatever strikes my fancy. With an actual dead line of one year, there's no point in starting anything that "really matters" to me.

Now if I knew for certain I'll die in exactly 10 years, I'd optimize the shit out of my life. I'd be a god of productivity. Or at least I'd try. In reality, knowing that my life is likely to actually end in somewhen between 30 to 50 years is already giving me this motivation.

Because the problem here isn't the focus on productivity, but what you're trying to be productive about. Most of us live lives full of things we wouldn't want to do if we could afford it. It makes sense to try and optimize them to minimum - to make room for the stuff that "really matters".


Perhaps I am feeling similar to what you describe. What I try to do is contributing to society instead of to businesses, like I do on the job. Businesses are part of society of course, but there are more direct ways to contribute to society. Personally I like to make everything free software, which I create in my free time, as well as donating to good causes. If everyone did that, I think we would be a lot further. However, there are so many people on this planet, even if only "a few" of us each do a little bit of work, which results in something, that cannot be taken away from society any longer, it will improve things. And let businesses use things as well, as long as they play according to the rules. I don't mind anyone making money off of things, as long as people's freedom and society in general isn't hurt.


>>> If you discovered you were going to die in a year, would you continue to spend all your time being "productive"?

Called to mind an Old Zen Koan. Before Enlightenment: chop wood, carry water. After Enlightenment: chop wood, carry water ;)

If lifecasting were automated, it would form a tremendous data set. The historical antecedents are legion: Vannevar Bush's Memex. Buckminster Fuller's Dymaxion Chronograph. Gordon Bell's MyLifeBits. Yes, even YC's own Justin.tv. Simple daily plain text often works best for me. Re-visiting old entries is gold. Like inviting your younger self over for a cup of tea ;)


> I'm a pessimist so I'd probably get very sad at some real data telling me how many hours I have wasted making someone else money.

Wouldn't that be useful? Considering your own example: might that not send you one a path to change the fraction of time you do something you don't like.

And what's wrong with "making someone else money" if it also provides you something you want (presumably in this case, also money)? If you were earning money "making someone else a meal" would that be equally bad?


> I figure almost everyone would shift all their focus on doing things that "really matter".

My focus is on things that would be expected to pay off before my life runs out. The less life I have left, the more I do things for short term gain rather than long term.

For example, at age 18 investing in college for 4 years is an excellent investment. Doing it in your 60s doesn't make a whole lot of practical sense.


It depends. When I went to college I remember this lady around 70 years old who was a student. I forget what major she was in or other details but remember talking to her then. I don’t think she was getting something practical out of it but maybe something personal. I remember her saying something like college was something she always wanted to do and now she had a chance to. She was very bright and quick witted and it surprised me she didn’t have a college degree. So in this case this is what mattered to her. I was amazed at the time but found out she was not a singular case at the time, some people do return to school late in their life


I'm with you. If it took one minute to log each of the previous 14, I'd rather have 24 hours of my life back.

It's the same with social media.

Once I realized that spending two hours a day on social media meant I was giving up 30 days of my life each year for... what? So someone in SV can buy a second boat, or a third house?

I limit my social media to under 15 minutes a day now (including HN.) If the social ad tech companies want more than that, they can pay me.


The only thing you can think of doing once you were to ween yourself from your vices (like OP and social media) is work? Even worse, making someone else rich?

You obviously don’t think that, so I don’t get why you and grandparent are projecting that onto OP.

I want to minimize my wasted time like mindless Redditing so that I can maximize my time spent doing things that fulfill me. It’s just a great tragedy that it’s so much easier to waste time in unfulfilling ways like spending a day in a heroin nod than it is to do the things that maximize my life.


I think if you were going to die in a year you would stop doing everything with a payoff more than a few months in the future. It's a mistake to think that what "really matters" is whatever pays off now instead of later.

When you have longer to live, it makes sense to work now to get more of what "really matters" five, ten, and twenty years down the line.


It's not about payoffs.

I really challenge anyone to say with a straight face that they'd say on their deathbed "I wish I would have done more spreadsheets on the minutae of my life."


If I discovered I was going to die in a year, I would burn through all my savings.

As humans we need a balance between living in the now and preparing for the future.

