Categories: time

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Analyzing my Emacs time over the last 11 years or so

| emacs, quantified, time

My EmacsConf presentation will stream in a few hours, and someone's probably going to ask where I find the time for all of this. =) So I dug through my time logs (a custom system I wrote in 2012 with Ruby on Rails; has an Emacs interface, of course) and came up with this table of hours I logged in my Discretionary - Productive - Emacs category over the past 11 years.

Data for Emacs hours by month by year
Year Jan Feb March April May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec Total
2012         0.7 19.4 2.7 1.9 1.2 0 0 8.6 34
2013 0.7 12.5 38.5 18.5 10.0 6.0 1.2 5.2 0 0.1 3.2 0.4 96
2014 2.0 3.4 18.8 39.7 45.4 15.3 2.6 0.6 2.0 7.4 5.9 15.4 158
2015 16.6 37.4 7.4 9.0 2.3 3.3 3.2 20.0 9.6 6.3 26.5 18.2 160
2016 8.6 4.6 3.7 3.7 4.2 2.9 1.4 2.9 2.7 2.2 4.3 2.4 44
2017 3.7 2.7 3.2 3.2 3.0 2.0 5.2 2.8 0 0.9 3.4 3.8 34
2018 2.9 3.3 1.9 2.2 3.9 3.3 0.9 1.4 1.5 1.8 2.3 3.0 28
2019 2.2 10.7 2.6 2.3 13.7 6.8 7.1 3.6 13.3 16.1 16.7 2.0 97
2020 3.3 0.5 3.0 .2 10.0 6.3 5.2 5.0 5.0 32.9 61.7 49.0 182
2021 53.7 47.1 44.7 25.5 18.1 11.5 8.3 11.9 9.5 66.0 138.1 66.6 501
2022 13.5 13.4 3.1 3.9 7.0 4.5 4.2 5.1 45.4 157.5 146.6 95.3 500
2023 23.4 15.9 16.2 11.2 4.4 11.5 6.5 13.3 36.6 86.6 93.2   319


  • Data collection in this system started in 2012.
  • Some months look like they have under-collected data, that's fine.
  • Big spike in 2022 was when we decided to go with two tracks for EmacsConf, so I needed to figure out all the infrastructure.
  • I started doing Emacs News in 2016, which is maybe 0.5 - 1.5 hours a week.
  • EmacsConf restarted in 2019 with an online conference. I've been handling speaker/volunteer coordination, captioning, publishing, and automation/infrastructure.

I can visualize this as a heatmap with:

import numpy as np
import pandas as pd
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt
import seaborn as sns
df = pd.DataFrame(time_data[1:], columns=time_data[0]).drop('Total', axis=1).set_index('Year')
df = df.apply(pd.to_numeric)
plt.title("sachac's Emacs hours by month and year")
plot = sns.heatmap(df, annot=True, cmap='crest', fmt='.0f')
fig = plot.get_figure()

Yes, I do actually sleep

Overall balance of activities
Activity Jan 2023 Feb 2023 Mar 2023 Apr 2023 May 2023 Jun 2023 Jul 2023 Aug 2023 Sep 2023 Oct 2023 Nov 2023 Total
A- 39.0% 47.5% 44.4% 44.2% 44.1% 44.4% 41.8% 40.5% 33.2% 33.3% 34.3% 40.6%
Business 1.3% 0.5% 3.5% 1.9% 3.8% 2.8% 3.5% 7.0% 8.8% 1.9% 1.7% 3.3%
Discretionary > 10.8% 3.9% 4.5% 6.0% 6.6% 8.3% 6.9% 6.2% 8.8% 14.5% 16.1% 8.4%
Personal > 10.1% 10.2% 11.7% 10.4% 9.3% 8.8% 9.9% 8.4% 9.4% 10.6% 11.9% 10.0%
Sleep 34.6% 35.4% 32.9% 34.9% 33.4% 32.1% 34.1% 34.7% 33.9% 35.7% 33.4% 34.1%
Unpaid work > 4.3% 2.5% 3.0% 2.8% 2.9% 3.6% 3.9% 3.3% 5.9% 4.0% 2.6% 3.5%


  • `A-` is my top-level category for child-care

Sleep over the years:

