For clients with time management troubles, I have recommended occasionally that they keep track of what they do all day. It may be startling to find out exactly how much time you spend cruising around the internet or caught up in cross currents of email, but the idea isn’t to make you feel bad. The idea is to find out what you’re actually doing with your time so that you can change it effectively.
Keeping track can be as simple as having a pad ready to jot down notes at timed intervals. David Seah has an elegant, easy to use version that shows time graphically since you fill in a bubble for each time increment. You can see it immediately; the more bubbles, the more time spent. His tool, the Emergent Task Timer, is available as a free PDF download on his site (which has tons of great productivity information, too).
Benefits of time tracking:
- Find out what you’re doing when you’re wasting time
- Find out how long you spend working on specific tasks; makes it easier to plan for them in the future
- Get an idea of when your high and low productivity times are during the day
- Discern patterns to tasks that you can use to your advantage. Email flurries at certain times of day can mean that others are most easily contacted then, for example
- Find patterns of work time followed by down time. You may find that some aspects of your work need more downtown to recover from
- Make sure you’re taking productive, refreshing downtime; don’t count more email checking as an actual break
A key to getting the most out of tracking your time is to do it now, or starting tomorrow morning. Don’t wait for a less stressful week, or one with more interesting things going on. Print out enough sheets for the rest of the week and just get started. There won’t be a better time.
“Time Disappears” from jtravism’s photostream