How often do you find yourself losing track of time, only to find that you have run out of time in a day? Saying we need more than 24 hours in a day is no longer a joke, since everyone is feeling that these days.
And it is called time management for a reason, because no matter what we say there are only so many hours in a day. Measuring is the first step to managing your time. Without understanding how and where we are spending our time, we can’t try to control it. And today, let us talk about how to find more time in a day by doing a time audit, to track our day.
Time audit: track to manage your time
- Why manage your time aka a time audit?
- What is time audit?
- How to track and manage your time?
- Setting up a system to track
- Set your standard schedule
- Make it easier to track
- Use your discretion
- Analyze the results
Why manage your time aka a time audit?
As someone who works from home, on a computer and a phone all the time (read as on the couch, in front of the TV) I know how easy it is to get distracted and lose track of time. One minute you are allowing yourself to watch ten minute of Friends re-run and before you know it is dinner time. With a bunch of deadline reminders.
Happens to all of us. But it is time to take control of our 24 hours and manage the heck out of it.
What is time audit?
Time audit means we are gonna track everything you do in a day down to the T and understand where your time flies, as we keep saying. We are going to find out what is your most time consuming activity and what is your optimized schedule like.
How to track and manage your time?
What are planning to do is: track your activities every thirty minutes every day for a week or two. You don’t have to change a thing about your schedule, but just note down what you are doing every 30 minutes.
Sounds interesting? Let us dig ahead.
Setting up a system to track
Setting up a time tracking system is not difficult. While there are numerous (free and premium) apps that would help you track your day for you automatically, I prefer a more mindful approach.
I use spreadsheets to tackle everything going on in my blog and my life in general, and I decided to audit my time using it as well. You can get a copy of the Google sheet right here.
Set your standard schedule
In the first columns, write down what your standard day looks like. Again, it doesn’t have to be your 100% productive day, but it has to be achievable regularly.
Estimate the number of hours you plan to spend working and sleeping. Give yourself breaks and pauses to breathe.
Make it easier to track
Okay, so the goal is simple. Stop whatever you are doing and check in every 30 minutes or so to write down what you were doing. Also take “stop whatever you are doing” with a salt.
You don’t have to pause cooking in the middle but you should be noting mentally how long it takes for you to cook. Note what you are doing every 30 minutes and write them all down on the sheet as a batch.
Use your discretion
And when I say write everything down, you can be as specific as you want. Do not forget to fill in your meal times, coffee breaks, commute, and other regular activities.
You probably will be tempted to say ‘blogging’ but it is better if you write down ‘Writing post for Friday’ or ‘graphics for Friday post’. So now you will be able to see how long it actually takes for you to create a Friday post from coming up with the idea to actually scheduling or posting it.
At the same time, use your discretion when it comes to using acronyms and batching things. ‘Emails’ sounds good enough for me, rather than writing ‘replying emails and emptying inbox’. But you do, you.
Analyze the results
Here comes the most interesting part of the exercise. The result.
While it is good to wait till the end of the week or time period you have chosen to audit yourself, it is quite natural to take stock of your activities by the end of each day. It is a good way to plan for the next day, right?
So be it a week or month, once you have a list of activities and the time you spend on them on average available with you, identify the activities that are
They do absolutely nothing for you and you didn’t even know you were doing it. Well, what a waste of time. This is not to be confused with things that you do for fun (like those ‘Friends’ reruns) Example: mindless scrolling on social media, Waiting for a reply email
These activities may not give you much returns but you do them because they seemed like a good idea then. Or a great way to procrastinate what you ought to be doing. Example: Checking inbox or phone for mails and messages
Identify what kind of work or activity that you keep putting off until the last moment and why. Is it fear of failure or something else.
Involves deep work
These activities are best done when you have fewer distractions around. You can find out when you are at your best, based on your time tracking sheet.
How much ever you try, there would be some things that are unanticipated. Say, a new request in your work or a last minute change in your design, may have to be accommodated.
But your time audit sheet will help you know if it was becoming a trend. If so can you do something about it.
Identify the routine tasks and habits that work like a clockwork for you.
- Is there a way to optimize them for more efficiency?
- Can you automate a few of them?
- What are some things that you can delegate?
Often when we get into our to do lists and plans, we tend to forget the big picture about if we are working on the right direction and pace. Conducting an audit of our habits, routines and tasks in terms of the time spent is a perfect way to start taking control of our time.
Have you heard time audit as a time management tool? How do you track and manage your time? What are the activities that take most of your time? Let us talk.