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Category: LITE Feed (non-deal) Posts

What I Learned From a Week of Tracking My Time

Last week, inspired by Laura Vanderkam’s book, Off the Clock, I tracked everything I did every 15 minutes for seven days. Needless to say, it was quite eye-opening! In this post, I’ll share what I learned…

First off, I have to say that I have heard of the idea of time tracking for years. But up until I started listening to Off the Clock, I was not convinced it was worth the effort. It just felt like a lot of extra busywork.

If you’ve followed here for awhile, you probably know that I use a hybrid of Google Calendar + a Daily Time-Blocked To Do List to stay on track. I’m fairly efficient and productive by nature and tend to have a pretty high capacity and accomplish quite a bit most days.

In Off the Clock, Laura shares how beneficial it can be to actually see and track what we’re doing every minute of every day, instead of just going by what we feel or think we probably are doing most of the day. I was curious if tracking my time would reveal areas where I could improve or if it would just be a lot of time spent filling in little rectangles on a paper for a week! I wouldn’t know until I actually tried time tracking, would I?

My philosophy is, “Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!” So I downloaded my trackers and got started. Here’s what I learned:

1. Overall, I use my time pretty wisely.

I was encouraged overall by this exercise. I realized that my Google Calendar + Time-Blocked To Do List Method really does help me to (mostly) maximize my time each day so that I’m not frittering away a lot of hours or spending a lot of time on things that are just mindless. The majority of my day is focused on areas that are my priorities. This was good to know and a very positive outcome of this exercise.

2. I spend a lot of time on Instagram.

The surprising result of tracking my time? How much time I spend on Instagram! I love Instagram, it’s a big part of our business strategy, it’s life-giving for me, and it brings in a lot of income for us. But I still was really shocked to add up the hours and realize how much time I was spending on Instagram in a week!

3. I check Instagram more than I realized.

This was my biggest takeaway, by far! I had no idea that I was often checking Instagram 3-4 times per hour!!

Sure, there are many times when I’m with a friend or at church or in a meeting or hanging out with my family and I’m completely offline and not looking at my phone. But, at least during the working hours of the day, it wasn’t uncommon at all for me to be checking Instagram multiple times in an hour.

And, even more surprising, those times when I thought I would “just check in for a minute” often ended up being more like 3-5 minutes of time on Instagram or even longer! While most of my time on Instagram is spent engaging with my audience (it’s fairly common for me to respond to 300-600 messages/comments every day) and producing content, I also do get sucked into mindless scrolling.

What I’m Changing As a Result of Time Tracking

Overall, I decided I don’t need to change that much, but I do want to be much more aware of how much time I’m spending on my phone — especially on Instagram. I want to be able to continue to write and record content and stories there and I want to continue to engage with everyone who comments or messages (even if it’s just liking the comment/message as I often do, to let the sender/commentor know I saw and read it), but I feel like I can do this without needing to check in 3-4 times an hour!

So here’s what I am changing/am working on;

  • I set a timer on Instagram for the amount of time I want to spend per day. This is just to remind me to be cognizant of the amount of time I spend on Instagram.
  • I’m trying to leave my phone in the other room more often so I’m not distracted and just mindlessly picking it up.
  • I’m working on paying attention to when I’m picking up my phone to check Instagram. Is it because I’m trying to avoid doing something I need to do (“productive procrastination”)? Is it because I’m feeling lonely or sad or bored? Is it to find some sort of affirmation? Is it just out of habit?

I’m also realizing that I can get a lot more done if I pick up the phone and check in for a 10-minute block of time every hour or every other hour than I am getting done by checking in 3-4 times an hour for 5 minutes each time. I also realize that this is helping me stay more focused on the non-Instagram tasks at hand and get more accomplished — and have more free time and wiggle room in my work day!

How to Get Your Free Time Trackers

Laura Vanderkam offers free time tracking downloads on her site when you sign up for her email newsletter. You’ll get a 15-minute tracker and a 30-minute tracker — and you’ll have them in PDF, Google Sheets, and an Excel file. Pick which one works best for you. Or, pick the one you think will work for you, stick with that for a week, and if that doesn’t work, try another one!

I chose to use the 15-minute PDF because I’m more of a pen and paper girl and really avoid spreadsheets if I can help it. (Although I have to admit that the fact that Laura has tracked her time for months and months on spreadsheets and can tell you exactly how much time she spends on pretty much every single category of her life is pretty inspiring! It almost made me want to reconsider my “I don’t do spreadsheets” stance… just because it would be really cool to have those stats!)