Sleep percentage
Year Jan Feb March April May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
2013 36.0% 34.9% 37.0% 36.5% 32.5% 35.8% 37.4% 43.1% 37.9% 36.9% 37.8% 34.5%
2014 36.4% 38.2% 37.0% 36.7% 35.0% 37.6% 37.8% 34.7% 36.1% 34.3% 41.3% 37.4%
2015 35.5% 35.3% 38.5% 35.0% 35.1% 39.7% 36.9% 40.1% 40.3% 37.4% 37.8% 41.4%
2016 35.5% 35.3% 38.5% 35.0% 35.1% 39.7% 36.9% 40.1% 40.3% 37.4% 37.8% 41.4%
2017 38.2% 35.9% 34.3% 35.1% 33.0% 30.8% 32.6% 27.2% 26.5% 32.8% 34.0% 29.6%
2018 29.7% 33.4% 32.8% 32.5% 31.0% 29.3% 35.1% 33.0% 37.7% 36.9% 29.3% 34.0%
2019 33.2% 34.7% 35.3% 35.6% 33.9% 30.4% 32.0% 32.9% 35.7% 34.6% 33.1% 34.4%
2020 32.8% 34.7% 37.9% 32.2% 32.8% 30.3% 31.5% 30.1% 32.4% 31.8% 28.9% 33.1%
2021 28.6% 30.1% 34.6% 33.3% 31.6% 31.8% 36.1% 33.6% 35.1% 34.7% 32.5% 32.4%
2022 35.5% 35.6% 38.5% 37.2% 38.1% 38.4% 36.5% 38.1% 35.3% 32.0% 30.1% 27.8%
2023 34.6% 35.4% 32.9% 34.9% 33.4% 32.1% 34.1% 34.7% 33.9% 35.7% 33.4% 35.2%
import numpy as np
import pandas as pd
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt
import seaborn as sns
df = pd.DataFrame(data[1:], columns=data[0]).set_index('Year')
df = df.applymap(lambda x: float(x.strip('%'))*24/100.0)
plt.title("sachac's sleep hours per day by month and year")
plot = sns.heatmap(df, annot=True, cmap='crest', fmt='.1f')
fig = plot.get_figure()

The kiddo was born in 2016. You can see how much less sleep I've been getting since then. =)

Making better use of time as we grow more independent together

| parenting, time

I've been coming to terms with the idea that I might not get appreciably more focus time over the next few years, if we decide to either continue with virtual school or switch to homeschooling. It's okay. A-'s going to grow more independent and disappear for long stretches of time, so there's no need to rush or push her away just so that I can do stuff on my computer. I'll miss these days soon enough.

So I just need enough me time to keep myself sane and to make better use of interstitial time as the opportunities arise: waiting for her to wake up, waiting for her to finish reading or playing, waiting for her to go to sleep… I'm starting to be able to find 5 minutes here, 20 minutes there. Most of the time, I can't jump on my laptop. If I'm on a screen, she'll want to be on a screen. Fortunately, my SuperNote doesn't trigger that sense of unfairness, so I can draw or write as long as I'm willing to let her use it if she wants to draw too.

I get some coding time here and there, too. I've shifted to more of an advisory role for my consulting, helping a couple of other developers via text chat on my phone throughout the day and sitting down to code when A-'s watching a movie. Sometimes I work on personal projects while A- watches a movie. She's very good at insisting we both take eye breaks, and from all her questions, I get the feeling that her brain is still very busy processing the Nth time through Frozen or the LEGO Movie. Cool, cool. Might as well use that time to work on continuous improvement. There's always more tidying to do, but it's also good to play around with ideas and try to make things better.

So, what do I want to think about and work on when these opportunities come up? How can I accelerate during those little sprints of thinking time?

  • Drawing and writing: I can collect questions to reflect on or thoughts to untangle, so I can quickly pick one and add to a sketch or a handwritten draft of a blog post.
  • Book notes: I can keep a bookmark in a book and sketchnote a few more pages when I have the chance. Bonus: she sees me reading. Good time to learn more about parenting, education, psychology, and other topics that might be useful.
  • Coding: I can work on setting up my server so that I can write and publish blog posts from my phone, including referring to sketches and converting hand-written drafts.
  • House: I can get rid of more clutter so that I can find things more easily.
  • Tech: I can prepare ePubs and PDFs to read on my SuperNote so that I can learn more about things that will make coding easier or more fun.

What if I want to create more time? How can I get more focused time?

