Reality Check: The Accountability of Writing it Down

At the beginning of the year, Glasser Canada made an offer to its members. If a member provided a couple of New Year’s resolutions appropriate for display on the Glasser website, they would get 10 bucks off their next purchase.

Now, I hate to pass up a bargain, whether I need it or not. So I put some thought into what I might choose for a resolution—something that matters and that I would be truly prepared to follow through.

For some time, I’ve been working (off and on) at a personal long-term project. I know that if I am going to make significant progress, I need to devote substantial time. But it’s difficult. Day-to-day needs take priority; time slips away; the less-urgent longer-term goal gets pushed aside.

So, to help support this project as a priority, I chose to resolve to track the time that I spend on it exactly as if I were tracking time for a customer. When I bill people for time spent on their projects, I’m pretty careful about recording it. Why not do the same for my own project?

I have now been tracking the time that I spend on the project. The result is interesting.

What am I finding? I’m not spending nearly as much real, productive work time on this project as I perceive that I am. The project is often on my mind. It takes up valuable thinking space. I sorta, kinda think about it a lot. Thus, I have a perception that I am “always” working on it.

But the reality is… I’m not working on it all the time. As I am choosing to credit time to the project only when I am specifically focused on it, not all of my “thinking” time counts. I count time spent sitting at my computer using the project software. I count design time, writing time, and thinking time, when it’s thinking with purpose, that is.

However, “billable time” doesn’t include the time spent on fleeting thoughts that dance through my head. Nor am I including the time spent fantasizing about how beautiful and perfect and influential it will be when it’s all done. No, sadly no. For the rules I’ve chosen, the time I count has to be actual, real, legitimate work time.


This result is not a huge surprise for me. When I made the resolution, I understood and acknowledged that external events would interfere. Some weeks I would have time to work on the project; other weeks I would not. I accept that. I even appreciate it.

But what this time-recording resolution has done for me is clearly show, in ink, the difference between fiddling around sorta thinking about something, versus seriously and purposefully devoting an hour or two each day toward a specific project task.

This is enlightening. To get something done takes time and work—sustained work.

I don’t think I’m alone in having a misperception that I’m working a lot harder on “whatever” than the evidence would show.

Do you have any long-term goals, especially goals that don’t come with specific easy-to-organize steps? Examples could include looking for a new job, intending to learn a new skill, or choosing to organize your space (or your life).

Long-term goals, especially slightly vague goals that lack an obvious beginning, middle and end can easily slip down our priority lists. Are you actually spending the time on your goal that you believe that you are spending? Are you sure?

If you want to find out, try my resolution. Track the actual time you spend on your goal for a week or two. And, of course, let me know what you find out

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