One thing I quickly learned is that tracking your time in 15-minute increments means you do a lot of tracking. I mean, 15 minutes goes by pretty quickly! This week, I’ve been using the 30-minute spreadsheet and it feels more doable. However, it also feels like I sometimes have a lot to put into each line because you can fit a lot of little tasks into 30 minute increments!

Have you ever tried tracking your time? If so, I’d love to hear what you learned from it!

An interview with Kathrynne

Last week, while the kids were off of school because of the ice and snow, Jesse and I sat down and interviewed Kathrynne, our 16-year-old.

She answered some of your questions that you’d submitted on topics like:

  • how parents can build stronger relationships with their teens
  • why she feels like she can trust us
  • her honest thoughts on kids and social media
  • how she feels most heard and understood (and what makes her feel like we’re not listening/paying attention)
  • what learning to drive has been like, and more!

In This Episode: 

[00:33] We were snowed in… and then we were iced in!

[02:52] Kathrynne is joining us to answer some of your questions.

[04:39] How does Kathrynne feel about my active Instagram presence?

[05:42] What makes her feel most heard and understood?

[07:15] She shares the things we do that make her feel like she isn’t being heard.

[09:57] What advice would she give other kids younger than her?

[12:01] How can parents try to cultivate trust-filled relationships with their younger children?

[14:59] Why parents shouldn’t pre-decide that the teenage years are going to be hard.

[17:13] Ways parents can reconnect with teens who seem really distant.

[18:44] Things to consider regarding social media during the teenage years.

[20:48] Teens want to be able to make their own decisions, especially regarding their time and interests.

[27:24] What’s it been like learning how to drive?

Links and Resources:

How to Listen to The Crystal Paine Show

The podcast is available on iTunesAndroidStitcher, and Spotify. You can listen online through the direct player here. OR, a much easier way to listen is by subscribing to the podcast through a free podcast app on your phone. (Find instructions for how to subscribe to a podcast here.)

Ready to dive in and listen? Hit the player above or search for “The Crystal Paine Show” on your favorite podcast app.

Gretchen’s $79 Grocery Shopping Trip and Weekly Menu Plan for 5


1 bag Chicken Breasts – $5.59

1 lb Ground Beef – $3.39

1 lb Butter – $2.66

2 dozen Eggs – $1.03 each

1 large container Yogurt – $1.75

1 box Cinnamon Cereal – $1.39

1 gallon Milk – $2.25

1 box Chocolate Cereal – $1.29

2 pkg Chicken Breasts – $3.39 and $3.71

4 Yogurts – $0.32 each

1 pkg Hot Dogs – $0.99

1 Pineapple – $1.69

2 Half & Half – $1.55 each

1 pkg Flour Tortillas – $1.45

1 pkg Frozen French Fries – $1.49

1 bag Frozen Peas – $0.75

1 can Corn – $0.47

1 box MooTubes – $1.55

1 Unsweetened Applesauce – $1.95

1 Baking Powder – $0.99

1 box Lasagna Noodles – $1.59

2 boxes Mac & Cheese – $1.15 each

1 bags Shredded Cheese – $2.75 each

1 bag Kettle Chips – $1.29

1 bag Tortilla Chips – $0.92

1 Chunk Cheese – $1.45

1 box Fruit & Grain Bars – $1.35

1 bag Spinach – $1.19

1 pkg Oven Roasted Turkey – $2.45

0.81 lbs Roma Tomatoes – $0.77

2 Avocados – $0.59 each

1 box Graham Crackers – $0.85

1 bag Caesar Salad – $2.29

3 pkg Strawberries – $1.49 each

1 can Refried Beans – $0.69

1 Ranch Dressing – $0.89

1 bag Chocolate Chips – $1.29

1 bag Marshmallows – $0.89

1 pkg Hot Dog Buns – $0.79

1 loaf Bread – $0.55

2.42 lbs Bananas – $1.06

1 Cucumber – $1.29

1 bag Oyster Crackers – $0.79

1 pkg Hamburger Buns – $0.79

Total: $79.82

Menu Plan for This Week


Cereal, Eggs, Oatmeal, Yogurt, Fruit


Turkey Sandwiches, Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches x 2, Mac & Cheese, Hard Boiled Eggs/Cheese/Fruit, Cheese/Crackers/Apples & Peanut Butter, Leftovers


Smoked Chicken Breasts, Caesar Salad, French Fries

Dinner from my sister (My sister is sending us dinner one night this week. Thanks, Crystal!)

