Time log techniques

Time tracking with a time log is much more than a boring exercise in book keeping. If you approach it right, it will become a very effective time management learning tool. A few minutes of writing and analyzing your time and activity logs will eliminate many hours of wasted time.

Embrace the reality of your personal time

Unless this has already happen to you before, your time log is more than likely to surprise you. You will see how much time is wasted in many unexpected ways. Often it appears that the busier you feel the more time is wasted.

Another important discovery is how much time things really take. One of the most common problems in personal time management is underestimating the time needed for each specific activity. First this is one of the reasons why planning and scheduling do not seem work well for some people. If you always expect much more than you can fit in your time, than writing plans and to do lists just gets you more stressed.

Get a realistic picture of your time and you will feel much more in control. In fact, you will move much faster with less stress.

Preparing and writing your time log

You don't need to keep writing a time log permanently. It is sufficient to do it for 3-7 days, and repeat this procedure time after time. Yet, when you write a time log, make sure you don't miss any even minor activity. Don't let your time wasters to hide there.

So that not to waste much time on writing time tracking records, take a little preparation step. Take a sheet of paper and divide it into columns named like

  • Time
  • Activities
  • Scheduled
  • Interrupted
  • Urgent
  • People (involved)
Then continue with activities you would normally do that day. On the way, update your time log. Do it either every time you switch to new activity or at some short time intervals, like 10-20 minutes. Add entries to your "Time" and "Activities" column, and try to put marks like "Yes" or "No" in the "Scheduled", "Interrupted", and "Urgent" columns. Where relevant, make short notes on what people you spend time with too.

What does your time log tell you?

When you have your time log written, you can move to the most important part, the analysis. Review your records and try to get answers to the following questions.
  • What percentage of your time is spent in each of different areas of your life? How is it divided between Work, Business, Family, Recreational, Spiritual, Health?
  • What percentage of your activities are important?
  • Are urgent?
  • What people you spend more time with?
  • What percentage of your activities go as planned?
  • What are main interruptions?

Then think of possible adjustments and action steps. For example:

  • Are there any activities you can cut back on?
  • Is there anything you can delegate or simplify?
  • Can you save time by grouping related tasks, like shopping?

It will get you over the psychological barrier

Have you ever tried to convince anyone to change their view of him- or herself? Was it easy? We often feel resistance to external judgments of our personality or habits. It is much easier to accept a change if we discover things for ourselves, if the judgment is our own.

Something similar happens with time spending habits. When you discover how you really spend your time, and do it yourself from your own time log, you will feel much more comfortable when changing your time management attitudes and habits.

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