Daily activity log to break unproductive habits

When I am trying to change my habits, I like to keep track of my time carefully. These days, I am trying to get more grant writing and paper writing done. Sometimes I leave the office with not a word written despite feeling like I was very busy all day. Clearly, Quadrant 1 activities are displacing Quadrant 2 activities. But what are the activities and how am I losing track?

So I kept a daily log of my activities to see. It turns out that I was spending a lot of time reading junk. Leading up to the election, I was reading a lot of politics. I would feel anxious and then look for an insightful article to take my mind away from that anxiety. Insightful Articles are the right kind of distraction: serious but about subjects that are not my responsibility. Engaging with things like that distracts me from anxiety but doesn’t resolve it.

Reading a book really helps turn down my anxiety, as does meditation. I put reading books I really enjoy and meditation into Quadrant 2. I put distractions (including most Insightful Articles) into Quadrant 4. In the lead-up to the election, they might have felt like Quadrant 3, but they were never really urgent with regard to my actions.

Student interruptions are the other bane of Quadrant 2. But I can’t blame students for my failure to engage with Quadrant 2 from 4AM to 8AM. I am significantly less interrupted in those hours. That’s all on me. But keeping track of my time in a log book has helped me to see where my time goes. That in turn has really helped me to be better focused (and brain.fm, which I put on in my headphones whenever I just don’t want to focus).

My log looks like this:

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