Time Tracking and Evaluation
Most of us have busy lives and often feel like there aren’t enough hours in each day to accomplish all of the things we need and want to do. By tracking your time, you’ll develop a better understanding of where and how you’re investing your time and energy; sometimes the way we believe we’re spending our time isn’t accurate, and you might notice some inefficiencies that can help you become more productive with time.
Where does your time go now? Think about the categories below as you determine how you spend your time.
- Eating and sleeping
- Working for pay
- Commuting to and from your job or school
- Family activities
- Home and personal care and maintenance
- Community activities
- Hanging out with friends
- Downtime at home
- Other activities not listed above
Daily Time Use Chart
In your notebook, draw a table like the one below. List the activities you did over the past 24 hours, and show how much time you spent on each. You may want to keep a chart each day for a week to get an accurate idea of your daily time usage.
Answer the following questions in your notebook:
- What were some things that surprised you? Are there things you’re spending more time on than you’d like?
- Do they involve people other than you?
- How might you plan for adjustments in how you use your time?
Review Your Weekly Time Investments
Here is an example of how one may spend the week.
Hours per activity in a 7-day week:
- Sleep: 56 hours
- Meals: 14 hours
- Chores: 5 hours
- Exercise: 5 hours
- Transportation: 5 hours
- Work: 15 hours
- Family: 5 hours
- Classes: 15 hours
- Studying: 30 hours
- Fun/entertainment: 8 hours
- Errands: 2 hours
Now, using your daily time use chart as a reference point, do your best to calculate your weekly time investment in the categories that apply to you (you might add or remove from the categories in the example list). Write your answers in your notebook.
Rate each of the activities you listed on a scale of 1-10, based on how much of your time and energy they take up. Remember to include how much time you spend planning, prepping for, or worrying about each activity in its total!
Next, rate each of the activities listed on a scale of 1-10 based on how much you value those things.
Answer the following questions in your notebook.
- Are you happy with the way you divide your time? Why or why not?
- Do you notice a significant difference between your priorities and your actual time? How do you feel about the difference or similarity?
- How would you like to see yourself devote more time to certain things?
Identify Your Time Challenges
Tracking your time will help you see where you can do things differently. Consider the following challenges as elements to be aware of, but not impossible to overcome. For each challenge, there is an approach or solution to help you move through obstacles.
- Challenge: The limitation of time – It feels like you have too many tasks for the amount of time available.
Solution: Prioritize your time – Sometimes you need to pick and choose what’s most important, and put other things off until you have more time and energy. It’s also important to make time for yourself to rest and see friends and family. Remember you will be more focused when you’ve allowed yourself some breaks.
- Challenge: Failing to set priorities – You’re spending too much time on tasks that aren’t urgent, leaving yourself too little to get the important things done.
Solution: Be consistent with priority lists – As you plan for the next stretch of time, ask yourself, “what’s the best use of my time?” to decide what is most important. Like any habit, this might take some time to become a normal part of your daily routine. However, once you get in the swing of setting priorities as you plan your week or your day, it’ll feel more and more like a valuable tool to start you off on the right track.
- Challenge: You’re noticing you find yourself distracted easily – You notice you’re spending time on your phone or playing video games instead of completing tasks.
Solution: Set yourself up for success – You can’t expect to be focused 24/7, so make sure you’re planning for breaks throughout your day. Set a timer to work for 30 minutes before taking a timed 5 minute break to check social media or play a quick game, and then get back to it. Finding out where you work best can also make a big difference – do you find it easier to focus at the kitchen table or in your room? Does your phone need to be in a different room? Maybe you like going to the library or a coffee shop to study? Identify what works best for you and stick with it.
Remember that time management is not a device to make you work harder and longer. In fact, it’s a tool to help you “work smarter” to accomplish things more efficiently, and include time for all the other things you want to do.