What’s your first thought when I say “track your time”? Does it sound terrible? Tedious? Boring? If you’re an attorney, or in any other field where you have billable hours, you’re probably so used to it you’re not phased. But I bet the idea still doesn’t bring an immediate smile to your face.
However, time tracking can be a really useful tool.
In fact, when I work with clients one of the very first things we do is track time for an entire week, from the moment you wake to the moment your head hits the pillow. And we don’t just track work time, we track ALL time.
Why? So we can actually get real data.
You might be thinking, “why should I track time? I know where my time goes.” But I’m willing to bet you don’t. Time is subjective. When we’re having fun, or in a flow state, it goes so quickly we almost can’t believe it. When we’re not having fun, time drips like tar.
When my clients track their time, they almost always have some huge “Ahas”, good and bad. I once had a client, a tech exec (at a large company that will not be named), who realized he was spending 4 hours a day on Reddit and Youtube. In 5 minute chunks. He thought it was a lot, but he was thinking it was more like an hour. Not 4.
I also once had a client who felt like he wasn’t getting any time with his kids, only to find that when he actually tracked it, he was spending about 3 times as much time with his kids then he thought. It was fun, so it didn’t register as “a lot”.
Need some additional reason to give time tracking a try? Here’s why I think it’s so important:
- Time Tracking helps to:
- Identify non-essential and/or time-consuming tasks. (What can you delegate?)
- Understand how much time you spend on tasks and projects. (How accurate are your estimates?)
- Stay focused. (In the wise words of Peter Drucker, “What gets measured, gets managed.”)
- Ensure how you spend your time is aligned with your goals. (Do your actions match your intentions?)
Is time tracking a bit tedious. Yep, it can be! But also totally worth it. (And spoiler: read a little further down and I’m going to share one of the easiest, most satisfying ways to track time.)
Personally, I time track for about 2 weeks to a month of every year. I use this data to help me calibrate. I ask myself questions like:
- Am I getting enough sleep?
- Am I working too much?
- Am I doing stuff I could be delegating?
Every time I track my time, I gain insights and I’m able to take action on those insights to improve how I’m spending my time
The same is true for my clients. Heck, some even keep doing it after the week is over, just because they find it helps them stay on track!
What about you? Have you ever tried time tracking? What did you learn?