“How we spend our days is of course how we spend our lives” said author Annie Dillard. “What we do with this hour and that one is what we are doing.” Regardless of what you think your priorities are, they’re likely completely different than what you actually devote your time to, because it’s those things that are in fact, what you’re truly choosing to make a priority in your life. And sadly, few of us actually know what we devote our time to.
So if you find that you’re regularly getting to the end of each day feeling like you didn’t have enough time for the things that mattered – something in your life is likely taking more time than it deserves. So to help you uncover exactly what is taking up your time, verse what you want to be spending your time doing, I’m going to walk you through my 5 step system of time tracking so that we can find out how you’re spending all your precious moments and where you can make more time for the things that really matter. Ready? Here we go!
Step 1: Choose Your Time Categories
First, think about your life and the areas where you want to devote time to and then categorize them. For example:
1. Relationships (Family, friends, phone calls, texting, etc.)
2. Work (paid, volunteer, commute times)
3. Professional development (e.g., business development, networking, job applications)
4. Personal development (e.g., journaling, classes or workshops, self-developement reading)
5. Play (e.g., shopping, TV, casual reading, going out)
6. Health (e.g., working out, taking necessary breaks, self-care)
7. Distractions (e.g., social media, taking extra time to get out of bed)
8. Maintenance (e.g., running errands, getting ready, doing chores)
Step 2: Determine How you want to spend your time
While it’s important to track and know how you’re spending your time, it’s equally important to have a baseline to compare your results to and something to work towards.
When doing this exercise, think about how many hours in a week you want to spend doing something and figure out a percentage from there. For example, there are 168 hours in a week, if you want to spend 5 hours at the gym, that’s 8.4%. The reason it’s important to look at it from a week’s perspective instead of a day is that a week might be more meaningful, as our lives can differ a lot day to day – weekends are different from weekdays, for example – but are usually pretty normalized week over week.
Let yourself be aspirational here and really imagine how you want to “spend your life,” but also be realistic. If you work a 9-to-5 job and don’t plan on changing that anytime soon, then paid work will need to account for about 40 hours of your week or about 36% of your waking time.
Step 3: Set Up Your Tools
Next, you’ll need to set up the tools you’ll use to track your time. There are apps like Toggl that track your time on the go (as well as an Android app along with Chrome and Firefox extensions). Or if you prefer to do it manually, you can just keep a notepad on you throughout the day, or use a note option on your phone. There is also other app called Moment that will tell you how much screen time you’re logging in every day to track the time you’re on your phone.
Step 4: Start tracking
Now it’s time to get going! Pick a day to start and as soon as you wake up, put a reminder in your calendar everyday (even a few times a day) to track your time. You can also put a reminder a week from your starting point to stop tracking.
When you start tracking keep in mind that you’ll likely feel a lot of resistance initially as it’s hard to remember to do this. To help you along, set periodic reminders throughout the day for yourself. Another good tactic is to check in at the end of everyday to make sure that your whole day has been accounted for.
Step 5: Analyze the results
Once you’ve finished tracking for a week, it’s time to analyze the results! No matter how you decided to track, a great way to do this is to tally up the total hours in each category, and then multiply each as a percentage by 168 to find out the total percentage for the entire week. Once you’ve done this, you’ll have a solid understanding as to how you spend your time, and how far off you are from your ultimate goal.
Most importantly, remember, tracking your time is not meant to make you feel bad or guilty. It simply an opportunity to give yourself more information about how you’re spending your days, compared to how you want to. You may look at the information and want to change nothing – or it may make you want to change everything – regardless, you’ll feel confident knowing where the precious minutes of your life are going.
With love and nut butter,