Happy New Year! Turning the calendar page to a new year makes me feel like I've been rebooted so I will now work better and more efficiently in 2018. But whether or not that actually happens is up to me, so I’m spending some time this month tweaking my systems so that I can reach the goals I’ve set for the year. Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing ideas with you on how to make better use of your time. It is our most precious resource after all, so let’s resolve to not waste it this year!
Do you feel like you are constantly busy, but not accomplishing much? I’ve been struggling with this lately, and one technique I’ve used in the past to get a better perspective on it is to track my time. Similar to tracking your food intake or expenses, writing down exactly how you spend your minutes throughout the day is a powerful tool to become more aware of your own behavior.
I find the easiest way to track my time is on paper. I use a very simple spreadsheet that lists the times of day in half-hour increments (you can get a copy of the one I use here). I print out these sheets and keep them by my side throughout the day, and I check in at least once an hour to make a quick note of what I’ve been doing. Alternatively, you could keep the spreadsheet open on your computer or device and type in your activities. There are also time tracking apps available, such as Hours and RescueTime.
I recommend doing this for at least three days to get an accurate view of how you’re spending your time, since each day will vary somewhat. You may find that the simple act of tracking will increase awareness and you will have a few particularly productive days while you are doing this! If you have a hard time remembering to record your time throughout the day, set a reminder on your phone to go off every hour.
Once you’ve tracked a few days or, even better, a full week, take a look at the data you’ve collected. Grab some highlighters and color-code activities as work, meetings, meals, socializing, relaxation, social media, etc. Do you see any surprising patterns? Each time I’ve done this exercise I’ve been shocked to find out how much time my work tasks actually take and also that the “short breaks” I think I’m taking throughout the day add up to hours!
All this information is valuable, especially if you have changes you want to want to make in the new year. Any worthwhile endeavor, whether it’s a home improvement project, making healthier choices, improving your relationships, or just simply relaxing, requires time. This exercise will highlight how you are currently spending yours and what you may be willing to give up in order to cultivate a new habit.
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Make it fab!