How do you know what you do with your time? Estimating how much time you spent doing something in the past or how much time it will take to do something in the future is notoriously unreliable. Warning: I don’t recommend that you use the time tracker in general life – it’s got the potential to stress you out. But if you’re trying to find more time to do something you care about, it’s a fab tool, as it highlights the points in your day when you could ditch something else (social media? TV?) to do the thing you want to do.
Track your energy
The time tracker shows you where your energy levels dip, and if you manage to fill it in for seven days you get a sense of when you got distracted and what distracted you. As I had decided to dedicate a couple of hours first thing in the morning – and go to bed earlier – the time tracker allowed me to keep a check on those times. The first week I did this I managed 3 early mornings out of 5 – I don’t count weekends – which I saw as a success.
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How to use the Small Steps Time Tracker
- If you’re using the Excel version of the time tracker, you can adapt the times in the left hand column to suit your needs. Don’t pre-fill the main body of the document.
- Print out the time tracker and keep it in front of you so you remember to fill it in with a pen as you go – it’s easy to forget what you did if you try to fill this in retrospectively.
- I’ve added ‘what I ate and drank’ so that I can keep a track of how that affects my energy levels – but you can leave that out of course. I was especially keen to make sure I kept reaching for the water.
- I’ve also added ‘energy level’ and ‘GTTW?’ (Good time to what?) to the online versions so you can add when you hit a slump or were full of beans, plus whether you think that particular time period would be a good time to do what you need to do. It might be that you don’t have much of a choice here. For instance, when I was on maternity leave I got to do my thing when our son was asleep (unless I was too knackered or cooking etc.) or when my partner took him swimming. It was much much harder while he was awake and we were in the same house! And I think my energy levels ranged from tired to very very very tired. Nowadays I can write a blog post while our son plays, or do an online shopping order, but nothing more complicated. Adapt as you see fit.
- Colour-code activities if you like, but I found that quickly scrawling on it and keeping it messy meant that the time tracker itself didn’t become too much of a distraction.
- Add stuff that’s important to you. I’m going to try to add meditation and a sun salutation or two into the mix, so next time I track for a week I’m going to give myself a big tick for the days I do those.
- Do a week at a time. Track for 5 days, with weekends off. Then breathe. Stop for a bit – this is definitely meant to be a non-maniacal time tracker! Repeat over another week or two over a six week period.
- Review what you’ve got. Where are the distractions? Where do your energy levels dip? Have you got more energy in the morning or evening?
By the way, if you want more on this idea, Kate Northrup has written about the 80 / 20 rule and about hourly time tracking in this blog post ‘6 simple steps to ensuring you’re not wasting your precious time‘.
Download your free Small Steps Time Tracker below. You need to make five copies to track for a week. (You get the weekend off.)
Let me know how you get on in the comments.
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