How to Track Where You Spend Time With A Time Log

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
Annie Dillard

Do you wish you had more time?  If you had an extra hour or two a day, can you think of how you’d like to spend it?  I recently read about a survey that found:

  • 70% of people are busy or very busy
  • 50% were more busy than they were the year before
  • 90% wished they had more time to spend with friends and family

But how about you – do you feel busy and getting busier?

Do you feel you spend enough time on the important things in your life?

If you’re too busy, think about this: you can’t be busy without spending your time somewhere, right?

So now the question is, Where your time is spent? And if you don’t know, how can you find out?

That is what I’ll help you discover today: with a tool called the time log.

Why Use a Time Log?

A time log can be a bit of effort – it is  an eye opening experience.   

Until I tracked where my time went, I had a pretty good idea of how I spent my time – but I still benefited from a time log.  Some benefits I’ve found of tracking my time include:

  • Identify Time Sinks.  Through my own budgeting and tracking, I discovered where I was spending time on items I shouldn’t be.
  • Identifying Highly Productive Times.  Logging how I spend my time has shown me that I’m most productive – because I can see when I tend to get distracted more easily,
  • Valuing My Time More.  Just being aware that I need to write down and account for where my time goes makes me value it more.

You will see considerable benefits just by doing this exercise for a few days.

Ready to find out why you’re so busy – and learn how to fix it?  

This is a fantastic exercise – and you are going to learn a lot about yourself.

I was actually skeptical the first time I did it – but I think the more you think you manage your time well, the more eye opening it will be when you really see the numbers and how they compare to say your time budget

In fact, the time log is the basis of a few different exercises in my course The Action Solution.  

Today I’ll just show you the short version, step by step, so you can get started.

For me, and for many people, a lot of time is spent at a computer – so we’ll break up logging time into two buckets: 

  • Time at your computer 
  • Everything else

Computer Based Time

The easiest way I’ve found to track the time I spend at my desk is by using a piece of time tracking software called RescueTime.  

It sits logs everything I do at my computer, including which websites I visit, and even synchronizes the data across multiple computers.  I can log into their website and few reports which show me my productivity and all the data they’ve collected, in easy to read charts.

That handles anywhere from 4-10 hours a day.

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The Rest of Your Time

Tracking where your time goes away from your computer you’ll need to do manually.

Here are some strategies I’ve used in the past.

  • Notebook.  In college, I carried a notebook around, and every day I wrote down about once an hour or so what I had done for the past hour – whether it was lunch with friends, studying, etc.  At the end of the day, I’d tally up my time spent in various activity buckets (such as homework, social, fitness) and once a week or so I reviewed the results.
  • Specifically Formatted Time Log Sheet.  I created my own using my notebook, but you can print your own version using these pre-formatted sheets.  Click through to preview it in your browser in Scribd and download either a PDF Version or Excel Version.
  • Spreadsheet.  If you prefer doing things electronically, you can set up a spreadsheet with a row for every day, and columns for different activities – and put the amount of time you spend on a task in each column. For me, I never found a good solution with spreadsheets, but you can try and see if it works for you.

Start Logging Your Time Today

Here’s the bottom line:

If you are suffering from too little time, and are trying to better manage it – you have to figure out where your time is going first.  

Don’t try to change things until you know what’s broken!

You can’t solve a problem until you know what the problem is.

You can’t manage your time unless you first now how you’re already spending it.

So, if you want to get your time under control – spend a few days doing your time log.

You’ll be glad you did.

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