In college, one girl in my class died tragically, and we all discussed the meaning of spending hours cramming for exams. Those hours were definitely wasted on her, but I am still happy that I passed my exams.


I can't remember his name, there was a youtuber named Ali Abdal (I think?) whose videos are focused around productivity and they give me the same feeling that you're talking about in your comment. When you're talking about to 'productively' watch tv shows while try to get some work done in the background thats going a bit too far


Yes it's that youtuber (Ali Abdal). He had this video about productively watching TV by watching the netflix shows sped up 2x or something like that.

Similar for listening to audio books etc. Personally quite dislike those kind of ideas as well, takes the joy out of recreation.


Making someone else money is not the problem. Doing so without getting any satisfaction beyond just earning a paycheck - that's when it gets depressing. Or worse... doing so on a project which you know is doomed, and thus costs your team's time and your company's money.


What else would someone do with their time if not be productive? I hear you say... travel, see the world, experience other cultures, be with family, and all that jazz. None of that pays the bills. I understand your sentiment but don't really see how I could do what "really matters" right unless I gave up on a western life entirely. Maybe if I lived in a van and did some contract based coding I could spend most of my time seeing the world, but then I would give up so many other wonderful things like a wife, possibly kids, family close by, etc.

Ultimately we live just one life. I want to feel like I accomplished something and made my mark as trivially small as it may be compared to some. I want to hang my hat at the end of the day and feel like I had control over myself. In other words, I want to master good living and discipline.

Of course I want to see family, and friends, and all that. But there are many hours in the day, and why not fill them with your best effort? There will be plenty of time when I am old where I will want to do rest, leisure, etc.


Those aren't mutually exclusive. For me being "productive" means not wasting my limited time on something that doesn't really matter. "Productivity" does not equal "making as much money as possible at every moment of your life".


I can be pessimistic, too, but I had a different reaction. The OP's post is about measuring a life according to behaviors (activities) and with that data the OP is thinking out loud about how he wants to change things. This is an artifact that describes an analytical mind observing and addressing the daily animal/mind hybrid that actually lives in and experiences the world.

I tend to agree that "productivity" is an unhealthy obsession linked to vain status chasing, and (among many circles) a vaguely sinister implication. It is too often used as a euphamistic criticism by employers who inevitably want more out of the workers. Produce or die is the default law of the capitalist jungle, so the "productivity number" is the number that a system would use to fire you.

But the OP's situation is quite different. There is no misalignment between "the boss" (his current analytical mind) and "the worker" (the daily mind/body cyborg beast). The boss really wants the best for the worker; the worker really wants to do his best for the boss. (And to me it seems like the boss has his priorities straight, and is doing right by his worker with this analysis and recommendations).


> If you discovered you were going to die in a year, would you continue to spend all your time being "productive"?

Yes, even more so. The way I define productivity is by doing things that return the largest ROI for me, both short term and long term.


I am quite baffled too.

Finding out how little focused work I do, even on the days that feel productive, was one of the biggest surprises of analysing my data. It turns out that a typical working day (9-17) would usually only give around 5-6 hours of actual work,

I'd be more than happy to get 5-6 hours of productivity in a day. I think even 2-3 hours of good focused work is really good for me.

PhD education is mostly real hard work so I wouldn't equate it to like reading emails etc. So yeah, this is super solid 5-6 hours of focused work solving some deep technical problems. Every day. This is no joke and nothing to feel bad about.


But on the other hand, if you knew you have a year to live would you save for retirement? Life is always a balance between now and the future


My understanding of what you said is that most productive things we do are for someone else's benefit, therefore we shouldn't have an interest in tracking our productivity.

But why not argue the following instead: Most productive things we do are for someone else's benefit, so let's try to fill our time with more things that our productive to ourselves. Would you agree with this take?


Yeah, I mean obsessive life hacking is definitely annoying, but honestly this guy is pretty cool.

Like, he actually did this. That in and of itself is pretty amazing. How many people do you know say stuff without really truly knowing what they’re talking about.

So can we just stop and appreciate for one sec this guy literally did this thing, and that’s actually amazing.


> extreme focus into productivity makes me.

I see it rather sad when some people do nothing of their lives instead of investing a little bit every day in doing something meaningful. By no means I am advocating for 100% productivity at all times - but striving for a little less idle time is beneficial.


