Finding time to get everything done is always a struggle—there are never enough hours in the day. And there are a lot of articles out there packed full of tips to help you get the most out of the hours that you do have. While I love the advice that I’ve found, they don’t always work with how I function.
I think that before trying to add new steps into your day to increase your productivity, we should first take a step back and look at how we are currently spending our time. In order to do this, we need to keep track of every little thing we do every single day for at least a week. And while this may be incredibly tedious, and definitely not fun, it’s absolutely necessary in order to understand how to rearrange our time.
If for example, you can see that you spent seven hours in total during the week watching TV, that may be some time you could reallocate towards something more productive. Or it could be completely justified as you time. That’s the beauty of this—it’s completely adjustable to how you want it to work for your own goals and purposes. So let’s get started!
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Make a List of Priorities
Before we begin tracking our time, let’s take a few minutes to jot down where the majority of our time should be spent. If you aren’t sure what priorities should be at the top of your list, or how to arrange your list, consider the advice from Peter F Drucker, in his book, The Effective Executive. In it, he says, “The answer to the question, ‘What needs to be done?’ Almost always contains more than one urgent task…after asking what needs to be done, the effective executive sets priorities and sticks to them” (pg. xii)*. If you are interested in reading more, you can get the book here!
With this in mind, ask yourself a couple of questions. Are you trying to find more time to work on your blog while juggling a nine to five and family time? Are you trying to find more time for your family? Only you know the answer to this, so make a list based on what you hope to accomplish.
Begin Tracking Your Activities for a Week
Pick a good day to start. To me Monday makes sense, but it doesn’t really matter, as long as each day for at least a week is tracked.
I filled in the spreadsheet using basic data. These numbers probably aren’t realistic at all, they are solely for explanatory purposes.
If you take a look at the Monday example, you can see that this person has categorized their activities into four different categories for the day: Personal, Work, Blog, and Sleep. If you were to scroll down to their weekend, you would also see a category for housework, making five categories in total. All meals, hygiene, and entertainment are grouped into the personal category, all cleaning, laundry, etc. into housework, and so on.
You can, by all means, break your activities down further and create more specific categories. In fact, I encourage you to do this. When I use this spreadsheet for myself I have about ten different categories, and my time is broken down to the quarter-hour (any further than that becomes too unmanageable, and the differences are too small to change the trends).
Each day has a unique table tracking the daily totals. These daily totals and their percentages are then carried to the weekly totals table at the bottom of the document. In the document that is attached at the end of this article, I have all of the formulas entered in these tables based off of the example I am using in case you are unsure how to do them yourself. I also have an Excel tutorial here.
Evaluate Your Productivity – How You Spent Your Time
Now you have to look at the different categories you created and how your time throughout the week was split between them. Put these percentages into a pie chart if it makes it easier to see—I’m a visual person, this is how I prefer to look at something like this.
Looking at the weekly totals just in numbers really doesn’t tell me much. From this I can clearly see that the bulk of this person’s time is clearly spent at work, sleeping, and doing personal things. This person could then, for example, shave some time off of their personal time to make time for their blog, if that’s their goal. A more detailed breakdown really is necessary in order to clearly see where that time could be taken from, though.
What does your chart tell you? Looking back at the priorities you listed above, where do these fall in your time spent?
I am just going to assume that since you have completed this task, the time you spend on your top priority is less than you would like. If this is the case, look at those items that have ended up above it at the end of your week. There are certain things that cannot, and should not, be touched. For example, if you are averaging seven to eight hours of sleep a night, don’t try to cut back on that. You could, though, look at how you spend your time in the evening. Is there something that you could cut out to get to bed a little earlier? In the example I created, this person is spending two hours every night before bed watching TV. I’m sure that they are multitasking at this time, especially if they are also running a blog: maybe promoting on social media or networking in different groups during commercial breaks. But they could definitely cut back on this time. If this person were to go to bed at nine instead of ten, they could get up an hour earlier, and get in a good hour of work on their blog in the morning before they go to the office.
The different ways you could rearrange your time are endless, and again, only you know what is going to work for you. I have always been a night owl, and literally have to drag myself out of bed every single morning. But I am always too tired at night to do anything more than a rough draft of a blog post. The only way I could rearrange my day to make more time for my blog was in the morning. I honestly didn’t think it would work out, but I had to give it a try. And, to my surprise, it is the most productive hour I have all day. My mind is clear. I write fantastic content. I brainstorm some great stuff. I never in a million years would have thought that five in the morning would be the best time for me to work on anything. And I wouldn’t have discovered that it is if I didn’t work out a way to give it a try.
So don’t be scared to try something different with your daily schedule, you may discover something truly life changing!. It may be the difference between creating that online course you’re always talking about, or leaving it on your to-do list. It may give you that extra time with your kids that you are missing so much. All it takes from you is a little creativity with your time management and some dedication to make it work.
You have the numbers in front of you. You have clearly drawn out your current time management. Now it’s up to you to make those numbers work for you, and find those hours in the day that you so desperately want!
I know I packed a lot of information into this article. So do not hesitate to reach out to me if you need anything clarified. Your feedback is essential and will help me make this tool even better!
I am also working on a more in-depth companion to this article, so if you want to dive deeper with this content, sign up for my mailing list so you don’t miss the release of that!
Want your own copy of my time tracking spreadsheet?
It's set up with all the formulas you need! Get started today!
Don’t miss the next post in this three post series here: Color Code Your Life.
* Drucker, Peter F. The Effective Executive. New York: Harper & Row, 1967.
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