Uncover the biggest thieves of your time. Track it to reclaim it.

“Where did the day go?”
“I’m sure I put more time into this project than the others did”
“I just don’t have the time to read any more”
“I’ve been busy all day but couldn’t tell you what I achieved”

Do any of these sound familiar?

When you’re juggling all sorts of different things it’s hard to come up for air and really assess what you’re spending your time doing.

But it’s vital to monitor what your time is spent on so you can keep your goals on track and your distractions in check.

As the saying goes “time is money”. Time is also energy, mental strength and emotion. It is precious and should be managed well.

Invest time in your passions

“To find where your passion lays, look at where you spend your time”

In an ideal world we’d all spend the majority of our time on things that make us happy, fulfilled, and that sparks our passion.

In the real world we spend the majority of our time meeting obligations. Women still do the majority of household work and childcare. People living alone bear the whole the burden of the housework and admin.

looming obligations cartoon

Independent people are often seen as permanently available. They’re free to help when their friends are in a jam because they apparently don’t have anything else to do. But they end up being leaned on too heavily and their own needs fall to the wayside.

All of this sucks time away from where it would be better spent.

So how can you address this issue and funnel your time into things that are productive and fulfilling and away from those black holes of time which soak up our days?

1-week time logging

Process Improvement theory teaches that we can’t knowingly improve something if it’s not measured. If you measure your time you can see where the roadblocks are and reinvest that in more positive things. You can make a measurable difference.

Tracking your time can reveal some undeniable truths.

That ’10-minute favour’ for a friend actually took 3 hours, taking with it your physical and emotional energy. That’s time you may be vitally needing for your own self care and mental health.

“Without becoming aware of how you currently spend your time, it’s hard to reflect on whether you’re acting in ways that match up with what your values and highest-impact tasks are.

Keeping a time log is a great way to find your starting point, your base level.”

– Chris Bailey, The Productivity Project

As a ‘spiritual person’, you may only spend only a few minutes a week in prayer or meditation. As a ‘keen musician’ you might not have picked up your guitar in a month.

I once tracked my work time for a whole month and found almost 40% of my work time was spent on creating and updating presentations and I’d done a whopping 22 hours unpaid overtime.

Track your time for 1 week. You may be surprised by what it reveals.

6 steps to gathering the data you need

  1. Write down what your passions and priorities are. Consider your longer term or short term goals. Note any relationships that are really important.
    These are things that ideally you’d be spending time on.
  2. Decide how accurate you want to be. Don’t burden yourself with tracking every single minute but you want meaningful results. Being accurate to every 15 or 30 minute block should suffice
  3. Track your time for 1 week. Use a notepad, or try using one of the apps below
  4. Compare the results against your priorities.  Any mismatches?
  5. Consider what changes you can make to shift things in a better direction
  6. After a few months repeat the process and see how your results have changed

“It can seem like a tedious and boring task, but it can free up literally hours in your week. The key is to find a system that works for you”
– Laura Vanderkam, author of I Know How She Does It

What should I track?

You don’t need to track the minutiae of what you do, just the main gist of the activity. Think about the variety of things you do in a week and what’s important for you to glean from it.

  • Work
    • Major projects
    • Admin
    • Helping others
  • Travel
    • Commuting
    • Driving yourself or others around
  • Household
    • Cleaning
    • Cooking
    • Admin tasks
  • Hobbies
    • Playing sports
    • Gardening
    • Exercise
  • Relationships
    • Phone calls
    • Face to face time
  • Technology
    • TV time
    • Internet browsing

Use a notebook

It’s really easy to just jot down what the time is and what task you’re doing.

You will need to add up your times later though, either by hand or in excel. That will, ironically, take some time in itself.

What apps could you try

Most apps are designed for business but there are some designed for personal life.

Time Tracker

Android

iOS – (I can’t find it on iOS but I’m on Android so it might be there somewhere?)

This is one of the simplest and easiest ones I’ve seen. It’s a great place to start.

You can set your categories in advance, or add them as you go. You can give each one a different icon and colour. Then just click to start and stop as you go, toggling between them.

You can also have a few running at once.

Time Tracker app screenshot

What makes Time Tracker different is you can set targets for each; one hour a day, 20 hours a week, whatever you want. It then tells you how far off target you are.

Toggl

Android

iOS

Toggl app screenshot

With the Toggl app you can set up your categories in advance then just click different ones throughout the day- toggling between them like with Time Tracker.

Toggl will then add up how much time you spend on each one and show you various charts.

It’s designed for business but can be easily adapted with your own personal categories.

Smarter Time

Website

Smarter Time app screenshot


This one is designed for personal use rather than for businesses. It’s built around tracking both work and home tasks for a full picture of your time.

It can track the apps you’re using and use GPS to see where you are – work, home, gym etc.

Some would say that’s intrusive.
Some would say that’s helpful.

You have to log each activity manually rather than toggling but it’s not overly cumbersome. It has loads of pre-set categories and activities or you can add your own. The most recent ones will go to the top of the list.

Smarter Time app screenshot 2

You can then use the analyser to see charts and maps.


There are loads of apps on the market so look for something that will suit your lifestyle as well as giving you the right data. Once you have some data you can make some conscious changes for the better.

Get tracking and take back control of your time!

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