Have you ever tried to lose weight? One of the first things professionals will tell you is to reduce how much you’re eating. That’s awesome guidance! The problem is most of us have no idea of how much we’re really eating. We have a general idea, but that’s not much good if you’re trying to reduce your caloric intake by 10%. That 10% is a specific amount, but you can’t apply it to how much you’re eating right now unless you actually know the calories going in. So that same weight loss professional will show you how to track what you’re eating. Then after a week or so, you’ll have a much better idea of how many calories you’re actually consuming. With that number, you can now set a goal to reduce it by 10% of that specific amount and you’re off and running. Of course, you’ll still need to track what you’re eating, but now you can measure it against a real metric. If you keep up with the tracking and stay within your caloric goal your chances of lasting weight loss are vastly better than if you’re just guessing.
Being more productive is a similar goal to losing weight. It sounds great on paper, but there’s virtually no way to make measurable progress without knowing what the heck you’re doing now. Just like in weight loss, you’ve got to know what’s going on now before you can begin to make changes that will last.
You need to log your time.
I know, I know. That doesn’t sound fun. It sounds like a lot of work. It’s gonna be soooo boring! I counter all those arguments with the simple question: Do you really want to be more productive? If you do, then you’ve got to start somewhere with information that will allow you to make changes. And knowing where and how you spend your time is one of the pieces of data that you’ve simply got to have.
It’s that simple.
We’re not talking about doing anything terribly involved. I’m not recommending diving in with a complicated system that tracks every second at a super-granular level. I’m not even talking about requiring an app on your phone or a spreadsheet on your computer.
Get out a piece of paper and make four columns. Label them:
Now decide how often you want to record your information. I started out recording what I was doing in one hour increments. The category where I spent the majority of that hour got a tick mark. So on Monday at 8:00am I recorded how I’d spent my time from 7:00-8:00. Usually that was Personal time, getting ready for the day, etc. At 9:00 I recorded my 8:00-9:00 activities, for instance Family because that’s often when I’m doing something with Hectic Grandson.
Throughout the day I recorded what I’d done the last hour. I set a reminder in my phone to prompt me to record so that I wouldn’t forget. It’s not too hard to reconstruct the last hour, even the last two, but if you wait until the end of the day you’ll have no clue as to what you were doing earlier.
After a week, I tallied up the time I spent in each of the four categories. Then I thought about what I really wanted to be doing. I realized that I wasn’t spending enough time on the business. That gave me a general idea of what I wanted to change.
The next week, I continued recording and tallying. I didn’t set a target for change. I just kept the idea that I wanted to spend more time on business in the back of my mind. When I tallied up the numbers they were a little bit shifted. I had spent more time on business tasks in week two than I had in week one.
I repeated the process a third and fourth week. By then I had a pretty good idea of where I was really spending my time. From there, I was able to set a target for how much I wanted to actually spend in each of the areas.
Like I said before, this isn’t rocket science! It’s something you can start today.
Over time I shifted to recording what I was doing in 30 minutes increments. Then I discovered an app. I added a fifth category (Finances). And when the app was updated I added subcategories. But that was way down the road.
For right now, here’s your challenge: Start logging your time.
That’s it. Just record it in the four columns (or how many you decide make sense for you) over the course of a week. Then look at the numbers. Keep recording for a couple weeks and you’ll have an awesome snapshot of what you’re doing and where you’re spending your time.
Then, and only then, can you really begin to make changes that are going to be lasting.