I’ve been collecting statistics on all sorts of aspects of my working day for a while now. I record how long my meetings last, who they are with, how much time it takes me to get to them, and also track how much time I spend on courses, at conferences, and engaged in any social activity that takes place at lunch time or straight after work. By collecting data I can hopefully spot trends (like attending far more meetings than usual), which helps me with planning my time, maintaining work life balance, and ensuring that I factor in recharging time between events that are likely to leave me feeing quite drained.
As I’ve been in my new role for four months now I thought it was worth trying to do some sort of comparison of things that are directly comparable (number of hours spend in meetings, average number of people at meetings I attend, that sort of thing). My hypothesis is that I seem to have more time for task based work than I have for a while, but I want to see if that’s actually true. I also want to try and devise an formula that will allow me to calculate the amount of mental energy any given week might require, and thus plan recharging activities appropriately.
To do this I started by listing all the activities I partake in that cost me energy (as an Introvert that’s anything involving other people). The list I came up with was:
- Meetings involving me and one other person. I don’t find these particularly draining in general, and one to one conversation is actually my most comfortable medium for synchronous communication.
- Meetings involving multiple other people – I find these quite tiring, especially if I’m chairing them or otherwise having to talk quite a lot.
- Running training or coaching sessions. These can be quite tiring because I’m centre stage and talking for the duration of the session, and there may also be the added energy drain of having to field questions.
- Attending courses, conferences or workshops. These generally involve meeting new people and taking in new skills and knowledge in an environment that generally doesn’t suit my learning style. This can be quite tiring, although sometimes I find group work exercises quite energising if it’s the right group.
- Recruitment activity (interviews, recruitment exercises). One of my favourite activities, and although it tires me it’s always worth it.
- Running events. Something else I enjoy, although sometimes I am far more into the planning, organising and evaluating of an event than anything else.
- Social events that take place at lunch time or after work. These were recorded to see if there was any sort of correlation with other activities.
I have in no way done a full analysis yet, but from half a day spent plugging the data into Excel and Nvivo a few trends leap out straight away:
- I spend about two working days a week in meetings, and have for most of the last few years. My monthly average never dips below a day and never rises above three days.
- I work from home on average one day per fortnight, and only do planned work during this time. I’m much more likely to mark a task as finished during one of these days than any other day.
- Travel time to meetings takes on average 5 minutes more in my current role. My commute is also 10 minutes longer. Using that extra time for thinking and ideas generation probably offsets the extra time spent walking though.
- The average number of people in meetings I attend has risen steadily throughout the reporting period.
- There is a definite correlation between the number of people at a meeting and whether I’m the organiser or not. Meetings I organise are generally with one or two other people; meetings I’m invited to average at least three people more. This is starting to even out a little over the last month or so though.
- The opposite is true for social events taking place on week days, in that the larger the event the more likely it is I’ll have been involved in organising it, whereas meetings with one other person seem to be almost never initiated by me. There is probably a learning point there somewhere.
- The key difference between my previous role and the one I’m doing now is that I don’t have direct reports and I do a lot less recruitment and training (both as a trainer and as the person being trained). That’s why I have more time to do everything else.
- The amount of weekday socialising I’m doing has increased significantly over the last few months, and the activities I’m undertaking have diversified (although the majority is still food/drinks with one other person or a small group).
- Most of my social activity is planned, rather than spontaneous.
- There is a definite positive correlation between running events and socialising with people involved in the event afterwards. Even though both activities tire me, it’s rare to find one without the other.
- There is a definite negative correlation between attending training sessions and social activity. The period in 2016 where I was juggling ILM5, Lean Six Sigma, and a bespoke training program was the period with the least social contact.
- I leave the office more at lunch time now, and spend time between meetings in a coffee shop or quiet part of campus if it’s not worth going back to the office. I expect this will increase as the weather gets nicer.
- I leave the office 15-20 minutes later than I did in my previous role, but my actual average working day duration has not differed significantly for years. The difference is down to the slightly longer breaks I’m taking, and the fact that my commute is longer.
There is a lot of food for thought there, and I’m starting to work out the energy requirements of the various activities (and combinations of activities) I undertake. My next step is to try and put some numerical modifiers against each activity so I can do a proper calculation, but that’s a job for another day.