I have blogged before on an approach to see if your actions match your priorities. Aligning the time you spend on the things you want to get done is the first step to enhanced productivity. I have also blogged about many techniques such as timeboxing which have an element of time tracking built in. But this is too much process for some people. So here is a really simple time tracker. Using it should either validate you are spending your time on your priorities or highlight you are not. Time is a valuable commodity – once gone you can never get it back – use it wisely.
Step 1: Determine your priority for the day
Being dyslexic I am not much of a word geek. However, it interests me that until recently priority was singular. Hundreds of years ago the concept of a list of priorities would be dumbfounding. You need a single objective or priority for the day for this simple time tracker to work effectively. It can be tidying your room or writing a report or anything else you need to get done. If you keep a journal part of the daily practice is likely to be setting goals for the day.
Step 2: write down your priority
There is something magical about physically writing something down. Some of this magic is even retained if it is typed into a computer (though paper is better). Having something committed either in words or pictorially to paper is infinitely more powerful than mentally committing to that day’s priority.
Enhancement: if you are a competitive type then set a target for how much time you will dedicate to this task. This is a process goal. Your target is to complete the task but a proxy measure of progress is the amount of time you have spent on it.
Step 3: track your time
Go about your day as you normally would. Every time you are working on your priority start a timer. Every time you are interrupted or stop to work on something else stop the timer.
I recommend a simple timer or a stopwatch. There are many fancy apps that help with time tracking. The challenge then becomes evaluating and selecting which app to use which is not helping to get your priority done.
Step 4: Review and reflect
At the end of the day see how long you have spent on your priority and reflect on it. Or try this for a week if you are working on a big project and then reflect. It’s the looking back that is key. If you are using this in a work context: how much of your 8 hour day was spent working on your priority?
You might find you are spending a lot of time shaving a yak. Follow the link then it will make sense.
It is possible that you are interrupted a lot by colleagues or meetings. This might be the nature of your work but consider the implications it has for you achieving your priorities.
You may discover that you engage in displacement activities. If you spend a lot of time working on lower priority tasks. If you are working on less important stuff it is worth considering why
You may find you are the victim of distractions. If this, oh look a butterfly.
Understanding what you spend your time on is a powerful tool in ensuring you are investing it wisely.