How do you use your time?
It’s easy to say, ‘Reorganise the way I use my time and I will become more effective and efficient’. But how can you do so unless you know exactly what you do with your time?
Keeping a time log will give you a clearer idea of how you use your time. A time log is an account of how you spend your time each day.
The easiest way to keep one is to write down the starting and finishing time of everything you do from the time you get up to the time you go to bed. Your log might look like this:
7.00am got up
7.15am had shower
7.30am had breakfast
7.45am left for work
8.00am travelling to work
8.15am arrive at work
8.30am make phone calls
8.45am paperwork etc
If recording your day in such detail is too time-consuming, write down roughly when you started each activity and how long you spent on it. Writing as much detail as possible will be more helpful but any indication of how you spend your time will be useful.
You don’t need to keep a log like this every day for a fortnight; a couple of days would be enough. However try and be honest, include everything you do, however trivial. Unless you are honest you cannot see where your time goes.
At work include phone calls, appointments, interruptions, meetings, dealing with paperwork, projects, writing, planning time, plus all the minor activities that make up your working day. At home include watching tv, doing housework, shopping and time at leisure etc.
Make comments against each entry. Describe how you felt about it, how effective it was, whether it contributed to one of your goals, how it could be improved.
Prime Time or Wasted Time?
After you have completed a few days of your time log, work out how long you spend on each activity. Some of the time will be spent on things that you cannot avoid, which are vital to your life, for example, sleeping, eating, toiletries, dressing, getting to work, staying fit and healthy.
Other commitments you will choose for yourself, for example, attending evening classes, or playing a sport. Some activities will be imposed on you, such as work commitments, or caring for a relative. Yet more activities will be things that you can take or leave, for example chatting to friends, reading the paper, watching tv, going to the cinema.
What you are looking for is a balance between what you must do and what you want to do. But first, you must calculate how much time you spend on each activity. You will probably be surprised at how much time is taken up by trivial things. Or by how much of your day is spent on maintenance tasks, such as shopping and eating.
How Much Time Do You Control?
Your time log will show you how much of your time you have at your command.
Mark all the occasions that you were interrupted by other people, whether by visits or phone calls. How much of your time was dictated by other people’s priorities?
Once you know this you can take steps to ensure that your priorities prevail. Take steps to stop this unproductive use of your time.
If You Really Want More Time- Be Ruthless
It is no good being feeble about working through your time log and making changes where you can. If you really want to save time then something must go or be changed. Work through your time log and see where changes can be made. That way you will get an overall picture of what you need to do.
If you don’t think you can make all the changes at once (that takes the kind of determination that most of us haven’t got) then make one change a day or a week.
By gradually introducing the changes, your life will improve over time and you will not worry about how to do it.
You can make decisions about the use of your time by deciding whether it is important or unimportant, urgent or non-urgent and their combinations.
If the activity is important and urgent you need to make this a top priority and deal with it straight away.
An example might be writing a report needed for work. Another activity might be important but not-urgent, such as a long-term project. In that case, you would timetable it for the future period while still allowing time for its completion.
If something is urgent but not important, such as getting a memo out to colleagues within 24 hours of a meeting, you could delegate it to a member of staff or allow time after the first priorities to do it.
Remember that if someone else gives you work and tells you it is urgent, that is their view of its priority. And finally, if the task is unimportant and non-urgent, why do it at all?
If you have looked at your time log and worked out which area your activities have fallen into, you can see how much of your day is spent concentrating on unimportant activities. When you have new activities, ask yourself what area you should put them and allocate time for them accordingly.
You will find that you will be concentrating on the important things that help you reach your goals.