This article is the second in a series of four articles that presents the basics of diagnosing how you tend to spend your time and how you can develop the discipline of spending your time on what really matters to you. Yesterday’s article established that effective time management is truly not about managing time as such; rather, it is about managing priorities. See full article here.
Log How You Spend Your Time
“Effective executives, in my observation, do not start with their tasks. They start with their time. And they do not start out with planning. They start by finding out where their time actually goes.”
-Peter Drucker in ‘The Effective Executive’
Before you begin managing your time effectively, you need to develop an idea of how you spend time currently.
Below is a simple exercise to help you track how you use your hours and minutes during a suitably long period of time, ideally a whole week. If you follow a specific routine everyday, you may be able to approximate your time analysis by doing this exercise for a couple of weekdays and a Saturday or a Sunday. Alternatively, you may choose to do this only during your time at work. Again, more data leads to a more comprehensive analysis; hence, try to log an entire week.
- Create a simple chart that consists of four columns as in the above illustration. Column 1 contains labels for time intervals, in 10- or 15-minute increments. Column 2 records your activity. Column 3 identifies the project or purpose that activity served. Column 4 rates the effectiveness of time spent. Itemizing all these details is the key to identifying time wasted and time effectively used.
- Make as many photocopies of this chart as required for a whole week.
- Carry your time log charts around with you wherever you go. Record every activity—significant or insignificant, large or small—during the entire week. Include time spent at your morning ablutions, travel time, time spent chitchatting around the water cooler, time spent helping your daughter with homework, telephone time, time spent on the internet—your sleeping time too.
Time Log Forms
Here are two PDF forms you could download and use:
- A time log form for a full day (24 hours) in 10-minute intervals
- A time log form for a work day (11 hours) in 15-minute intervals
You need not necessarily stop every 10th or 15th minute to record your activity. You can fill up the relevant rows once every hour or so. If you spend two hours on an airplane, you can mark 12 rows (of 10 minutes each) with a single comment. You need not be very precise: if you spend 7 minutes on the phone with a customer, you can record spending an entire 10 minutes.
Here is what your log should look like.
Benefits of Time Logging
The immediate benefit of time logging is that it induces a sense of significance of your time. It compels you into the right mindset to consider habits you need to develop, avoid or change and start using your hours and minutes more effectively.
The more significant advantage is that your time logs will serve as a foundation for structuring your time according to your priorities and thus enable effective time management.
Tomorrow’s article will focus on time-analysis to help you review results from your time logs and prepare you for budgeting time according to your priorities.