Time Tracking

The average person tracks many things everyday. We track our total steps taken, calories consumed, money earned, money spent. What we often forget to track is our time. Have you ever lost yourself on the Internet, innocently perusing the news only to find that two hours have gone by and you still haven’t started on your work? You end up taking time out of your lunch or leisure activities to type up some reports you should have completed days ago and wonder 'where the time has gone?'. Time tracking can help!

Yes, for once I am not suggesting the use of an agenda to organize your time (they are great though). Time tracking is the opposite of the usual agenda procedure. AFTER you have gone through your daily activities (work, shopping, fitness, etc.) you fill in your agenda (or iPhone calendar) with how you spent your day, paying close attention to how much time you spent on each activity. For example, you might record “7:00am-7:30am: Morning jog; 7:30am-8:30pm: Shower and getting ready for work”. You record these activities AFTER they have occurred.

Still not convinced? Author and time management expert Laura Vanderkam tracked her time for a whole year. She wrote about it in an article in the New York Times and also did an interview with the newspaper. Below are answers to some of the questions you may have about time tracking:

1. What should I use to keep track of my time? You have many options: an Excel worksheet, a regular notebook or a free app such as Toggl.

2. How often should I update it? Vanderkam updates her spreadsheet 3-6 times per week, but you can do it less or more frequently, as long as you are being accurate and not just making guesses.

3. What time increments should I use? Half hour blocks is the suggestion.

4. Won’t this get tedious? Keep it simple. Use broad categories that you can easily plug in to your half hour blocks instead of long descriptions. If you are trying to figure out if you spend enough time with your children or enough time exercising, you will naturally pick up on the categories that are most important to you.

5. Why should I do this? To bring awareness to the tasks that you are spending too much time on that are not even important to you, such as browsing your twitter feed. YOU get to decide if you want to change the way you are allocating your time.

Most of us recognize that work/life balance is essential to staying happy and stress-free. When work begins to tip the scale, our mental health can suffer. However, it is not always the case that we are working too much, but that we are spending too much time on activities that we don’t consider to be enjoyable or important to us. So we end up spending our valuable time doing things that don’t help re-balance the scale. Time tracking allows us to be honest with ourselves about where we are spending too much or too little time.

Do you time track already? Do you see a benefit in recording your schedule, after it has already occurred? We challenge you to track your time for a week, or even for a day!  Let us know how it goes in the comments.

Photo credit: http://www.mytimemanagement.com/images/weekly_planner_full_11145359.jp