Case Study: Judy the Gardener

This time we’ve prepared a fictitious case study for you. It illustrates how a person could track her time, analyze statistics and draw conclusions from them to set goals and create useful plans.


Judy has a day job and various hobbies and interests. She likes jogging, reads about scientific discoveries, keeps contact with friends and family and loves her little garden where she grows flowers and vegetables, etc…

But she also dreams about changing jobs. To get a better one she would like to pass a professional exam. But somehow she cannot find enough time to study. Recently the situation in her company started to change dramatically and looks like changing jobs is not only a dream any more. It can soon be a necessity.

She decides to act before she’s forced to. She installs Goalist to manage her time differently and make time for studying. She enrolls into the Training. She doesn’t have much hope though, after all she’s already well organized.

Tracking time and analyzing stats

First she tracks her time to collect some data. After a week she analyzes her statistics.

Judy notices that gardening takes up 2 hours a day on average. She didn’t expect that because gardening is so nice and time flies when she’s with her plants. And she forced herself to study every day but it turns out that she managed to do it only 30 minutes a day on average?! That’s impossible, she could swear she spent much more time on it! There must be a bug in the app.

She goes back to browse her Day Plans to do some manual calculations. Only now she recalls that on Tuesday evening just before the study time her mother paid her an unexpected visit. And then those vicious snails attacked her salad on Thursday, she had to fight them after all, it couldn’t wait. Damn.. there’s no bug in the app, the stats are correct.

She was so happy she’d have an excuse to give up jogging but she has a gorgeous park next to her house, no need to commute so jogging doesn’t take up too much time.

Focusing on facts

Anyway, she decides to focus on facts:

Fact #1: Unexpected events seriously changed her evening plans twice. She decides to move her “Preparation to the exam” task to the very beginning of her evenings and not do anything else until she spends an hour studying. If The Unexpected hits again she wants to sacrifice other tasks, not studying.

Fact #2: Reading about scientific discoveries and contacting friends and family take the same amount of time. And it’s substantial. Family is her important value. But the discoveries are just fun. “For Cat’s sake I really need to pass this exam! No more discoveries until I pass the exam!” she decides.

Fact #3: Gardening took the most time. But she’s not going to just ditch it! And gardening consists of various activities like watering, weeding, collecting crops and a few other things. She decides to do more detailed time tracking to see which activity is actually the most time consuming. “It must be weeding, I hate it! But what can I do about it, what must be done must be done.” she thinks.

She creates subtasks:

  • Gardening: weeding
  • Gardening: watering
  • Gardening: other

And patiently she gets back to her daily routines and tracking time to collect new data. She doesn’t read about the discoveries any more and after a few days she realizes she actually doesn’t miss it. She was reading about them on Facebook and it’s so full of distractions and all these notifications and silly photos… addictive like tobacco but so cool to quit 😀

After another week

Judy analyzes her statistics again. Oops, it’s not weeding but watering that takes the most time. She still doesn’t have an idea on how to get rid of weeding (doesn’t want to use pesticides). But she planned so many times in the past to automate the watering…

A quick research in the Internet shows that it wouldn’t actually be so expensive. There are many articles about creating a watering system with cheap parts and connecting the pipes seems a no-brainer. And the pictures of the crops are amazing – automatic watering is not just handy, it’s much more efficient.

Additionally – 6 hours of studying! Not even 1 missed, ha! Thanks to moving her study time to the beginning of her afternoon she managed to avoid the damages of The Unexpected, cool!

A new, improved plan

Judy develops a new plan:

  1. Continue studying at the beginning of each afternoon
  2. Automate the watering

Then, on paper, she splits #2 into smaller steps to make the project more manageable:

Monday: Do a research on what parts are needed
Tuesday: Design the system (what goes where)
Wednesday: Buy the parts (on the way home from work)
Thursday: Prepare the garden
Friday: Distribute the parts around the garden (pipes, etc)
Saturday: Connect the parts, start the system, celebrate!

The watering project becomes her second most important thing (after studying) so she decides to put it as the second in her plan before everything else.

Additionally she’ll also split the learning sessions into 2 shorter parts as she read it improves recall.

