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Logging my time (Week six of Spring Semester 2018)

Number four in a series.

For those who haven’t been keeping track, I am keeping a coarse-grained daily log of how I am spending my time. Here’s what a typical day (or at least part of today) looks like.

2018-03-05      07:30   08:30   csc151  class prep
2018-03-05      08:30   10:00   csc151  class
2018-03-05      10:00   11:00   oh      csc151 students
2018-03-05      11:00   11:45   email
2018-03-05      11:45   12:00   dept    set up lunch
2018-03-05      12:00   13:00   dept    dept meeting
2018-03-05      13:00   13:10   dept    clean up lunch
2018-03-05      13:10   13:20   email
2018-03-05      13:20   14:00   csc32x  class prep
2018-03-05      14:00   16:00   csc32x  teach class
2018-03-05      16:00   17:20   admin   faculty meeting

Exciting, isn’t it? Of course, not all of the CSC32x class prep is reflected in that log; I read a lot of student journals the prior night. I’m pretty sure that a reasonable amount of the email represents csc151 exam questions. Nonetheless, I’m just leaving it as email. I don’t want to be too fine-grained in my analysis.

With these data, I have the opportunity to explore how I’m spending my time each week. I hope that I can use the information to think about how I might better spend my time. But even if it doesn’t help me improve, it gives me something to complain about.

During week five of the semester, I was at a conference. The time log from that week is not perfect and is also less interesting. For example, here’s a sample conference day [1,2].

2018-02-22      07:10   12:30   sv
2018-02-22      12:30   13:30   conf    luncheon/talk
2018-02-22      13:30   17:30   sv
2018-02-22      19:00   19:30   sv      extra stuff
2018-02-22      19:30   22:45   conf    reception/drinks/chat
2018-02-22      23:30   24:15   musing

And you thought the normal log was boring! In any case, I didn’t see a great benefit to looking at that week, since it was so atypical. I also didn’t really know how to log things like travel.

But now I’ve been back for a week. If I recall correctly, the first three weeks I looked at, I worked about 65 hours, about 75 hours, and about 65 hours. In looking at those numbers, I felt like I needed to cut down my work a bit. So, what about this week?

Two things impacted my ability to do work this past week. First, I got sick on Tuesday night. Sick enough that I slept until mid-afternoon on Wednesday. That meant that I did almost nothing on Wednesday, just one hour of email and one hour of musing. I also slept in on Thursday morning in the hopes of getting better. I was well enough to work on Friday, but just barely. I skipped out on a lunch meeting and a dinner meeting. Second, I also had a light Saturday: I attended Youngest Son’s Jazz Band Concert in Iowa City. I took a long nap in the hopes of continuing to get better. And I went with my family to see Black Panther.

With essentially two days off, how much work did I get done? Let’s see … if we don’t count the six hours I spent musing, I spent 49 hours working. The vast majority was for CSC 151. I spent over twenty hours on CSC 151 last week, most of which was grading the exam. If I’d been there on Wednesday, I might have spent close to twenty-four hours on the class. I spent nine hours on CSC 321 and CSC 322. If I had been up to teaching class on Wednesday, I might have spent closer to thirteen. Where did the remaining time go? I still had about two hours of leftover student-volunteer work. I spent over four hours each on preparing for summer research (mostly doing interviews), on email, and on department business. I spent about two and a half hours writing recommendation letters. That looks like most of it.

Being sick meant that I missed a lot of different things that I planned to attend. What did I miss? Let’s see … interesting talks Tuesday night and Friday afternoon on some digital humanities topics; a digital humanities workshop on Tuesday afternoon [4]; Convocation on Thursday [5]; and the GSP 25th anniversary retrospective on Friday night. Those things alone would have added eight or so hours to my week, but it would have been time that expanded my intellectual horizons.

