A personal time tracking experiment, with broader civic implications?

Hello! I first learned about “Time Well Spent” a few months ago and am excited to join this community.

I’ve been doing a personal experiment for the past couple of months where I check in with myself every day and journal how I spent my time. I have four simple categories:

  • Time I spent doing something I loved (AKA time well spent :slight_smile:
  • Obligations
  • Wasted time
  • Sleep

Since doing this, I’ve observed interesting trends about my own technology use, but more broadly I’ve been able to start orienting the time I spend to better match what I actually value doing. And I think raising awareness of the value of this sort of self-reflection could have broader social implications, both in terms of others individually reaping similar benefits, and also in the political sphere, where the polarized environment in the US is a prime manifestation of how there isn’t a shared vision of what success for our society looks like.

Consider, for instance, if similar to how one might individually view their own time, the shared vision of success involved maximizing the amount of time people are able to collectively spend doing what they love. Through a well-designed survey (similar to the American Time Survey that the Bureau of Labor Statistics already does), we could study what gets in the way of people achieving that goal. For example, if the way social media is currently designed significantly interferes with well-being, the results of such a survey could be the impetus for more effective regulation.

Going beyond measuring the value of “screen time” though, this sort of survey could provide us a tool with which to measure and help us mitigate the impact of other technologies on the horizon like AI. The automation of work might collectively bring down time we spend on a particular obligation, but the benefits of who gets to truly enjoy the time that is saved may not be fairly distributed. Aligning our policy-making with the goal of maximizing time that is well spent could help us see our way to a more equitable outcome.

Finally, the potential of time well spent being a relatable common denominator could help realign our political discourse from the realm of -isms and single-issue distractions to having an easier way to focus on, understand, debate, and prioritize complex issues.

I hope to draft an open letter to the new Congress over the next few months detailing this proposal. Is anyone here aware of similar initiatives or interested in working on something like this together? Would love to hear some constructive criticism to give this proposal the maximum possibility of success!


This is really great, @zero.eth! You have gained some really valuable experiences that our community (and by extension the broader public) is greatly interested in.

Rising above TWS, this would be wonderful to address in terms of the role of Humane Tech in attaining that.

I am all for creating surveys. I have been looking in the past for (open-source) tools to create them with ease, and host them on our community website. It would be a great way to engage people, make them frequent visitors, and collect the data we need to determine Humane Tech best-practices, etc.

I love the way you are approaching this, and want to invite you to join our Campaigners team and help think on the ways to follow up on all of this. Did you read our announcement on future plans? If not, please refer to this: Who we are, What we do, And how YOU ❤ can help Humane Technology too!

Thanks for your thoughts on this @aschrijver! I’ve taken some time to reflect on this idea and read more about the work that other folks are doing here as you’ve recommended.

I think the best path forward for the survey might be creating a thoughtfully designed web app for it, perhaps using something like React Native. The app, in addition to providing helpful data from those willing to share it, could also help raise awareness of the work that CHT is doing.

It seems like this concept could complement some of these other initiatives which aim to push people away from irresponsible technology use. Such an app could help people decide how to best fill the new-found free time that might come with better technology habits.

Here is the course of action I’m thinking of taking here:

  • I’m doing this in parallel on the Mr. Money Mustache forum, but it might be interesting to try a virtual monthly meetup where folks could share insights and ideas related to this concept. At least for me personally, it’s easier for me to chat in real-time than follow threads on forums, and it seems like there is a desire in the group here to have more meetups and discussion.
  • I’ve never built an app before and don’t have much of a technical background. I work in operations and design, so I am struggling with such an ambitious goal! It would be great to assemble a more formal team to tackle making the app together.

Before I jump in with this, do you have any recommendations? Any threads in particular I should follow with respect to starting a virtual (or even a physical) meetup? Or teaming up with folks who are already doing something similar?