Have you ever crawled into bed at night and had a hard time remembering what you did that day? This happens more often than any of us would like to admit!
Here’s the thing, though. If you find that, more often than not, you don’t know what you accomplished during the day, then you’re probably not getting much done. Makes sense, right?
This happens a lot when you go into survival mode. You’re stuck in a job or other situation that is overwhelming or frustrating and your brain shuts down. You spend all your effort just making it through the day and, at the end, you have nothing left. And to make matters worse, you never make progress on the projects that you are actually passionate about. Been there? We all have!
And that’s okay. But no one wants to stay in an overwhelmed, burned out state for long. As soon as you realize what’s going on, you know you want to get out of it. Unfortunately, most people don’t know how to escape and reclaim their precious hours.
Stuck in a job that you're sick of? Working with people you don’t like? It’s time to stop surviving and take the necessary steps toward a fulfilled life. Success often begins with one little step. The key is to keep taking these steps, no matter how small, and this is where a simple tool called “Time Tracking” comes in handy.
What is Time Tracking?
Time Tracking is developing the habit of being intentional with how you spend your time each day. It takes commitment and thoughtfulness and begins with the simple task of writing down what you’re doing throughout the day.
Grab a notebook and something to write with, and let’s get started!
Time Tracking is a great option for you if time seems to be slipping away more and more. If your days like to disappear and leave without a trace, it’s time to start keeping track! From the moment you get up in the morning to when you lay back down at night, you’re going to force yourself to take note and write down what you’re doing.
How Time Tracking Works
Time Tracking is a simple tool that helps you understand where you are spending your time. All you need is a pen, some paper, and the willingness to pay attention to what you’re doing. If you prefer technology, you can use an app on your cell phone, tablet, or laptop – as long as you’re disciplined enough not to get sucked into the depths of Social Media. Quite simply, you are just going to write down the time followed by what you are doing – like this:
§ 1:15 pm – write blog post.
When you finish that task and move on to the next one, you write down the time and what you’re doing:
§ 1:50 pm – check email
§ 2:15 pm – edit blog post
And so on. That’s not difficult.
Time tracking is such a simple practice. Write down everything you do when you do it. The only tricky part is actually making sure you write things down. If you’re not keeping track of every little thing, then this tool won’t be as effective and provide you the insights into your day like it’s supposed to.
Here is another example:
§ 6:00 am – get up, wash face, and drink coffee
§ 6:15 am – do yoga
§ 6:45 am – practice meditation
§ 7:00 am – read an awesome book
§ 7:25 am – shower and dress for the day
§ 7:55 am – eat breakfast
§ 8:15 am – start work
I usually round to the nearest 5-minute mark because it’s easier to add up at the end of the day. When I want to go back and determine how much time I spent working on certain tasks, it's easiest to count by 5's.
The Devil is in the Details - So Avoid Them!
Don’t try to go into a lot of detail while time tracking. Jot down a word or two that describes what you are doing. The emphasis is not on the details of every single second but, instead, keeping on top of the tasks performed throughout the day. If you write down every single minute for one hour, you probably won’t be very productive for that hour…just saying! And you won’t be able to keep up with it.
Simply record the barest of details. That will be enough to jog your memory later on when you review the day.
Review Every Day
The final step is to review your tasks and times. At the end of the day, right before bedtime, give yourself 20 minutes to go back over the day. I find it useful to color code different types of activities (blue for work, pink for exercise, green for chores, etc.) since I’m a visual person. Take a few minutes to group your daily activities into a few categories. Some other good category options include self-care, family time, sleep, and errands.
After you’ve assigned every action to a specific category, add up how many hours you spent in each category. Next, add it all together and make sure it adds up to 24 hours. If it doesn’t, you may want to go back and see if you can figure out where you lost time that day. The more you do this, the easier it will be.
Try this consistently for at least a week and see what happens! You will start to notice patterns. You may discover holes where you “forget” to keep track for an hour or two. Eventually, you will become much more aware of time in general and begin to understand what things are “time-suckers” for you.
Use Time Tracking to See Where Your Time is Going
Time tracking works because it forces you to pay attention to time and the tasks consuming it.
There is more to life than working a crummy job and surviving from one day to the next. Time Tracking is one very effective tool that anyone can use to reveal where the random moments of your day are disappearing to. Soon you will begin to notice little things that take up too much time each day. You will start asking yourself if it’s worthwhile or not!
You’ll begin to cut wasted time and tasks and you will develop a habit of intentionality. That is, having an intentional purpose for your time and where you choose to spend it.
What to do with the Information You Gain from Tracking Your Time
After tracking your time for several days, you will be armed with some useful information. You will have identified actions and things that are time-wasters. You will decide which ones are worth continuing to do and which ones need to change, stat!
So, what will you do with this wonderful new information? Make changes to your habits and start planning ahead for a successful future!