The process for tracking your time is not complicated but it can be a difficult habit to cultivate if you have never done it before. Take a look at the process below for one way in which you can track your time:
- GET A SMALL NOTEBOOK OR POCKET JOURNAL (ideally one that has a little pen attached). It is a little more difficult to write on and you will use a lot of pages but you will be thankful for its compactness.
- DECIDE HOW LONG YOU ARE GOING TO TRACK YOUR TIME. The ideal amount of time (in my opinion) is 7 days so that you can get both weekdays and the weekend. This can be difficult for someone who has never done it before. If you need to start shorter then pick 1 – 2 days so that you can get used to the process. Also, choose whether you will track in 30 or 60 minute time blocks (meaning you will write down every 30 or 60 minutes what you did the previous 30 or 60 minutes).
- PRE-FRAME YOUR DAYS. Prior to starting the week (or whatever amount of time you choose), fill in the notebook with the name of each day, times of the day (a few lines for each time either in 30 or 60 minute blocks), and a ‘completed’ section after each day. Framing it out ahead of time makes it easier to fill in when you are actually tracking the time, silly as it sounds.
- START TRACKING. When you begin, make sure you start from when you wake up. It is important because you want to get the whole day but it is also a good way to instill that habit. When you wake up, you immediately write in the time journal and give yourself a pat on the back or a quick ‘nice job!’ Cue, action, reward creates a habit and you will want all the help you get if you are going to turn this into a habit (which I highly recommend).
- WRITE DOWN WHAT YOU DO. At the end of each time block (30 or 60 minutes), write how you spent your time during that block. You should have multiple lines so that you can add in multiple activities, any distractions that happened, and how you were feeling. Also, if you completed an activity during that block, jot it down under a ‘completed’ section at the end of the day with the approximate time that you finished. Do not skimp on the completed list; it can be very rewarding and motivating!
- REWARD YOURSELF at the end of each day! Celebrate the fact that you spent an entire day doing this. DO NOT SKIP THIS! Jump up and down, tell someone, pat yourself on the back, or do whatever makes you feel good. Positive reinforcement is needed to turn any action into a habit, even when you know that is what you are doing.
*EXTRA* For a bit of extra credit, create a master list of everything that you completed each day on a separate piece of paper in the notebook. Tracking everything you complete during the YEAR can be an easy thing to do once you have mastered tracking your time in blocks like this. At the end of the year, you will have a ‘feel good’ book of everything that you have accomplished!
Tips and Tricks
- Set a reminder on your phone for every 30 or 60 minutes, whatever you have chosen for your blocks. The reminder will act as a cue for your habit formation.
- Every time you fill in a block, give yourself a little encouragement as a reward. If you are able to do a number of blocks in a row without missing one, treat yourself to a piece of candy or a break. This will serve to build that habit of tracking your time.
- Start the moment you wake up. Remember, the key to success here is turning this activity into a habit.
- A pocket sized notebook will make this process easier.
- Find a way to create a cue (such as a reminder on your phone), do the activity immediately after that cue (write in the journal), and reward yourself for performing the action (self-encouragement, a break, or a piece of candy are examples). You will be that much closer to turning this into a habit.
- If you miss a block, don’t worry. Try to remember what you did during that block and add it later. There is never a need to penalize yourself during this process.
- Try to track your time for a week every 2 – 3 months. It will help you become more productive and maintain that productivity over the course of your entire life.
What can you do with the information?
- You can track
- How you spend your days/weeks/year
- How much time you spend on activities
- Best times during the day for you to work
- How much time you waste and how you waste it
- Chart everything you track over time to see whether you are improving and how you are trending
- Identify gaps between your actions and the things that you want to achieve in life
- Identify all of the distractions and constraints that are keeping you from completing your goals
- Measure how ‘well’ you are spending your time. What gets measured gets managed. You are more likely to change your behaviors if you are tracking them.
- FIGURE OUT YOUR MOST PRODUCTIVE TIME OF THE DAY. This has helped me immensely, as I am not a productive person by nature. But, from 9-11 in the morning, I can be pretty productive without much effort. I do my most important work (currently my blog writing) during this time. Look at your days. Are there times where you get more done than other times?
- ADD UP THE TOTAL TIME 0F ALL OF THE ACTIVITIES PERFORMED. Seeing exactly how you spend your time and the amount of time on each activity is the easiest way to see how productive you are over time. Pay particular attention to whether you spend more time on actions that lead you to your goals versus not. From here, you can begin to make some changes in your activities and track how you are doing.
- CREATE A PLAN. Not just any plan. A plan that will help you towards what you want. What are the things that you SHOULD be doing? Where can you fit them into your schedule? How will you reward yourself for completing the things that you SHOULD be doing?
Imagine how much you could get done if you increased your productivity 10%? 20%? 50%? You could build that business you dreamed of, you could retire, you could travel, you could do anything that you wanted. Carrying around a small notebook for a week every 2 – 3 months seems minor in comparison, doesn’t it? Are you willing to try this?