Time is a gift that we receive every morning when we roll out of bed. Time happens to be the one thing organizing our day from start to finish. It enables us to experience the world and improve the people around us. Unfortunately, in the world of technology, we have chosen to become slaves to our own “time wasters.”
Scratch that! That first paragraph was way too serious… The truth of the matter is, time is important. It’s that simple. Unfortunately, many of us waste a ton of time on stuff that doesn’t necessarily improve our productivity or success. Take yesterday for example, I’m locked at home during the coronavirus quarantine trying to be as productive as possible, but there’s a problem, I get easily distracted. My smart phone sits right by my side and I feel that growing temptation to check the latest news, scores (there are no sports going on right now so that’s a quick check), and my latest texts and emails. But even worse than that, I constantly feel the urge to check my social media channels, so I can interact with the outside world through photos and videos.
Does this scenario sound familiar to anyone? Sadly, this is how many of us live. We’ve replaced focused work with an insane amount of multitasking, which leads us to longer hours with less output. Worst of all, this is the new way of life for many of us and our quality of life is being affected without us evening noticing.
Wasted time adds up.
We wear multiple hats as entrepreneurs: leader, saleswoman, clerk, janitor, wife, mother, and friend. So naturally the world demands us to multitask in order to succeed. But being able to juggle multiple tasks at once, flip between various projects, and work on 4-5 things at any given moment has to stop. Numerous studies have shown that multitasking greatly reduces productivity and effectiveness for completing tasks. One research study in 2012 found that multi-taskers are interrupted every 11 minutes and spend more than ¼ of their day trying to recover from those interruptions. Another study in 2015 found that individuals that multitask lose an average of 28% of their time switching between different tasks. Which means, if you were to simply work the average eight-hour day, you would be losing more than 2 hours every single day switching tasks. This adds up to more than 40 hours per month!
It’s time to stop wasting time and start taking advantage it. To do this, I’m starting to time journal and you should join me. Because time management begins with an understanding of how you actually spend your time, it’s important to track what you do with your time and analyze it. Think about it, if I asked you what you did yesterday, you’d probably recall the highs and lows of your day, but would fail to recall all of the happenings in between. Time journaling will allow you to capture a snapshot of your entire day and help identify the distractions that likely go unnoticed. The point is, you won’t know what’s consuming your time until you start writing everything down.
Step 1: Create a Spreadsheet
The first thing you want to do is create a spreadsheet. You can create this spreadsheet using any medium that works best for you. I have friends that love tracking their time in notebooks or journals, while others like to use software like Excel or Google Docs to record their time so they can save and track it over longer periods.
Next, create your spreadsheet or journal entry by dividing your day into 30-minute intervals from the time you wake up until the time you go to bed. (Yes, every 30-minutes is a lot, but it forces you to get a more in-depth snapshot of your day.)
Step 2: Start Recording
After you’ve created your spreadsheet, you’ll want to fill it out every 30-minutes with work activities, personal activities, exercise, travel, eating, distraction times, and sleeping. Also, be sure to avoid generalizations like “phone call” or “meeting” because this won’t provide you enough insight into where your time was being spent. At the end of each day you should have a journal that looks similar to this:
Be sure to stick to a consistent schedule so you don’t forget to record any of the little happenings that went on during the day. You don’t have to fill it out every 30 minutes, but you also can’t wait until the end of the day. Pick some sort of middle ground. I personally fill my chart out every three hours.
Step 3: Rinse & Repeat
Continue to log your activities for the next two days. It might get annoying at first but you’ll get into a rhythm after doing it for a while. Doing it for a three day stretch will allow you to get a sample size large enough to analyze and identify where you are wasting the most time.
Step 4: Analyze the Data
Take some time to look at your journal entries and ask yourself the following questions: (these questions come from “Clone Yourself,” by Jeff Hilderman)
- How often were you focused on your work and on the right things?
- How often were you preoccupied with other people’s work?
- What were the biggest time-wasters?
- When were you busiest and when did you have holes in your day?
- Did you pre-plan your day or go with the flow?
- Did you set daily goals and hold yourself accountable?
- How did you manage paperwork, phone calls, email, and appointments?
- Can you identify anything important that was neglected?
- If you had to free up two hours of your day, what could be delegated?
Now take a moment to write down the answers to each of these questions. I’m hoping you weren’t too surprised by what you found, but I also hope you found a few things that caught you off guard so you can make improvements.
Make the change
Creating a time journal is only half of the battle. If you make a time journal and identify your inefficiencies but choose not to make changes, the exercise is clearly useless. Make the changes and take back the gift of time.