Grilled Hamburgers/Hot Dogs, Chips, Sliced Strawberries, S’mores

Italian Chicken, Tossed Salad, Toasted leftover Hamburger/Hot Dog Buns, Steamed Broccoli

Ground Venison and Gravy over Noodles, Banana Muffins, Fruit Salad

Pancakes, Eggs

Homemade Cheese Pizza, Breadsticks, Spinach Salad

Last Week’s $71.70 ALDI Shopping Trip

I’m currently challenging myself to stick with a $70 budget for our family of six (two adults, two teens, a pre-teen, and a baby). This includes almost all of our breakfasts, snacks, and dinners + most household products (toiletries, feminine products, etc.). Jesse and I usually eat lunch at home. The kids have lunch at school.

For live updates, be sure to follow my Instagram Stories. See all posts on my $70 Grocery Budget here.

So many of you have begged me to do another Aldi shopping trip, so this week — since I needed to buy a lot of basic ingredients — I stopped by there for this week’s shopping trip. (Psst! Have you seen my post on my 25 Favorite Things to Buy at Aldi?)

Since we had a lot of ice and snow last week, I had heard that the delivery trucks had trouble getting through to some grocery stores — and that was very obvious by the produce section. (However, the produce section was the only section that was really sparse.)

I was excited to find some marked down meat! I had been hearing from people that Aldi has been doing lots of markdowns recently, but this was my first time to find it myself!


I also found these heart-shaped pizzas marked down by 50% so I bought two and we had them for dinner on Saturday night.

ALDI Shopping Trip

  • 2 pizzas — marked down to $2.49 each
  • Half & Half — $1.55
  • Toilet paper — $1.49
  • Orange Juice — $1.59
  • Almond milk — $1.79
  • Mozzarella — $2.75
  • 2 cans green beans — $0.47 each
  • Butter — $2.19
  • 2 bags frozen veggies — $0.95 each
  • 1 can diced tomatoes — $0.45
  • 2 can cream of chicken soup — $0.50 each
  • Crispy Oats cereal — $1.09
  • Honey Crispy Oats cereal — $2.39
  • 3 boxes Mac & Cheese — $0.34 each
  • Honey Crunch Oats cereal — $1.29
  • Brown sugar — $1.29
  • Lettuce — $1.29
  • Chocolate chips — $1.65
  • Bacon — $3.39
  • Celery — $1.29
  • Chicken Thighs — marked down to $3.53
  • Milk — $2.57
  • 2 bags frozen broccoli — $0.85 each
  • 2 3-lb bags chicken tenderloins — $5.45
  • Cheddar cheese — $2.99
  • 2 3-lb bags Gala apples — $2.99 each
  • 2 Cucumbers — $0.59 each
  • Sugar — $1.94
  • Oyster crackers — $0.79
  • Total with tax = $71.70

Menu Plan Ideas

Be sure to follow along on Instagram Stories to see what I’m cooking every day. I’ll likely change a few of these things up! We’ll see!)

Breakfast Ideas: Cereal/Milk, Green Smoothies, Energy Bites (yes, I eat them for breakfast!), Oatmeal

Lunch Ideas: Salad, Leftovers, Sandwiches, Mac & Cheese (The kids eat lunch at school during the week.)

Dinner Ideas:

Want to learn some of my best tips and tricks for cutting your grocery bill? Sign up here for my FREE tip sheet on how to cut your grocery bill by $50 this week.

5 Days to Yell Less & Love More Challenge (pre-order bonus!)

A few years back, I wrote a post about how I stopped yelling at my kids. Little did I dream that that post would be viewed by hundred of thousands of people and would spark some of the initial concepts I shared in my new book, Love-Centered Parenting.

Because so many of you have written me and said you’d love for me to share more practical ideas and advice on how to stop yelling at your kids and be a more patient mom, I put together a special pre-order bonus called the 5 Days to Yell Less & Love More Challenge. 


What We’ll Talk About in This 5-Day Challenge

In this 5-day challenge, we’ll:

  • Dive into the why behind your frustration and anger and talk about how to nip it in the bud
  • Discuss what to do when you feel like you’re going to lose your cool
  • Develop practical ways to lean in and love your kids instead of lashing out
  • Design a plan of action to build stronger relationships with your kids

Most of this content will be brand-new and is extra content not shared in Love-Centered Parenting.