Most people with a full time job should be striving for a little more idle time.

During the 2 weeks holidays I just finished I found I deeply enjoyed just sitting outside and watching bugs crawl over plants. It wasn't productive, insightful, educational or whatever but it was enjoyable and I felt better after doing it.


The most productive people ever focused on productivity.


When you're not dying next month going to work to pay your bills "really matters".


Quite, “living every day as though it be one's last” seems like an idiotic maxim to me.

If I knew today would be my last I would obviously splurge and forget responsibilities I have to make my next day.


What a cynical comment. The author did some introspective work here and you feel the need to berate her organization because you can imagine the scenario that she would die in one year? Yeah, if I had cancer maybe I would stop working too.

I feel like you didn't even read the post, since the work the author describes includes things like language learning; the fact that you take from this post the goal of making money for other people seems like projection. No where does the post mention even having a job.

This is a particular irk I have with HN commenters. They read the title and then respond to what they think the post would be.


Everytime these come up, I am reminded how little time we have for extracurricular activities as parents (outside of things you'd do with the kids, e.g. hiking, swimming, etc)

But raising children is an investment in itself and the years where the demand for attention is higher (0-5 especially) are short in comparison to the future time you have for yourself.

I suppose you gain perspective and over those years an ability to optimize for time :)


> Everytime these come up, I am reminded how little time we have for extracurricular activities as parents

This is interesting, because it's only a problem for non-rich people. Rich people solve this with nannies and babysitters and other home staff to take care of chores and child-rearing so they have more time for work or leisure activities.

It really puts a point on the whole "everyone has 24 hours in a day, but not everyone's 24 hours are equal".


Isn't paying someone else to raise your children... not raising children? It's like comparing a bank with actual gold in a vault and many expensive physical security measures with someone who owns a futures contract with no delivery.


There is a line between completely "outsourcing" raising your children (how I "stereotypically" imagine royal families might do) and getting help with the things that take all your energy but doesn't really contribute to your relationships with your children.

Washing clothes, buying groceries, cooking every day are all things that must be done, but it can be done by another person (nanny, au pair, or even grand parents) without taking away (much) from your relationship with your children.

Just imagine the difference between the mood of a parent who cooked, cleaned, washed that day vs the parent who is relaxed as all those things were done by outside (paid) help. Same person in two totally different mood and energy level by the dinner comes. Also keep in mind that these things have to be done every single day, so while it might be okay to work through this backlog every day for a week, I'm sure your mood would change after you've done it for 10 years (assuming multiple children).

I heard once and I think it's true, that kids don't need 24 with their parents, they need the 2-3 hours (changing as the kids age) with them every day, but after that they get bored of daddy or mommy and want to do something with their friends or alone.

If you can afford outside help, it can actually make the time you spend with your children more delightful, you may bond more, and in the end have a better relationship with them also in the long term.

It can obviously go wrong, if you look at your children when they are 14 and you have no idea who they are because they went to the nannies directly, but it doesn't mean it can be done right.


As a non-royal yet non-poor person, I have to disagree, in that I find teaching my kids how to live a life an important part of both parenting and living these days.

By that, I mean that the actions of learning how to clean up after oneself, cook, do laundry are things that I do with the kid, and kid takes a certain measure of delight at learning how to do "real" stuff. Sure, we read books and do puzzles and that sort of thing, but there is an appeal to the child at being able to help, being included, and being able to effect change in the world.

I find people who outsource all their menial labor to too often become insufferable and divorced from reality. Organizations suffer, too, from the immaturity of being run by people who can start things but don't have to maintain or finish them; who can just say "get this done" and not have to think about the ramifications. Creativity is actually at its best slightly constrained -- and children do best when they learn to do useful things with their parents, rather than being simple pets for entertainment.

Obviously there are many different cultural approaches to raising children and one of my biases is that I come from a culture that wants kids to both have plenty of outdoor playtime and also contribute materially to the wellbeing of the family (clean up after themselves to some extent, help with home upkeep, etc).


The food is kinda resolved for no-so rich families with services like Hello Fresh, and so on. As you are just left with the Cooking bit, which is actually a bonding experience, as the little ones help with the meal.

And with cleaning, yes, that one is a chore.


