OK, so that title isn’t 100% accurate – you have 10,080 minutes per week whether you follow our advice to track your time or not. But hear me out.
You may already need to keep track of your time for your job, maybe even in 6-minute increments. But what about when you aren’t at work? And what about all those things you do during the day that don’t get recorded? Tracking all of your time for a week can help you figure out where your 1,440 minutes per day, 168 hours per week are going. Armed with that knowledge, you can evaluate whether you’re investing your time the way you want to and the way you need to in order to achieve your goals. Later, I’ll explain just how to do this. But first, why it’s worth the effort.
Years ago, I was supervising staff who felt we needed to hire an additional person. At Keith’s suggestion, I asked them to track their work time so I would have support to argue we needed to create a position. The results were fascinating, and included learning that three different employees were spending at least 15 minutes each anywhere from one to two times per day to travel to another building to check the mail. In other words, for a department of nine people that needed to have the mail checked once per day, we were spending 60-75 minutes per day, or about six hours per week – nearly a full workday! – on something that should have been taking about an hour per week. Even worse, other departments that shared the same space were also sending someone to check their mail!
Inspired by how useful that exercise had been for other staff, I decided to do it myself, and it was so helpful I’ve done it several times since. I’ve found, for example:
- When I’m tracking my time, I tend to be more efficient because I don’t want to have to record “spent 15 minutes compiling perfect Spotify play list,” etc.
- When I start my day with email, my own priorities get shoved aside and forgotten for several hours.
- I lose a tremendous amount of time switching between tasks and am much more efficient when I start one thing, finish it, and move on.
If you tracked your own time, what would you find? Here’s an easy way to find out – join the Apochromatik email list, and enter TIME in the message field. When you do, you’ll receive a link to download a free copy of our time tracker. It will walk you through the very simple process of tracking your time for a week, and then tallying it up to see where it went. When you do, let us know what you find. Are you surprised by where your time is going? Are there tasks you’re spending time on that could be automated, delegated, or eliminated? (Note that you could do this exercise electronically, but we and our clients have found that there’s something about the process of physically writing down how you spent your time that makes it more meaningful than just typing into your phone. And, using paper avoids giving another excuse to pick up your phone and get distracted.)
Want to go farther? Print a second copy and fill it in as you would like your ideal week to go. This is a technique Michael Hyatt recommends and, while you probably can’t go from a real week to a dream week overnight, the act of stopping and thinking about how you would like to be spending your time and comparing it to the reality can be helpful as you think about how you’d like future weeks to go. (For more on the ideal week idea, click here.)
And, if you’re finding that you’d like support getting on top of your time, we can help – we coach clients one-on-one who want to stop marking the passage of time and instead start utilizing their time to advance their personal and professional goals. We also do trainings for law firms and other organizations on topics including time management. Let us know if we can help you make the most of those 168 hours you have this week.