slices of slife

September 30, 2008

Last week, I mentioned the Slife review I wrote for MacSparky. If you haven’t read that, I hope you will, because I want to talk a little bit more about how Slife has been helpful for me.

The short version is this: “Slife is a free program that runs in the background and measures how you spend your time. After it has been running for a while, you can go back and evaluate what you’ve been up to. It gives you a visual breakdown of what apps you’ve been working in, hour by hour.”

Most meaningful for me is a feature called activities. Slife allows the user to cluster different apps, documents, and websites into defined activities, so you can track how you are spending your time in larger segments. I have defined four different activities to see how I am spending my time: creating, collecting, connecting and planning/maintaining. I don’t see any of these as being superior or inferior to the others, but my goal in tracking this is to see how I can spend more time producing and creating.

I only define my activities based on apps. To break it down to webpages and documents would take more time than it is worth. But, here are the apps I used to define each activity:

  • Creating – This category includes anything where I am producing or developing ideas through a transition from mind to ‘page’. Among the programs would be the iWork suite, the Adobe CS3 suite, Scrivener, Yojimbo, CSSEdit, and MS Office.
  • Collecting – This is information gathering mode. It is sometimes hard research and sometimes just engaging with the ideas of others. Apps include Firefox, NetNewsWire, my Bible software, and Stanza (which is a beautiful ebook reader).
  • Connecting –, Twitterific, iChat. I think that list speaks for itself.
  • Planning/Maintaining – iCal, OmniFocus, Address Book, Slife.

The biggest hangup with this system comes with the Collecting activity. My web browser gets used for a lot and so this activity is bloated in its stats. For example, a site like Facebook fits better in connected, but, as easy as it may be, I don’t want to spend that much extra time setting up Slife.

So what is the use of all this? First of all, as I mentioned above, my goal is to increase how much time I spend in Creating mode. Slife offers some accountability for how well I am doing with that. (Guilt isn’t included, but I’m able to produce that on my own.)

More important, Slife is helping me see my daily rhythms. The chart above shows how much active time I have spent on my laptop today, broken down by hour. The red shows how much time I have spent in Creating mode. By paging back through previous days, I can look to see the trends for what times of day I am finding the most creative energy.

Give Slife a look. I think it will be worth your time…or at least it might help you remember what your time is worth.

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