Do you have a diary?

Whether it’s the classic pink book hidden under your pillow, a no-frills sheet of paper, or a leather-bound notebook—keeping a diary is important for many reasons.

In our real estate coaching business, we encourage the use of a diary or journal for reflecting purposes. We also have a specific exercise that we like to use with our students who find themselves getting a bit off track. Whether they’re simply distracted or not prioritizing the right things, this exercise can help them prioritize their time each day.

Here’s how it works.

The 15-minute exercise

If you find yourself getting off track in business or in life, this is a great exercise that will help you figure out where you’re spending your time and pinpoint why you’re off track. The results might surprise you.

It’s important to start this exercise on a clean week. Whenever you happen to be reading this, start the exercise next week. If you’re reading this on a Monday, start next Monday. The exercise will last seven days in total.

If you don’t have a diary already—get one (that should have been pretty self-explanatory). In that diary, you’re going to write out 15-minute increments for each day. That means you’ll have a time slot to write in for every 15-minute increment for each day, from the time you wake up until the time you go to sleep.

After you’ve done that, start going through your day like normal. The only difference is that every fifteen minutes, you’re going to stop, open your diary, and write what you’ve been doing for the past fifteen minutes.

Yes, it’s painful. It takes an incredible amount of discipline to keep this up over the course of seven days, but it will be worth it in the end.

But it’s not only painful because you have to stop what you’re doing every fifteen minutes. It’s probably going to be even more painful to see how you’re spending your time over the course of these seven days. Whether you’re getting distracted and wasting time on silly things (like watching videos or chatting with your coworkers) or you’re doing things that simply aren’t a good use of your time (like spending two hours checking email), the results are usually pretty eye-opening.

Making your “not-to-do” list

So, you’ve made it through the seven days. Congratulations!

You might feel bad about how you’ve been spending your time, but don’t worry. The whole point of this exercise is to fix that!

The first step is to evaluate how you’ve been spending your time. Are you getting distracted a lot? Are the things you’re spending the most time on producing results? Or are you spending too much time on things that are below your pay-grade or not producing the results you’re looking for?

The second step is to make a list of all the things you’ve done over that seven-day period that you either don’t like doing or aren’t worth your time. Ask yourself: “Could I pay someone twenty dollars an hour to do this?” If the answer is yes, look into having someone else do it. You could outsource it, have someone else at your company do it, or even look into technology that might be able to automate it.

This becomes your “not-to-do” list. These activities aren’t worth your time, and by removing them from your daily routine you’ll be able to make more time for the stuff that’s actually worthwhile. In our real estate coaching business, we call these worthwhile activities “MPAs” or “Money Producing Activities.”

Depending on your goals and where you’re spending your time, MPAs might not be the best way to look at it. It could be things that will advance your career, bring you joy, or increase your knowledge (although, in a roundabout way, most of these things are MPAs!).

The goal is to remove all the stuff on your “not-to-do” list from your daily routines and replace them with MPAs. Of course, your day shouldn’t be entirely filled with MPAs—you’ll need time at home to get ready for your day, decompress afterwards, and spend time with family and friends. But this exercise will allow you to make the best use of your time over the course of each day.

If you have a business coach or someone that can help you make these decisions, that’s even better. It can be difficult to navigate this stuff on your own, and it will be even more difficult to hold yourself accountable. That’s why I always opt to use some kind of coach or mentor during this process—although it’s not 100% necessary.

And there you have it! A simple diary exercise that will help you prioritize your time, remove unimportant activities from your life, and bring you more money, happiness, and freedom.

Are you ready to commit to the 15-minute exercise? If so, I’d love to hear how it goes for you.