  • E-book reading time: A- quickly finishes books from the library, but the tablet can be a portal to thousands more books. Besides, sometimes she just wants to read, and that's okay.
  • More consistent bedtime: if I go to sleep at a reasonable time, I can use some time in there morning to do stuff. I just have to be ready to set it aside when she wakes up.
  • At the playground: if we're at a playdate, I like to still pay attention to the kids and the other parents. I can bring a 3x3 cube and my SuperNote to take advantage of spare time, though.
  • More books to lose herself in: I pick up lots of book recommendations from Facebook, and the library's a great source. It's a win all around: we get extra exercise walking to the library, she learns about more things and more words, and I get time to focus on something.
  • Take-out/convenience foods, preparing ahead: it takes me around an hour to make dinner. I can occasionally swap some of that time for thinking or coding time by using money. Hmm…

It'll be great. Sure, it's not the sudden jump in discretionary time that I might have had if A- was going to go to in-person school, but this way could be good too. I can grow into it just like A- will grow into her own independence. It reminds me of the way my 5-year experiment with semi-retirement started off with lots of consulting and slowly ratcheted down until I felt comfortable using most of my time for my own stuff. We can learn about time apart together.

Dealing with preoccupation and a slow tempo

Posted: - Modified: | kaizen, time

I occasionally feel like less of a grown-up than I should be at 34 years old. We need to redo some of the insurance paperwork because I missed a few things in January. My sister will probably need to take care of that paperwork when she comes next week. I wasn't forceful or proactive enough when it comes to dealing with fleas, so A- and I are covered in bites. I sometimes don't see things even when they're right in front of me.

A general approach that could work for me is:

  • Be kind to myself and others. Self-recrimination wastes energy and doesn't accomplish anything. It's okay to feel embarrassed if I use that feeling to move forward. It's good to think of lapses as temporary than as indicative of character traits: something I did, not something I was. If I look for ways to improve, I can test if those ways will be sufficient.
  • Keep an oops fund. Most mistakes can be easily recovered from, and sometimes for not much money.
  • Work around my weaknesses. Delegate. Keep notes. Use checklists. Simplify. Manage expectations. Even if I think this extra fuzziness is temporary, it's useful to plan workarounds as if it's long-term, since I'll probably run into similar problems when I'm older.

I feel scatter-brained. I find it hard to concentrate and remember, and I waste time getting back on track after interruptions. Mostly this is because I like being so available for A-, which is a decision I'm okay with, so I should just figure out how to compensate for that until things get back to normal-ish. Paperwork is low priority for me, so I should make sure it's taken care of by someone who can prioritize and review it properly, and I shouldn't overcommit.

We can get through this step by step. I can't talk myself into being more focused and more observant, but I can gradually build safety nets, and then I can practise slowing down and paying attention.

A slow tempo often frustrates other people. I know my dad and Kathy often got impatient, and W- sometimes does too. Still, I think I can manage starting slow and working on becoming more solid. I trust that I'll speed up with experience and with the compound growth of continuous improvement. I'm good at multiplying the value of the time I spend, and there are a few areas where I feel fast, too. I want to figure out just the right tempo for things – not slower than I need to be, but not faster than I can, while erring on the side of underpromising. I think this might be useful for me in the long run. Let's see!

What makes my week satisfying?

Posted: - Modified: | time

It makes sense to reflect on time in week-long chunks instead of day by day. A span of 24 hours is dominated by sleep and childcare, but over the 168 hours of a week, I might have enough discretionary time to feel more balanced.

What makes a week satisfying? How can I prepare so that I can enjoy satisfying weeks more often?

Enough rest to engage A- with energy and responsiveness
Mostly this is about being in tune with myself and understanding my energy levels, so I can make better decisions about staying up late or being on my phone while A- nurses. It’s also good to not be distracted by other needs or desires, so I can be more present.
A couple of walks and baby activities
I prefer to stay home when it’s cold and windy, which is okay. When the weather is mild, we usually go to neighbourhood centres so that A- can play with different toys and be around other people. As the weather warms up and A- grows, we’ll expand our range.
Little stories to share with W-, especially involving close observation
Helped by energy and rest. Can encourage this by planning activities as well as following A-‘s interests. This will get even better as A- grows, of course.
Contributions to household maintenance
Sometimes cooking, if I can pull it off while W- is around. Might be better to focus on cleaning and groceries, though, since those fit better into our current routines.
Relaxed conversations with W- during evening playtime with A-
Helped by stories and finished chores.
An updated journal and weekly review
Caught up every couple of days, if needed. Helped by text notes and by doing interesting things.
Emacs News posted
Monday or Tuesday discretionary time. Pretty straightforward, but I need to spend about 45 minutes of computer time on it.
Yummy food, no mealtime scrambling
Could use a little work here. We’ll probably make this smoother as we figure out a new rhythm, especially with batch cooking.
A little consulting that helps my clients a lot
Helped by having well-defined, useful, tiny chunks. Best done late at night, maybe sleeping in a bit the next day.
Thinking through stuff using my phone, not just reading social media updates
The payoff for reading social media is mostly chatting with W- about tidbits, occasionally interacting, and sometimes hearing about interesting things. Not that much, so I don’t have to scroll down the feeds looking for more. Writing is better for me, although I sometimes get stuck if I haven’t balanced it with some discretionary time for doing things. There’s always more to write and plan, though.
Maybe even a couple of blog posts, a bit of code, or a small improvement
Helped by thinking on my phone and by having clear, motivating questions.
Helped by doing the routine together with W-.

