Keeping Track: Where Does the Time Go?

Keeping Track: Where Does the Time Go?

You”ve tried this before – creating a To-Do list, scheduling some appointments and booking projects. You have started the day on the right foot, determined to get on top of things.

The kid”s lunches were packed and ready. You had plenty of time to get to work in the morning without any stress. When you arrived at work your projects were in order, your day timer up-to-date and you knew exactly where you need to be and when.

Because you used a schedule you figured that you”d have no problem getting everything done on time. You start out alright, but as you carry on through the day you notice the time and are shocked that you only accomplished half of what you planned before you have to switch activities. Several interruptions by coworkers and clients and before you realize it the schedule has been abandoned and you are again rushing through your activities and feeling overwhelmed. Why does this happen?

You Have More Time Than You Think…

Before you blame the scheduling process you need see what other factors affect your day.
You can do this by logging your normal routine for a few days.

It is difficult to appreciate the time you spend on activities that do not contribute to your productivity until you”ve logged them over a few days.

Creating a Log

For the next few days keep a pen and paper handy to write down what you”re doing and the time when you change activities. Quickly assess and write down how you feel – energetic, tired, hungry or anything else you can identify. This record does not have to be detailed but should include every activity change in your work day.

There is a sample log at the end of the book you can print out and use.

Identifying Patterns

After you”ve kept a log for a couple of days you will be able to analyze certain patterns. Do you often feel tired in the middle of the afternoon? Are you refreshed after taking a small lunch? Did you spend longer on menial tasks or talking to others than you thought? How many people used up your time with little benefit (phone calls, drop-ins and emails)?

Finding these patterns can help you plan your activities so they fit better with your natural rhythms. Perhaps you find getting through the afternoon (or getting started in the morning) to be the most draining. Is it possible to schedule your most challenging projects or meetings when you are most alert and energetic? Block off this time in your schedule – no calls, no meetings – so that you can accomplish the most work.

Give Yourself Rewards

You can also try implementing a self-reward program when needed. If pushing through a tedious project causes you to dawdle or get easily distracted you might find that giving yourself small rewards as you complete small chunks of work will keep you motivated.

Perhaps you will only get a cup of coffee when you”ve finished filing half of the pile. Or maybe you”ll take a stretch or call a friend (briefly) when you”ve dealt with 20 emails. Keep the rewards small but frequent enough to keep your momentum and prevent you from resorting to distractions which will only prolong the process.

Should You Stop Wasting Time?

This process may also highlight to you that after evaluating how much your time is worth you should really consider delegating some of your work