Where Does Your Time Go?
When you have more to do than you have time available, you need to be able to identify your priorities.
If you’re not sure where all your time goes, start by keeping a log of your time for a week or so. Use a pen and paper, spreadsheet or one of the many time-logging apps.
Make a note of everything you do during your normal working day. Include work and personal time, from when you wake up, how long you take for breaks, meetings, interruptions etc. until you go to bed. This is a useful exercise in itself as you may be surprised by the results. [Drop me an email if you’d like a simple time-log template.]
Now, answer the following questions to see where you are spending your time in the course of a normal working week (35-40 hours).
• How much time do you get for breaks, lunch etc.?
• How much of your time is spent dealing with crises or unexpected matters?
• How often do you get interrupted in an average day?
• How much time each day do you spend on admin tasks?
• What distracts you the most?
• When is your most/least productive time of day?
• When in the day/week do you get interrupted most?
• When in the day/week do you get interrupted least?
What is your ‘normal’ working week – are you working longer than the average? How often do you work late in the evening or at weekends.
Now look at how and where you’re spending your time and decide what changes you need to make in order to start using your time more effectively.
• How can you manage any interruptions better?
• What proportion of your time spent in meetings is productive?
• When do you plan what you’re going to do?
• How do you currently prioritise your tasks or are you just reacting?
• Do you usually finish what you planned to do each day?
• Can you choose how to use your time, or do other people decide for you?
• Are you able to say “No” to your colleagues/boss?
• What tasks do you tend to delay or put off?
• What tasks do you tend to avoid completely?
If you had another hour every day, what would you do with it? What can you change about the way you work to ‘create’ an extra hour in your day.
Could you get up an hour earlier or go to bed an hour later? Leave work an hour earlier so you have more time for you and your family. Watch less TV – yes, it can be a good way to switch off and relax but is there something more beneficial you could be doing instead?
Tip: If you’re using your time more productively during the day, minimising your distractions and interruptions – you’ll easily gain an hour of productive time.
Spend a few minutes at the beginning of each day to plan your working day and you’ll be able to get more done and be more productive. Look at where you potentially ‘waste’ time and decide what you can do to change it.
Make sure you’re getting enough breaks during the day. It’s all very well working hard but how productive is that working time? If you’re getting tired, you won’t be as effective, tasks take longer to complete and quality goes down. Take frequent breaks throughout the day.
In order to make the most effective use of your time you need to make sure you focus on what’s important.