Last week was a satisfying week. If I put some thought into it, I might be able to have even more of them. :) Some things are outside my control, but I can probably stack the deck. Hmm…

More thoughts on the timing of discretionary time

Posted: - Modified: | parenting, time

W- is thinking of shifting his discretionary time for side projects to early morning, before he heads out to work. That way, he can tackle it with more energy and enjoy making steady progress. I’ve been planning for my discretionary time in the evening, after A- goes to bed. It might be nice to experiment with setting an early alarm and staying in sync with W-. I’ve tried one-offs here and there and A- generally ended up waking along with me, so I didn’t get time for other things. If I do it consistently, though, she’ll probably shift her bedtime earlier.

The main thing that gets shifted around on my end is the journal, since that’s natural to do at the end of the day. The quick notes I take on my phone will probably be enough, though. Alternatively, I could split it up: sleep after my journal, and then wake up and so other things.

So, how can I ease into this? If I prioritize sleeping during her naps for a couple of days, that should make it easier to wake up early. A- will adjust her own naps based on her energy. This is a good time to try it, anyway – no major appointments coming up, so we can adjust as needed. I think W- wanted to start being up by 5 or even earlier. Bonus: electricity is cheaper.

We’ll see if A-‘s okay with my slipping away early in the morning. If not, maybe I’ll find my discretionary time somewhere else in the day. No worries! I’d like at least enough time for my journal and for Emacs News, so that’s about half an hour to an hour. Interruptible and can be deferred a day or two, so the time is pretty easy to find. Most of the other things can wait if need. The next big chunk is probably filing our personal taxes some time in March or April, but I should be able to find enough focused time in that period. Who knows, maybe A-‘s sleep patterns will have changed by then. We’ll see!

A reflection on leisure and discretionary time

Posted: - Modified: | experiment, time

I'm coming up to the 4-year mark of this 5-year experiment with semi-retirement. The start of the final year might even neatly coincide with the next substantial change I've been planning. I've been very lucky to have had this opportunity to explore, and it's a good opportunity to reflect on self-direction and leisure.

This past year has been a little like the openness of my final year of university, when my habit of taking summer courses freed up half the typical academic load for the schoolyear and I had plenty of time to explore open source development. This time, I had even more autonomy. No exams to study for, no projects to submit; just choices.

I'm learning that my physical state strongly influences my mental state, which then strongly influences how I use my time and how I feel about that use. If I'm tired or fuzzy-brained, I won't get a lot done. I've learned to make better use of fuzzy-brained times by keeping a list of small tasks I can do, like housework. I invest some of my alert time in building the systems and processes to help me when I'm fuzzy-brained, too. Long-term, I'm probably well-served by investing more time in health. I'll rest when I need to. Beyond that, if my mind's not as active or as energetic as I'd like, there's always working on my energy.

I feel particularly good when I use my discretionary time to:

  • contribute to the Emacs community by organizing resources, writing code or posts, answering questions, and experimenting with ideas
  • build tools for myself (interfaces, scripts, etc.), especially if I can learn more about libraries or frameworks
  • dig deeper into thoughts through a combination of drawing and writing
  • sew something, especially if I end up using it a lot
  • research, plan, and take notes
  • work on other skills
  • watch or read something informative/interesting/useful, particularly if it's practical or skill-related

I feel good when I:

  • declutter, organize, document, and/or improve our routines, files, and other resources
  • cook something yummy (mostly focusing on familiar recipes at the moment, but I'm looking forward to exploring more)
  • play video games with W-, especially when we pick up new in-jokes or when we pull off neat tricks when beating the enemies
  • keep the household running
  • go for a long walk, especially with a useful destination and an interesting podcast to listen to or a question to think about
  • stretch a little or do whatever exercises I can
  • watch a good movie with W-, especially when it results in more in-jokes or an appreciation of how the movie is put together

On the other hand, I feel like time's just passing when I:

  • write, but not end up posting my notes (although it's a little bit better if I organize them for later review)
  • read casually, without a particular application or goal: books, e-books, the Internet
  • play games, especially if there's not much sense of progress

I've come to enjoy a lot of different kinds of discretionary time. I think I don't need a lot of pure leisure, at least not the vegging-out kind. I definitely like having a lot of discretionary time – to be able to choose what to do when – but even the things we do for day-to-day living can be enjoyable.

