Do you have a good sense of how you spend your time? My research has shown me that when it comes to time tracking, there are two types of people: those who say they don’t track their time and those who say they do.
Big insight, right? Well, the insight comes when you start digging in to how the time trackers track their time. By my count, almost all people who say they have a good sense of how they spend their time are a little self-deluded.
Serious time trackers usually measure their time in blocks. These blocks are generally associated with time spent on client projects and other activities. This is how I tracked my time before I started working on Return On You.
Other people just know intuitively that early morning or late night is their “work time,” the time of day when they have quiet time alone to think and work, while afternoons and evenings are dedicated to family activities,
Neither of those methodologies accounts for all our time, however, and the number one complaint I hear from individuals who work for themselves is: “There never seems to be enough time.”
That was my problem, too, when I challenged myself to scrupulously record my activities in 15-minute blocks all day, every day for a week. What I discovered surprised me.
To really get a handle on how you spend your time, I suggest you spend a solid week – including weekends, recording your time use in 15-minute increments.
There are several apps designed to facilitate Time Tracking. Toggl and Rescue Time are two time tracking tools that have been recommended to me by friends who are involved in the Quantified Self movement. To find out more about these tools and others, check out FastCompany’s reviewed of time tracking apps here.
For me, I’m deeply embedded in the Google productivity suite and I have found tracking in Google Calendar to be a simple and effective means for time tracking.
Here’s how to do it:
STEP ONE: In whatever calendaring program you use create a new “calendar” for every kind of activity you do, for example, “Sleep”, “Consulting,” “Taking kids to school,” “Watching tv”. Each of those “calendars” will be automatically color-coded.
STEP TWO: Be mindful of your time and create an event in your calendaring program every 15 minutes or so simply labelled as to what you are spending your time doing. NOTE: When you find yourself doing an activity you hadn’t previously created a “calendar” for, simply set up the new calendar name and record that activity under the new calendar. If you can’t make a record every 15 minutes, do your best to estimate your time spent as frequently as you can. I find it is really easy to lose track of time and to forget exactly how I spent an hour two hours ago.
STEP THREE: The final step of time tracking is to tally up your time. Simply go into your calendaring program and set your view to one calendar at a time, for example, hide all of your calendars EXCEPT “sleep,” and then count up the hours you spent on sleep and make a note. Next hide sleep, and all your other calendar except the next activity calendar you plan to tally, for example, “consulting,” count the total hours you spent consulting, make a note of them and so on, until you’ve viewed and counted each of the calendars you’ve recorded.
Here are some sample activities thou might start with in your calendar:
- Work (you could break work down by client or by type of work… I break mine out by client name or project name)
- Relaxing with family
- Spending time with friends
Do you have a favorite method for tracking time or any other good advice in regards to tracking time? Please leave a message in the Comments, below.