If I’m working nearly fifty hours in a week in which I’m sick, something needs to give. What can I change? I can not grade exams, or not spend as much time grading exams. But the CSC 151 exams are my primary chance to help students think not just about writing correct code, but also about writing clear, elegant, readable, and efficient code. I’ve not found a way to have students do substantial problems and to give students appropriate feedback without spending some time on it. Thirty-four students times six problems times a few minutes on each problem to consider the student’s answer and to write some feedback is a lot of time.

I can stop musing. But I find the musings to be a positive, rather than a time burden. Michelle says that I’m happier when I muse.

Can I cut down on email? Probably not.

Should I go to fewer interesting talks? Probably. But expanding my knowledge is part of the reason I’m in higher education. And many of the talks relate to my upcoming fellowship. It’s hard to decide [6].

Maybe after the next two weeks, I should sit down and figure out just how much time I spend on each activity in the average week. Those data might help me figure out more on where to cut. We shall see.

But for now, I have another CSC 151 exam to grade this weekend. I also have Youngest Son’s play to see, a concert or two, some department business, and more. I expect a busy week. And if my week’s going to be that busy, I should probably stop musing for today.

See you tomorrow [7].

Postscript: I think someone asked about the program I use to process my data. Here’s the fifteen-or-so minute hack I wrote.

Warning! Undocumented Perl ahead.


# Reads my time log from standard input and prints some summary
# data to standard output.

my %summary;
my $total;

while (<STDIN>) {
  my @pieces = split/\t/;
  my $start = $pieces[1];
  my $finish = $pieces[2];
  my $topic = $pieces[3];
  my ($start_hour,$start_minute) = split /:/,$start;
  my ($finish_hour,$finish_minute) = split /:/,$finish;
  my $elapsed = ($finish_hour - $start_hour) * 60 + ($finish_minute - $start_minute);
  $summary{$topic} += $elapsed;
  $total += $elapsed;
} # while <STDIN>

while (($topic, $elapsed) = each (%summary)) {
  my $min = $elapsed % 60;
  my $hour = ($elapsed-$min) / 60;
  if ($min < 10) { $min = "0$min"; }
  if ($hour < 10) { $hour = " $hour"; }
  print "$topic\t$elapsed\t$hour:$min\n";
} # while %summary

$min = $total % 60;
$hour = ($total-$min)/60;
print " TOTAL:\t\t$hour:$min\n";

Here’s the output for this week.

rec     150      2:30
infodir 10       0:10
sv      135      2:15
csc32x  535      8:55
admin   30       0:30
musing  380      6:20
csc151  1210    20:10
oh      95       1:35
glimmer 250      4:10
email   270      4:30
dept    230      3:50
 TOTAL:         54:55

Fascinating, isn’t it?

Note that the only office hour (oh) time I log is time when I’m actually seeing students during office hours. Otherwise, I’m using office hours for email or other activities. This week, I did a lot of Glimmer interviews during office hours.

[1] sv means "Student-Volunteer Coordinator` and generally represents time I spent in Student-Volunteer headquarters dealing with things. I’m pretty sure that on that day, I was supposed to be done at 5:30 p.m. But then I got a call on my cell phone about problems, so I had to walk back to the conference center to deal with the problems.

[2] I realize that 24:15 is not a real time. But it works with the quick hacks I’ve written, and it was easier than putting half of the musing on another day.

[3] Drive for an hour. Wait for thirty minutes until the show starts. Listen to ten or so minutes of good music. Sit in the hallways for twenty minutes. Sit in a room to hear the critique for thirty minutes. Drive home for an hour.

[4] I think.

[5] It sounds like I missed one of the better Convocations. I’m sad.

[6] Perhaps the talks I attend (or don’t attend) would make a subject for another musing. I’ll add it to the ever-growing lists.

[7] That assumes you read my musings each day. If you only read the musings on my time-logs, I’ll see you next week.

[8] Glimmer is the Grinnell Laboratory for Interactive MultiMedia Experimentation and Research. It’s what I called my research lab when I arrived at Grinnell. The name isn’t perfect, but I like it.

Version 1.0 of 2018-03-05.