I will probably have less absolute time for leisure and less control of my time in general, but I think I'll be okay. Because of this experiment, I've been learning that time probably isn't my limiting factor when it comes to things like writing or learning or making things. It's probably more about curiosity, observation, motivation, and experience, and those are things that I can develop through the years.


Thoughts about time

Posted: - Modified: | philosophy, reflection, time

A friend sent me a link to "Your Life in Weeks", which got me thinking about my changing attitude towards time and ambition. Here were the key points I picked up from the blog post:

  • It's good to be aware of the passage of time and how limited it is.
  • Measuring your life against famous people's accomplishments or lifetimes can be eye-opening.
  • You should ideally spend your time doing things that improve your future or the lives of others and that you enjoy. Utility without pleasure or pleasure without utility is okay but not great. Don't waste your time doing things that are neither useful nor pleasant.
  • Every week can be a fresh start.

I agree with some aspects of these points. I can remember being the sort of person who agreed more, and that's interesting for me – tracking the changes in my attitude towards time.

2015-07-27a Thinking about time and role models -- index card #time

I can remember a time when I kept an eye out for the milestones by which other people had achieved a lot: the youngest people who did X/Y/Z, the lists of thirty under thirty, the stats in math and physics of early achievement and momentum.

I moved on from that in my late teens or so, when I realized people used stories like that to beat themselves up, give up, or push themselves to an unhealthy pace. I wanted to find something to tell people who told me, "Wow, you're so young and you're already good at computers! I could never do something like that." For myself, I saw the kinds of lives people sketched out for people who had "high potential," and I wasn't sure if I really wanted them. Instead of those stories of young CEOs and world-changers, I resonated more with attention to those who continued achieving later in life, or even started late, like Grandma Moses taking up painting at 78. I liked the stories those lives could help me tell to people who felt they missed the boat. I liked the stories of deep interest, like Isaac Asimov's decades of writing, and how those stories illuminated the possibilities. I liked examples of older people continuing to engage, like Benjamin Zander.

The books and magazines and newspapers I read were filled with stories of mainstream success, but I found myself more curious about people who had thoughtfully explored alternatives. I liked discussions of frugality and deliberate consumption more than luxury and excess. I liked communities around lifelong learning, experimentation, and early retirement.

2015-07-24a How do I want to feel about time -- index card #time #pace

One of the things I picked up from looking at other people's lives was the possibility that you could feel time as abundant instead of scarce – not so plentiful as to be wasted, but enough for the important things in life. Life didn't have to be a rat race or a hurried rush from one thing or another. I didn't have to do everything. I didn't have to have it all. I could do what I can and enjoy where I was.

Still, I was curious about acceleration. I periodically experimented with the productivity techniques that other people liked: making lists of goals, plotting out timelines, looking for ways to accelerate. I found that committing to an artificial deadline or target date to a goal didn't really resonate with me. I decided not to be my own taskmaster, trusting instead in my shifting evaluations and priorities. I'm nowhere near where my far-past self might have guessed I'd be, but I like where I am. I'm somewhere my far-past self couldn't even have imagined.

I hadn't come across Seneca's On the Shortness of Life until a few years ago, but when I did, I found it in things that I had come to believe about my own life. "It is not that we have a short space of time, but that we waste much of it. Life is long enough, and it has been given in sufficiently generous measure to allow the accomplishment of the very greatest things if the whole of it is well invested."

What does it mean to invest it well, though? I remember occasionally measuring my life against the estimate of my remaining days, tallying up what I had done and what I wanted to do. I felt the passing of time in the days and the months. I remember observing the differences in familiar people and in the world around me: my parents' graying hair, my friends' lifestages, the shifts in technologies. Back to the tick-tock. I think one of the reasons I've found it so easy to keep a weekly/monthly/yearly review (and now a daily journal) is that I don't want to wake up one day and wonder where all those years went, as people often do.

Something has shifted in my perspective, though. I'm not sure what caused it. Maybe philosophy has helped me let go of the worry about making sure I live a life of great significance. I don't need to be in history books. I can focus on living life well, and other people can decide how much they want to take from it. Maybe this equanimity had something to do with the day-to-day focus of my current phase. These days, I'm mostly focused on being when I am – not trying to fast-forward or rewind, but rather seeing and making the most of now.

I still want to make something of my life. I want to leave behind notes, tools, and ideas that will make it easier for other people to go a little farther or a little faster. I've felt that way for as long as I can remember. It feels a little different now, though. Instead of worrying that I'll fail or that I'll choose the wrong path, I know I can keep building and exploring, and that the benefits will grow and grow.

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