So, that example looks like an example of time pressure, rather than just being aware of time.

My understanding is that the literature on time pressure is considerably more nuanced and interesting. At its simplest, increased pressure (e.g. tight deadlines or expectation of evaluation) seem to improve performance on tasks where it’s clear exactly what needs to be done. On tasks that require creativity or novel problem solving, pressure seems to reduce performance compared to low to moderate time pressure. E.g. Ted Talk and study. I haven’t actually looked at this since college, so I can send you the dozen or so other papers I read then if you want to look at it with fresh eyes.

From that, I would expect your concern to be accurate only some of the time, albeit for some important work.

On the other hand, I have several anecdotal data points that regular time tracking is valuable for improving prioritization, though I expect the return is more varied than for short periods of time. I expect time tracking to be extremely valuable for short time spans (about 2 weeks) as a sanity check/improving knowledge of where time is spent.

Additionally, I expect people to be pretty bad at estimating productive time without tracking their time, hence the concern that prompted my original comment. The data means less if people are highly inaccurate when estimating time.

Last year, I looked at some studies to try understanding how correlated self-reported and objective measures are. There was a wide variance, with generally low to moderate correlations. When I looked just at the couple data points that are easily and/or frequently measured, the correlation was much higher, above r=0.7. Things that aren’t frequently measured have average correlations closer to r=0.3. Here’s that data if you want to reexamine it:

For numbers that were not frequently measured, the correlation between self-reported and directly measured was moderate: for one meta-analysis on physical activity, the mean r coefficient = 0.37 (range −0.71 to 0.96); for various measures of ability, mean r = 0.29 (range −0.6 to 0.80); for sedentary time, r<0.31; for physical activity, r=0.11.

A few more studies reported r coefficient ranges, but not mean r: for another measure of sedentary time, the coefficients ranged from 0.02 to 0.36; for another study on physical activity, the coefficients ranged from 0.46 to 0.53 (p value did not meet .05 threshold); for various other measures of sedentary time, the coefficients ranged from 0.50 to 0.65. If these are included in the above graph, the mean R goes up closer to .33.

For numbers that are frequently measured, the correlation between self-reported and directly measured was noticeably higher: for course grades, median r = .76 (range.70 to .84); for height and weight, median r = .94 (range .90 and above). This mildly sketchy unpublished review of hundreds of comparisons found an average of 85% perfect match between self-reports and objective records. The examples they give (e.g. self-report of hospitalizations or how many ambulatory physician visits compared with medical records) range from 89% to 100% exact match, and are mostly more frequently/easily measured.

Sadly, nope.