Finding your Superman time

Kimberly Snodgrass

At Asana, we strive to practice mindfulness in our approach to all the work we do. In this post, Kimberly Snodgrass, Executive Assistant to Justin Rosenstein, outlines how she built a simple tracking system to find Justin’s most productive hours and optimize his schedule accordingly.

Superman BraceletHow do you really know when you are being the most productive? The most on point? The most energetic? Should I be doing this right now? These are questions that many people (myself, included) often spend more time than necessary contemplating.

In August of this year, I joined Asana as the Executive Assistant to Justin Rosenstein. My goal: to enable him to be even more focused, mindful, and intentional about the work he was doing. Considering that Justin is the co-founder of a company that builds team task management software (I call him the “Task King”), I knew that taking an uber-productive executive and making him even more effective would be an awesome challenge.

After the first month of working together, it became clear that there was a core problem: Justin’s demands required both a different degree and different kind of mental output. Some of his tasks require deep thinking, some creative output, and others a less intense but still important grind.

We realized that to empower Justin to be more mindful about the way he applies his energy and time, we needed some data. We wanted to establish the times of day Justin was most thoughtful, the most creative and the most ready to grind, and plan his week of work accordingly. We wanted to find and optimize his “Superman time.”

To build a clear picture of Justin’s Superman time, we tracked his daily output by using Excel and by scheduling a “Track Time” alert that popped up every two hours. Every time this alert appeared, I would walk over to Justin’s desk to sync up. We would go over his completed tasks in Asana, and then I’d ask him how much energy he applied to each one.

(Yes, this was not always a fun or comfortable exercise, but, given how central mindfulness is to our values and the results we eventually achieved, the discomfort was worth it.)

Below is a sample of one day on how we decided to track our time.
Spreadsheet for Superman Time

Below is a graphical representation that shows time of day on X, and effort on Y

Synthesis from tracking Justin over the span of six days:
From 9:00am-noon, Justin averages a 6.45 effortless level (10 = effortless)
From 1-2pm (after lunch) the average drops to 5.75
From 3-5pm, it rises slightly to a 5.91 effortless level
From 5:30pm and later, it drops off to 4.16

As a result of this exercise, we have a built a revised game plan for structuring every week of work. Because I know that Justin is not as energetic in the afternoon, I know that I can schedule meetings later in the day because Justin described meetings as fun and relatively effortless. I also noticed that in the morning, Justin is more intensely creative, so I now aim to plan his coding, planning, and deep thinking time in the morning. Since we’ve made the changes, it’s clear to me that Justin is more productive and happy.

As we had hoped, it turns out that the secret to finding your “Superman time” at work is simple: Just commit, set an intention, and be mindful. Tell yourself that you will take 3-5 days to actually track your day, your time, your intention, and your level of energy. But maybe even more valuable than the data we got was the act of repeatedly checking in on our intention, progress, and energy.

Have you found your Superman time? Let us know how you did it in the comments.

Meanwhile, feel free to use our templates here:

Time Tracker for 3 Days

Data Evaluation, Post Time Tracking

  1. avatarJon White

    How does this work when dealing with other people’s schedules? I would love to have all my meetings before 11am every morning (I am an early riser) and have my productive time in the afternoon, but this doesn’t fit others schedules.

    Did you have to overcome this issue?

  2. avatarKimberly Snodgrass Asana Team Member

    Thanks Jon for your comment. I would inform your team/management that you would like this accommodation in order to bring even more value to your company. This is not always easy, so maybe you could also switch even more tasks that do not require a ton of your brain power to the early morning? These tasks would be anywhere from working out, to planning your week/plans, to sorting papers for accounting. : )

  3. avatarVincenzo Vecchio

    Hi Kimberly,

    given this excellent exercise, do you think it could be interesting to have all this information inside asana? Tracking time, estimated time to complete, actual time.. and maybe have all this go into a calendar? :)

    1. avatarKimberly Snodgrass Asana Team Member

      Hi Vincenzo, right now we do not have a time tracker in Asana which is why we chose to use Excel and a human (me) to track the time. Since we now understand Justin’s “superman time”, we have integrated the data into his calendar, yes. i.e. we book his meetings later in the day when he has less energy because he described meetings as “fun” and “on the easier side for mental power.” Cheers, Kim

      1. avatarJose Bello

        We NEED a time tracker. What do you knwo that we don’t know? Why you don’t have it, and don’t plan to have it? Tell us. It is important to many of us. I cannot fully use ASANA with my team without a tool like that.

      2. avatarFrank Thinnes

        Hello Kimberly, I also would greatly appreciate time tracking and time reporting within asana – or at least a connection to existing time tracking solutions, like to getharvest (like trello does). Without the time tracking option, asana lacks a very important feature. Asana is so perfect in many ways – it is almost a shame, that you still have to use Excel and a human ;-) to track time! Please please please give us this feature soon!

  4. avatarHenrik

    I recently started using RescueTime to monitor how my time is spent on the computer. I think the scope of this tool differs a lot from Asana, but some kind of integration would be great.

    1. avatarKimberly Snodgrass Asana Team Member

      Hi Henrik, RescueTime is great for looking at time on the computer, but were also interested in how to track the energy on specific tasks. RescueTime does not track energy. We are looking into time tracking tools for Asana in the future as well. Thanks for reaching out! – Kim

  5. avatarChis

    At work where I spend my time often in front of the computer and I used Time Doctor, which track my entire activities accurately in real time and gives me analytics of my work day that allows me to improve productivity and eliminate less productive activities. I even set my regular break on it that helps me relax a bit and regain sanity.

    1. avatarKim Asana Team Member

      Personally, I think you can use what ever tool you like to remind you of where you are spending your time. What we found helpful was measuring our energy level and productivity. Currently, there is not a tool for the energy level tracking plus time tracking. Knowing your strengths is always a bonus to being super awesome at work!

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