- Type: Written
- Time needed: Continuous – a few moments regularly throughout the day
- Frequency: Daily
Write down everything you do throughout the day. Every time you change what you’re doing, whether it’s to make a drink, switch to a different task, go to the toilet, or anything else, write down what you did and the time you switched.
If you do this over a week, you’ll have a good idea of what you’re wasting time on.
Also, just by tracking what you’re doing, you’ll tend to get more productive.
- Knowledge of how you spend your time
- Self-awareness of your habits
It’s really easy to procrastinate and waste time.
We all do it – you start to work, but then check your phone, make a coffee, check the news…
You can waste hours on activities like this, without even realising. And then you wonder where the day went.
If any of this sounds familiar, try Time Tracking.
How to do it
Simply get a piece of paper, a spreadsheet, the notes app on your phone – anything you can write on.
Write down the time, and what you’re doing. When you change what you’re doing, start a new line and write down the time and the activity you switched to.
A spreadsheet package like Excel or LibreOffice is ideal for this, because you can press
; at the same time to insert the current date into a cell, or
: to enter the time. Just makes it quicker and easier.
It’s up to you how granular you want your tracking to be. If you look at your phone for 30 seconds, would you write that down? Personally, I wouldn’t. If I track every distraction, I end up spending too much time using the tracker. But if I was on the phone for more than a couple of minutes, I’d track it. You might want a higher-resolution of data – it’s just up to you.
After a week you’ll have a lot of data. You’ll be able to calculate how much time you spend watching TV, or on social media, or making coffee, as opposed to actually doing productive work. This is again where using a spreadsheet shines, as you can use a pivot table or formulas to do these calculations instantly.
Once you have the facts about your routine, you’re in a better position to improve it.
Why it works
What is measured, improves. If you know where your productivity sinks are, you can put countermeasures in place.
If you’re spending a lot of time on a particular website, you can use software to temporarily block it while you work. If you use your phone too much, switch it off and keep it far from your desk while you work. If you find you consistently overrun your break times, use a timer.
On top of that, you may find that this exercise is a huge productivity booster in and of itself.
It’s kind of like how everyone sits up straight and focuses on their work when the boss walks in – they don’t want to be caught slacking. Likewise, you won’t want to catch yourself slacking, even, perhaps especially, if you’re the only one looking.