Sunday, April 3, 2016

Timing my Hobbies

A little less than three years ago I started recording how much time I spent practicing the musical keyboard. I put my iPad next to me when I played and opened it to Numbers, its spreadsheet app. I put the date in the first column, the time when I started playing in the second column (by pressing the app's "now" button), how far I got in a particular piece in the third column and the name of the piece that I played, in an abbreviated form, in the fourth column. Here's an example from a few days ago:
Mar 29, 2016
 12:22:01 AM
41m 59s
 12:27:05 AM
 12:30:07 AM
 12:33:37 AM
 12:39:25 AM
 12:45:01 AM
 12:46:59 AM
 12:53:14 AM
 12:59:05 AM
 1:04:00 AM
In the third column f means that I played the full piece, from start to finish. 29 and 6 mean that I stopped at the 29th and 6th bar, respectively. In the fourth column ms1 is the Moonligh Sonata, 1st movement, fe is Fuer Elise, tm is the Turkish March, lf is Bach's Little Fugue and hon is Billy Joel's Honesty, which I recently started learning.
The 5th column has the total amount of time that I played that day. That's calculated by subtracting the first cell of the 2nd column from its last cell. And K in the 6th column means keyboard practice.
Why keep that kind of statistics? Because seeing progress helps me motivate myself. And I simply like statistics in the stereotypically nerdy way.
Here's a chart of the average amount of time per day that I practiced in every month since May of 2013: 
The peak value (more than an hour a day) was reached in November of last year when I was finally able to play the Little Fugue from start to finish for the first time. That was pretty exciting. I still can't play it in tempo though. Pros play it in a little over 4 minutes. My record is almost exactly 5 minutes and I usually play it slower. Here's a graph:
There was a gradual improvement in playing time until recently. I'm now working on quality at the expense of speed. But speed at least can be measured and visualized. Performance over time can be compared, and that does motivate.
About five and a half months ago I started recording the time I spend on my other nerdy hobbies in the same format.
In the above graph blue represents the time per day that I spent doing Anki reps. I got that info from my Anki file in a similar way to the one I described here. Black represents keyboard practice. Various shades of light green show the time that I spent on language nerdery. Dark green is reading books in English that I intend to review on this blog. Other colors represent other things. Gathering this data is the sort of activity which will seem perverse to non-nerds but which seems cool to me.

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