Results of time-tracking a college quarter

Kendall Nakai 🌸
5 min readAug 10, 2021

One of the habits I picked up in 2020 was to block days with dedicated sessions of work time — no pressure if things take more or less time, simply adjust throughout the day. But the mere act of writing it down gave me a schedule I could follow.

When scrolling Reddit, I came across a post of someone’s hour-tracking from r/DataIsBeautiful. Compilations like these have always been intriguing so I started tracking my own hours by counting up the times I blocked out in Winter 2021. Every time I sat down for > 15 minutes to work on a task for a unit (which I defined as a class or outside project), I blocked it on my calendar and counted up the blocks at the end of the quarter.

Hour-tracking for a year from r/DataIsBeautiful

Time tracking results

Work instances

A work instance is defined to be each time I sit down for at least 15 minutes to work on a task for one of my units (i.e. if I note that I worked on a unit 1 time on 3 different days, that is 3 work instances or 2 times on 2 different days is 4 work instances). Over all units, I sit down and work on each unit an average of 4 times per week.

Each of these blocks is a work instance of a time chunk

Time chunk

A time chunk is defined to be the amount of time spent on each work instance. So I took every single work instance of the week and averaged the time spent on each (i.e. if I work for 1 hours one work instance and 3 hours another, that’s an average of 2 hours per work instance). Over all units, I can focus for about 1.5 hours before I switch tasks or call it quits.

Time-tracking for a school quarter. Each unit column represents one four credit course or activity. Acronyms: CSE = Computer Science, COGS = Cognitive Science, DSGN = Design

Note: If you are a UCSD student and have questions about any of the classes listed on the chart, feel free to reach out!

To summarize:

  • Units that took the most time (~83 hours each): 2 Computer Science group project courses
  • Unit that took the least time (28.5 hours): Cognitive Phenomena course
  • Most personally fulfilling units (~55 hours each): Outside projects
  • Most chill week (6 hours LOL): Week 1, the first week of the quarter
  • Busiest week (62.26 hours): Week 10, the week before finals
  • Average work instances per unit: 4 (sit and work for at least 15 min)
  • Average time spent on each work instance: 1.69 hours
  • Average time spent on each unit/week: 4.91 hours (excluding week 1)
  • Average time spent working overall/week: 39.78 hours

The results are a little skewed since the quarter I tracked was heavier than normal but gives a decent sense of how hours differ but still follow general assumptions about course difficulty, my personal interest in course, and course type.


I worked “full-time” but not overtime

At the beginning of college, I was told a standard full-time student spends ~40 hours a week with 4 classes or 16 credits (~10 hours a week per class).

I considered my workload 28 credits, counting my five classes as 20 credits and two outside projects as another 4 credits each. I originally assumed by having more “credits” I would end up with more hours.

However, I worked an average 39.78 hours per week, or “full-time”(excluding week 1 as an outlier). This means I was only putting in only a little over half of the standard hours for each credit. Basically, I have a pretty average personal work capacity, regardless of actual workload.

Iterations > grinding

There’s a stark difference in quality of work output between time-in overall and time-in over time. In the last 2 weeks of the quarter, I had mornings with long periods of focus for project courses where the results were good but not refined. On the other hand, time throughout the quarter on my outside projects that went through iterative design, lead to well-thought-out looking results at the end of the quarter .

Focused time > passive time

It makes sense that active listening beats passive but it was interesting to witness putting the same amount of hours into taking notes for lecture courses could result in different scores. My first midterm scores were low because I would watch lecture and take notes. They rose when I would listen and take notes.

Things get painful and more time-consuming around Week 4

In the quarter system, by Week 4 a typical student has probably had 2 midterms and has one coming up in Week 5 or 6 and the ball just keeps rolling until finals. That’s usually how it goes but it was interesting (and painful) to see the spike in hours correlating with the feeling of pressure rising.

Final thoughts

I like to think I did well this quarter and planned each week to make the best use of time so I wouldn’t burning out, although I did get very tired at the end.

At the end of the quarter, some unanswered questions that came out of this process included:

  • What is the order in which I work (deadlined-based or enjoyment-based)?
  • Do stressful times make me lose flow (i.e. induce procrastination) or create flow (i.e. deadline motivation)?
  • How much does the quality of work fluctuate when grinding over a shorter period of time of (days) vs. iterating over longer (weeks or months)?
  • How much meaningful time have I spent in college (throughly learning the content vs. just trying to get through a classes)?
  • What do I do with the hours outside of work (to be continued)?

Moving forward, I’m not quite sure what I’ll do with this time-information or questions or whether I’ll extend to tracking outside work but I found it interesting and enjoyed the process so that’s all that matters for now :-)



Kendall Nakai 🌸

👩🏻‍💻 | writing the random things i would write in google docs but **aesthetic**