Laura Vanderkam’s book, 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, contends that every one of us has the same 168 hours each week, spending approximately 56 hours sleeping and 60 hours working, leaving the remaining 52 hours up to us on how we use them. In her eyes, this is the difference in the quality of our lives.
When gaining realistic information about daily time use, I suggest a time audit to track time for at least two weeks. By seeing current time use and noting “where” time is going in your day. Time tracking asks two main questions about your time:
Later in this article, I will share a free online app called Toggl Tracker, which helps clarify how to make your time more visible and data-based so you can make relevant steps toward changing the narrative of “not enough time.” But first, let’s share a few reasons why tracking time is worth the effort and so effective.
I hate to say this, but most people are time blind and lacking in time estimation. Then there is our cognitive bias about over-inflated correctness and our misunderstanding in the narrative that “there is just not enough time,” clouding our judgments. The dose of reality from the information found during a time audit shows patterns in our habits, leading to a growing awareness of what is no longer worth spending time on. Evaluating and choosing to replace the time sucks in our days with new and meaningful interactions is up to you. I know that by challenging assumptions with facts and seeing how precious time shows up in a paper log or report, you can reallocate and reprioritize time for the critical tasks, initiatives, or projects you want to accomplish. Essentially, designing your day for the likelihood of success.
Additionally, looking at raw data and noting where time is slipping away is a mighty motivator for change and sends you a strong signal for aligning daily activities with long-held personal goals and intentions. As a management consultant, Peter Drucker says, “What gets measured gets managed.” Facts change how you are going to manage time, my friend.
How to audit time is best determined by your preferences. If you have a choice of paper and pencil, I suggest setting alarms each hour and recording what was accomplished since the last notice with some specificity to help recall the activity in a log. You can also find free time log templates or keep a journal.
For those brains that are digitally wired, I came across a free time tracker app called Toggl Track. YouTube has videos sharing how to set up and start Toggl Track, including how to access reports on your time use. As you learn to add activities during task switching, it will record them. A report can be generated about that activity for your reflection and review.
Whether using paper or apps, when reviewing your time audits, I suggest that you look at your activities through the lens of three large buckets: 1.) Me time. 2.) Work time.3.) Family & Friends time.
These buckets are critical lenses to a balanced life; only you can determine how much priority is going toward each bucket based on your current lifestyle. This is where you evaluate the satisfaction of the time placed in each of these buckets and make plans to alter what's not working because, take it from me, something is not working for you.
Additionally, look at creating a “No longer doing bucket” and start reviewing your activities for things you will no longer do. Examples of items I’ve dropped or cut back on doing after reviewing my time audits have included TV shows, news consumption, some relationships, and long-standing obligations that are no longer a priority.
Getting straight on the facts of your time use and taking a balcony view of your priorities increases your awareness of time and maximizes your days, weeks, and years. But also impacts your level of satisfaction at the end of the day. You can feel good at the end of a busy day by meeting your priorities without sacrificing those you love, making one of my favorite Laura Vanderkam quotes ring true. “It's about looking at the whole of one's time and seeing where the good stuff can go. I truly believe this. There is time. Even if we are busy, we have time for what matters. And when we focus on what matters, we can build the lives we want in the time we've got.”
DeShawn Wert teaches intelligent, motivated professionals how to get stuff done so they CAN relax and enjoy the fruits of their labor! Let's explore how you do your best work together. An Ericson-trained life coach and JTS Coaching-trained ADHD coach, DeShawn is a member of good standing in the ADHD Coaches Organization. She's contributed to several books on living with ADHD, including Dr. Dale Archer's book, The ADHD Advantage, and Laurie Dupar's series called More Ways to Succeed with ADHD.