What You’ll Get When You Sign Up For This Challenge

This challenge is FREE when you pre-order a copy of Love-Centered Parenting. It’s my thank you gift to you for supporting the book and believing in this passion project of mine.

Here’s what you’ll get:

  • Five day’s worth of short videos from me to walk you through this challenge. Each video is designed to give you practical help and ideas + inspiration on your journey. I want to be your coach and cheerleader as you go through this challenge.
  • A simple project to complete each day to help you yell less and love more. These will be simple and doable — even in the middle of a very full life!
  • Bonus: Because I don’t want you to go it alone, you’ll also get access to a private Facebook community for you to interact with other parents who are also signed up for this challenge. I hope that this Facebook Group will provide encouragement, accountability, and motivation for you as you go throughout this challenge. Note: Facebook is not required — all videos and challenges will come directly to your inbox! It’s just an extra bonus if you’d like to participate there for more interaction with other parents who are going through the material together.

Sign Up For the Yell Less, Love More Challenge

To sign up for the challenge, follow these two steps:

  1. Pre-order a copy of Love-Centered Parenting here (or any online retailer of your choice). If you’ve already pre-ordered, you can skip this step!
  2. Fill out this form here. (Just copy and paste your confirmation number in the space provided.)
  3. That’s it! You’ll receive an email after signing up with details on how to join the Facebook Group (if you choose to do so!) and how to access the videos and projects.

Any questions or have any issues signing up? Leave a comment on this post or send an email to and I’ll help you out.

Brigette’s $80 Grocery Shopping Trip and Weekly Menu Plan

My older sister, Brigette, shares her shopping trips and menu plans every week! You can go HERE to see all of her weekly menu plans and you can go HERE to read all about her family!


2 64-oz cartons Orange Juice – $3.18

2 gallons Whole Milk – $3.96

2 cans Green Beans – $0.94

1 10-lb bag Russet Potatoes – $3.99

1 large can Black Olives – $0.99

1 jar Spanish Olives – $0.69

1 pkg Romaine Hearts – $1.99

2 Avocados – $0.98

1 3-ct pkg Multi-Colored Peppers – $2.65

1 pkg Zucchini – $1.95

1 tub Organic Mixed Greens – $1.89

1 tub Artisan Lettuce – $2.89

1 3-lb bag Pink Lady Apples – $2.99

1 Cauliflower – $1.99

1 carton Grape Tomatoes – $1.49

2 cartons Strawberries – $2.58

2 Cucumbers – $0.90

1 64-oz carton Unsweetened Almond Milk – $1.49

1 jar Organic Balsamic Vinegar – $1.95

5 pkgs frozen Broccoli Florets – $4.20

1 48-oz bag frozen Boneless Chicken Breasts – $5.49

4 boxes Butter Quarters – $6.04

1 16-oz pkg Deli Meat – $2.49

1 can Tuna – $1.09

1 can Salmon – $2.69

1 family-size box Frosted Flakes – $1.99

1 box Frosted Shredded Wheat – $1.07

1 box Cinnamon Crunch Squares – $1.19

1 box Balance Squares – $1.69

7 single serving cartons – $3.85

1 can Olive Oil Spray – $1.35

1 pkg Rice Cakes – $1.75

2 loaves Sandwich Bread – $1.10

1 pkg Brioche Buns, reduced – $0.99

1 tub Goat Cheese – $2.39

2 dozen Eggs – $1.52

Grocery Total for the Week: $80.38

Weekly Menu Plan


Everyone is responsible for making/cleaning up their own breakfasts. Choices include:

Oatmeal, Cereal, Toast, Scrambled/Boiled/Fried Eggs, Fruit, Smoothies, Yogurt


Rice Cakes with Peanut Butter, Apples, Cucumbers x 2

Deli Meat Sandwiches, Strawberries, Peppers x 2

Build-Your-Own-Salad Bar (Canned Salmon/Tuna, Goat Cheese, Tomatoes, Romaine/Spring Mix, Chopped Veggies, Avocados, Olives, Nuts, Salad Dressings) x 2



Meatloaf, Baked Potatoes, Broccoli

Homemade Cheese Pizza, Green Beans

Grilled Chicken, Biscuits, Broccoli

Ham and Scalloped Potatoes, Roasted Cauliflower

Hamburgers (I use half venison/half beef), Creamy Milk Rice, Broccoli

Spaghetti, Homemade French Bread, Green Beans