So everything except the grocery shopping... Except that you still need to go for breakfast, lunch, and the 2-4 dinners per week not provided by the meal kit.

What I like to do is grab recipes off meal kit websites and buy the ingredients myself.


People weren't meant to raise children in a nuclear family. It's a historical aberration. In the past, you'd offload some of your parenting to grandparents, aunts and neighbors in the village (and the latter would do the same, creating a sort of distributed parenting environment). For urban population in modern times, daycare and babysitters serve as a replacement.

Put another way, taking care of a young child is 16+ hours a day job, 7 days a week job. Even if there are two parents to share this load, at least one of them also has to have a regular dayjob. A small child puts a lot of physical and mental strain on the parents.


When women weren't in the workforce it was a much easier time to raise children.

Now women have to work so that they can have a lower middle class life. Daycare has risen because of this - not because of grandparents not watching their grandchildren.


It is useful to look at history. Women have always worked (other than a particular subset of rich women and then, in the US and western Europe in the 1900s, a slightly broader subset of well-off women). It's just that much of that work was done in or near the home, and for most of human history men worked in or near the home as well. For almost all of human history, the effort made to produce money or food was co-located with "living". So women have for centuries taken in washing, been wet nurses, done piecework, sewing, knitting, fulling, felting, spinning, soapmaking, etc etc in a non-factory setting. This did not mean that you played with your children or really paid that much attention to them; it meant that when they were very young you kept them in a pen or tied to the bed so they wouldn't burn themselves, but could respond to their needs when they expressed them. After about age four you put them to work. Of course extended family/neighbors also were involved, but they also all needed to put food on the table.

Another reason we didn't have daycare was child labor. The history of child labor in, say, Britain is quite fascinating. Children were employed as domestic servants, coal miners, sales-kids, prostitutes, and more. In 1802, 1803 some regulations were passed; eventually children under age 9 were forbidden to work in factories and kids aged 9-16 were limited to 12 hours a day (60 hrs a week -- the Cotton Mills Acts).

It is quite fascinating to me to look at modern attitudes toward productivity and childhood. For almost all of human history the vast majority of children worked, from shepherding or scaring the birds away from the crops (which certainly could be more playful) to dirty and dangerous jobs. And now we talk about daycare or look nostalgically at a false past in which moms spent hours a day playing with kids. Time surveys indicate that even working parents now spend at least twice as much time with their children now as in 1965 [1]. Part of this is "productivity" -- we view spending time with our children as an important and productive thing to do, and in fact an economic investment. The kid is not earning us money now -- we need to invest time and effort into ensuring a return in the future. It's intriguing the stories we tell ourselves and how they affect our behavior.

[1] https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2017/11/27/parents-...


No one is suggesting that women just played with their kids all day. The idea that women in the past never raised children is just absurd. Sure mothers were workers - my grandmother was. But she did all of her work with her daughters - teaching them to cook, sew, etc.

Spending time with children isn't playing video games with your son. It's hunting, playing sports, teaching, cooking, fighting, fixing things, fishing, etc. Raising a child isn't all about having fun all day with toys.

> Time surveys indicate that even working parents now spend at least twice as much time with their children now as in 1965 [1].

Which is obviously expected. For middle class people in the baby boomer era with large economic benefits, they spent more time with kids. The survey excluded those that wouldn't be able to (e.g. poor people in poor countries.) Selection bias doesn't really tell us anything at all.


It's not just because of that (but for sure, double-income households definitely created much greater demand for daycare facilities). Even with a stay-at-home parent, a small child can bring a couple near a breaking point.


Seems to be that the distinction may not be important for managerially oriented people. Some parents, of a mindset which I was not raised by, seem to see the role of a parent to be more in charge of "Coordinating an upbringing". I don't think this mindset is wholly bad, though I would expect it does have recognizable trade-offs.


I mean, yes and no I suppose. Is sending your own kids to school not educating your children? They still end up educated. And with a nanny, they still end up "raised".


School isn't like a nanny, though.

I'm quite sure that psychology studies show that children need to bond with their parents (biological or adoptive). I imagine there's a fine line with that outsourcing and it's hard to draw, as a thought experiment I'd guess if they spend 80% of the time with their nanny, they're not going to bond as well with their parents.


