I’m so excited to have my friend Tanya from Mom’s Small Victories sharing her secret to productivity. She has a ton of great tips, as well as helpful photos of her personal system. Let us know in the comments what you think!
“I don’t have time.” How many times do we hear or say that in a day? It seems we are always running out of time to work on goals that are important to us. But we are all given the same 168 hours in a week. So why are some people crushing their goals and others are spinning their wheels just trying to make it through the day? Why aren’t we managing our time the way we want? Where on earth does all our time go?
The solution might be simpler than you think. In fact, I think you can improve your time management skills with this simple time tracking method in less than 15 minutes a week.
Track how your time is spent.
Let’s be honest. We think we don’t have time. But the truth is when you track how your time is spent, you’ll find out the brutal truth about how you choose to spend your time.
5 Benefits of Time Tracking
- Identify how much time is wasted on non-goal related activities
- Allows you to better estimate how long tasks will take to complete
- Improves your efficiency by helping you find ways to work faster
- Helps you reevaluate how your time is spent to so you can focus more of your time on your most important goals
- Improves your work-life balance by revealing how much time is really spent in each role
A Simple Method for Tracking Your Time in Less than 15 Minutes a Week
Identify Your Key Projects or Roles
The first step is to identify the 3-4 key projects or main areas in your life where you think you spend the most time. As a former accountant, I used to track my time based on client or project. We had to budget our time and then report how our time was spent, explaining any time our time spent exceeded our budget.
Now that I’m a stay-at-home mom and working from home, I track my time by role, four main categories of tasks:
- home (cleaning, finances, maintenance)
- family (cooking, kids’ school, activities, husband and family time)
- self (self care, doctor’s appointments, managing my Rheumatoid Arthritis)
- blog & business
What are your main roles? What is most useful to you, tracking your time by project or tracking your time by role? Check out this post if you need help identifying your roles so you can crush your goals.
Tracking your Time
Tracking of your time does NOT need to be complicated, in fact it’s more effective the simpler you can make it. You can grab a notebook or planner and just write down what time you started your task, what you are working on and what time you stopped working on the task.
I keep my time tracking really simple and mainly track 30 minute blocks using my Passion Planner. I take a quick glance at the clock when I start a task and fill in the respective blocks when the task is completed, whether it takes 15 minutes or 2 hours. I often use little symbols to make it even easier to jot down how I spent my time as you can see in the key in the photo below.
If I don’t have my planner nearby or I just get wrapped up in getting things done, I just grab a notepad to track my time and transfer it into my Passion Planner at the end of the day. See even Santa’s List will work…
It only takes a few seconds throughout the day to write down how you are spending your time. It makes you think twice about wasting time on activities that don’t work towards your goals when you have to admit your wasting time and write it down.
Time tracking doesn’t have to be perfect and not every minute has to be accounted for. Just do your best and make a conscious effort to do it, you may be surprised at your results.
At the end of the week, my planner looks like this:
It’s all filled in but at a glance, it’s not easy to determine how much time I spent in any of my role categories. So now we need a way to analyze this in a useful way.
Color Coding Your Planner to Analyze How You Spent Your Time
I color code my time based on category in order to analyze how I spent my time. It’s simple and a little stress relief at the end of the busy week to color in my blocks of time. Here’s what my color coded version looks like after I colored all my tasks in the schedule portion of the planner:
- home – yellow
- family – green
- self care – pink
- blog/biz – blue
How can colored pencils boost your productivity? Find out here. #productivityhack Click To Tweet
Some questions I ask myself to help me analyze my productivity for the week:
How was your work-life balance this week?
Since my goal is simply that I want to master work-life balance, I make sure that my colors are well balanced at the end of the week. If I spent too much time on my blog this week, I will make more time for family next week. A couple weeks ago, when I felt like I was falling behind on my blog/biz priorities but didn’t want to sacrifice my family time, I decided to start waking up at 5:30 am (even in the summer) so I can get more blogging done.
As it turns out, from the picture above, if it weren’t for those early morning hours, I would hardly have gotten any blogging/biz work done at all last week during my kids’ first week of summer vacation.
What’s the fastest way you can analyze the time you spent? You can also keep another spreadsheet or file and add up hours spent in each category if you need that level of detail.
Where did you waste your time? How you can improve your efficiency?
When I first started tracking my time, I was spending a lot of unconscious time on Facebook. When I realized it, I started being more intentional with my time on Facebook. I only go for my blogging groups or limit the time of mindless browsing. Where are you wasting your time?
With the kids home and us spending more time outside at the pool, I’m more tired in the evenings and have even less energy than usual to cook. So I’ve been trying to do quicker, easier meals for dinner. What can you do to improve your efficiency?
How can you address those tasks that didn’t get done this week?
Oh man, my car needs a good vacuuming and even though it’s been on my list for 2 weeks now, I STILL didn’t get it done last week. I’m going to enlist help from my teen to vacuum the car, a task I clearly dread because it’s difficult for me to manipulate the vacuum in a small space with my RA damaged hands.
Yes, you can ask for help.
- Who can you ask for help to knock off some more tasks this week?
- What can you move to later?
- What tasks can you delegate to someone else?
- What must get done next week?
Even though I started tracking my time more than 2 years ago, life happens every day and my priorities and the ways I spend my time are constantly changing too. Tracking my time is the simplest time management tool I’ve used to help me improve my productivity and master the work-life balance I want and need.
Tanya is the productivity, book and chronic illness blogger behind Mom’s Small Victories. She inspires busy moms and chronic illness patients to overcome their overwhelm and thrive despite the physical and emotional challenges they face. A SAHM to 3 boys, planner addict, avid reader, recipe hoarder and world traveler through books and food, you can find Tanya on her blog | Pinterest | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter.
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Melinda Mitchell says
Angela, thanks for having Tanya as a guest. coloring in my time sounds relaxing at the end of a busy week!!
And I really do need to nip my FB addiction in the bud, uh, full bloom!
I’m definitely going to try this especially while I’m off during the summer to see what I truly do throughout the day. Great way to track what I’m REALLY doing throughout the day.
That’s great Brittany! I just did it once and it has really helped me take a mental note of how I’m spending my time.
Donna Reidland says
This looks like a great idea. I’m pinning to go back over.
Yes, there’s a lot in here Donna! I know this is going to help me too as I learn to apply it.
Mother of 3 says
Gentle Joy Homemaker says
Good ideas… thank you.
I never thought of tracking all my time, I tried to track projects but always forgot to turn the timer on when I started. I think I do need more of a work life balance; between work, courses and blogging I feel like my family life can suffer, I may try your suggestion of a notebook to make things easier.
I love Tanya’s ideas of just jotting it down on a notebook or scrap paper. I had to be super intentional with carrying around this one sheet of paper, but as I do it more, I’m sure it’ll become easier to implement.