Over this past week, I decided to do something radical. It was so radical I actually thought (initially at least) it was kind of absurd. As it turns out, I was so wrong about that.
My radical gesture was to start tracking my time. And I mean tracking nearly every minute that I worked so I could see where my time was going. I decided to do this because two people I respect (high productivity junkies) said it would change my life. Well, I kind of pride myself on being a super productive person so time-tracking seemed a little silly. But I thought, “What the hell? Why not?”
And so I signed up for a free service (more on that below) and tracked every moment I worked and then also tracked time when I pursued self-care (e.g. exercise and meditation). Significantly, I tracked any time I got on the computer including the time I checked email and social media.
This simple task packed a lot of punch.
In short, tracking my time completely changed how I view productivity. As I mentioned earlier, I have viewed myself as super productive. What I hadn’t realized is much productivity potential I was leaving on the table. The simple task of tracking my time left me realizing my previous strategy of productivity (reliant on multi-tasking) was obsolete. This exercise showed I wasn’t getting as much done and there was plenty of time that I was wasting.
What did I learn?
- I wasn’t spending enough time on high value activities. Because I tracked activities by type, I saw where my time was going. Already, after only one week, I am focused more on “high value” activities (like getting clients for my business) and minimizing lower value activities (like reading and re-reading the same emails in my inbox).
- I learned I was “managing” my inbox way too much. Keeping my inbox to low numbers is kind of an obsession of mine. But it seems, the obsession is a time suck leading me to read/re-read the same emails.
- I learned my multi-tasking tendency kind of sucked. This was the biggest learning. I am a serial multi-tasker who enjoys working on 3-5 projects all at once. I can have a few emails drafted, and then I hope over to a draft blog, and then I check email, and then back to the drafts of those emails. Back and forth. Back and forth. But that was actually a time waster. By the end of the week, I forced myself to work on one task at a time and got way more done.
So how did I do it? Pretty simple. I used Toggl (on the basis of a recommendation a productivity friend & expert) which can track work tasks and personal tasks and also tasks by project. All you need to do is click on “Start” to begin tracking. The great news is that using this free app was so simple it was more easily part of my routine. And at the end of the week, it send me a report that showed where my time had gone!
If you want to review the top time-tracking apps, look at this article here.
So what is stopping you from taking this easy and potentially huge step to increase your productivity? Trust me when I say you probably don’t know where your time is going right now. What do you have to lose? I guess you could lose time! Ha. In all seriousness, you could learn a lot. More importantly, you can get more done.