Having a full time nanny would be as you described, in my eyes.

But you can have someone clean your flat/house, someone do the gardening, someone doing your taxes. Have someone cook for you. And thus have more time for your kids and still have more free time.


What about a part-time nanny? Few hours a week of paid time off for parents doesn't feel like it would diminish the parents/children bond in any way - but parents get some rest (or a chance to work on their own relationship, or even to catch up with chores), the kid gets someone new to play with, and then slightly less tired parents.


Think someone like Alice the live-in-maid from The Brady Bunch. Yes, she was part of child rearing, but Mike and Carol were there too. Granted, it's a saccharine sitcom of total unbelievableness from the 60's.


I raised some kids and a unquantified "lot of" time is spent teaching them to gradually be independent adults by occasionally making sure they're safe while they do their own thing.

An excellent analogy is I spent some time in a minor leadership position in a boy scout troop and beyond a certain age the kids do all the work, the adults are there to explain "and that's why the wood lot area is fenced off", "and that is the correct archery range safety procedure", "and no that is not a safe way to maintain a campfire" and so on and so forth. As the actual troop leader often said, if the adults are sweating something is not being done correctly; the kids should be doing all the work and the adults are mere safety advisor guests of the kids.

Some kids in some subcultures are able to safely with minimal adult supervision, for example, whittle wood sticks into smaller theoretically artistic sticks at age 8 whereas others STILL cannot responsibly whittle at age 24.

I spent a lot of time as a dad parenting at a laptop on the deck occasionally saying "no, there's a buried gas line there, dig for fossils over there" and the kids would make their own "discoveries" underground.

Its kinda like being in management where some folks (or kids) need near hand-over-hand supervision sometimes, yet others you just kinda check on every day or so. Ideally by the time the kids are adults (16, 18, 21, ..., ?) the parents shouldn't be doing much other than occasional management checkins and providing of advice.

There's a big difference between leading and enabling the kids while knowing exactly what they're doing in a safety sense, vs not being involved at all.

For example I know next to nothing about welding (well, I know a little but I'm no certified nuclear boiler welder...) so I was quite happy to have one of the boy scout dads who's all certified up in welding teach that badge "in my place". He teaches older apprentices how to weld gas pipelines so he's certainly qualified to teach... All I really did as his partner was make sure everyone stayed hydrated LOL.

For little kids a lot of parenting is you just need a parent figure at the park to occasionally say "no" and redirect. "Yeah I see the league has a ball game at the diamond so you can't play there, but no you're not playing baseball in the busiest street in the city get back on the grass now"

A better analogy is something like you're claiming if a bank hires a security manager who enforces security policies then the bank is not providing actual "uniformed dude standing at attention" security. Yet some kind of manager role may be the most important time/money the bank can spend WRT security...

When they're younger toddlers they need a lot of parenting until they discover lego or whatever, but that's a rather short phase in their lives.


> It really puts a point on the whole "everyone has 24 hours in a day, but not everyone's 24 hours are equal".

Great point. Further driven by the pandemic


Funny you mention that. Because of the pandemic, a lot of people had to drop their in home help. Only the richest of the rich, who had in-home help that lives with them, were able to keep using in-home help.


Also people who decided not to worry about the consequences of having someone coming in and out of their home.

Seems to be lots of them really.


In the U.K. the government guidelines have been that they’re still allowed to work. And given the kind of contracts many of them are on, if they don’t come in they don’t get paid. So it really puts added pressure on everyone to work.


Investment indeed! I think it all depends on how you define what amounts to a “good day”

Maybe it means you have put in some meaningful work into having quality time with your kids, or teaching them something new, reading a book to them, or cooking with them and/or your spouse.

Side note I can definitely empathize with the lack of time for extracurricular. For our family it is generally something we do together - which tends to fill multiple “cups”. Outside of that my spouse and I trade off for time to do these type of things for ourselves.


The problem is when you have multiple children spaced over a few years, you get a decade or more of time eaten up.


-My brother-in-law coined the phrase micro-holiday to keep himself sane when having kids - a micro-holiday is the time you have to yourself during a day. Most often, it occurs in the time span between closing the rear door after packing the young 'uns in and opening the driver's door after walking around your car.


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