So her plan for Monday afternoon looks like this:
12:00am-05:00pm No plan
05:00pm-05:30pm Study for the exam (with a Daily note: “Finish the third chapter and score at least 70% in the self-assessment test)
05:30pm-05:40pm Break
05:40pm-06:10pm Study for the exam (with a Daily note: “Finish the third chapter and score at least 70% in the self-assessment test)
06:10pm-06:30pm Break
06:30pm-07:30pm Gardening: improvements (with a Daily note: “Research on what parts are needed for the watering system”)
07:30pm-08:00pm Jogging
08:00pm-08:15pm Shower
08:15pm-08:55pm Meal
08:55pm-09:40pm Chatting with friends
09:40pm-10:10pm House cleaning, dishes

Handling the unexpected

Judy jogs only on Mondays and Thursdays, so will do additional garden work that still needs to be done on the remaining days.

If her mother or friends want to meet up during the week she’ll tell them she’s busy and set up meetings for Saturday afternoon and any time Sunday. It’s not a big sacrifice as it only needs to last until she passes the exam.

She doesn’t work on Saturdays so will have time till the afternoon to finish the watering system even if something unexpected pops up during the week.

The plan seems doable and the goal exciting enough to provide enough motivation to stick to the plan.

After 2 weeks

Judy managed to construct her watering system. So she had more time for studying and did a great progress.

To make more improvements in the garden she decided to track her time differently. She stopped tracking watering and weeding and created new tasks to look at her garden work from a different angle:

  • Gardening: tomatoes
  • Gardening: salad
  • Gardening: other

It turned out that work with the salad was taking up the biggest amount of time. Frequent problems with snails were one of the reasons. Stats in Goalist showed that working with salad was taking up about 7 hours a month.

She calculated that the salad from organic food store would cost her $14 a month. That is her work on it was worth $2 an hour if she didn’t take into account the cost of snail repellents. It wasn’t worth it.

Happy end

Judy has passed the exam and already started studying for another, more challenging one.

Plants are growing much better. She has more tomatoes in place of the salad. Her neighbor is happy to buy the surplus from her as her tomatoes look really good thanks to the automated watering.

Another neighbor asked her to create a similar system in his garden – a paid gig! She’s excited about it as she’s never earned such a good coin from her gardening work. Who knows, maybe it’ll turn into a business?

Would you like to read more examples like this? How about a podcast?

If you like this study and find it useful – please let us know your thoughts about it in a comment below. If we get some feedback from you we’ll be more than happy to create more case studies. Was the study helpful in general, as a whole – showing the way of thinking and adjusting plans in a longer period of time? Or did some part(s) give you an actionable insight?

We’re also thinking about starting a podcast which would be easier to digest than articles. And you could listen to it in your car or while commuting. We’re still gathering ideas for topics that could be covered – so any suggestions would be great.

We’d like to talk about subjects broader than the app – time management and self development supported by modern tools.

(This post is part of Goalist Training)

20 Replies to “Case Study: Judy the Gardener”

  1. Awesome I love this example – it really helped me planning my time differently and better! Thanks and keep up with the brilliant work.

    1. Super, thanks a lot! We’re thinking about more examples and other forms of presenting them.

      Was the study helpful in general, as a whole – showing the way of thinking and adjusting plans in a longer period of time? Or did some part(s) provide you some particular insight?

      1. I found the example really helpful especially since I am trying to fit in time to study for a certification exam when my schedule is already full

  2. Thanks a lot! This example really showed me path for my goal planning.. Keep posting this type of valuable examples

  3. This study was really interesting and well written. It’s good to see “real life” examples.
    I love your idea of podcasting! I listen to a lot of them on the bus. You could do a short tutorial and more studies, maybe interviews

    1. Thank you! We were thinking about interviews too. Everyone we talk to has their own style of managing time. There’s probably more art than science to it 😀 so stories would definitely be interesting.

  4. Thanks, the study helped me to better understand how to use the app and time studies better. The case was interesting and fun to read.

  5. I really liked the example. I think maybe a podcast would work so long as you aren’t giving “how to” instructions, which might be difficult to follow along to.

    1. Absolutely! It would be about a general approach to time management, setting goals and planning. Answering questions. Sharing insights we get from users. Discussing pros & cons of various approaches. All to stimulate imagination and ideas.

  6. Extremely helpful. I have subscribed for quite a while, but never really used it. This is very motivational. I would love a podcast.

  7. Very inspirational example! I would love to see more of these.

    Also, a podcast would be greatly appreciated!

  8. Hi,
    In realy like this story-example.
    Please do more.
    My case : I have two country of residence. In the first one Incan work a lot with schedule, and the other is a really mess because Ibspend many daus per week outside, or even at home a lot of people stop me during my work-hours. so il the first residence I plan to track my efficency per week, and in the second a much lighter plan and track per month.

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