I have no time. We hear this phrase almost daily from our colleagues, family members, and friends. But in many situations, people don’t have a clear idea of how they actually spend their work time and free time.
So, the secret of becoming your time master is quite simple. All you need is to keep track of your daily tasks to better understand your daily work and habits. This way, you will understand what actions you need to set up to get extra hours.
In this blog, we’ll discuss:
- Benefits of tracking activities
- Two approaches to tracking your daily tasks
- How to track behaviors
Benefits of tracking activities
If you usually feel like you don’t have enough time for all your planned daily tasks, think about keeping track of what you do during work hours. We have compiled a list of the top benefits of activity tracking:
- You’ll get control of your time,
- You’ll be extra sensible and organized,
- You’ll make better time price quotes,
- You’ll be extra accountable and productive,
- You’ll find out how to single-task instead of multitasking,
- You’ll acquire control of your time.
Laura Vanderkam is the author of several publications on time management and productivity. In her TEDWomen 2016 talk, she talked about our understanding of time. Vanderkam wanted to prove that you can take control over your time and spend it as you please.
For this reason, she conducted a study involving busy ladies. Participants had to track their daily activities for one week, both work and free time.
Analyzing the data, Vanderkam noticed that one of the people had a domestic emergency. This person logged every hour she actually spent solving this problem for 7 hours (during the week).
Although this was an emergency case, this situation shows us that there is always enough time in a day or a week. In addition, this research confirms that you CAN find time for everything you want to do, although you may not realize it.
How exactly do you gain control of your time?
Start by making a list of all the activities you do during the day. You will most likely realize that you may be spending too much time doing specific tasks like watching TV for 2 hours a day. Or scroll through your social media. At the same time, you think you do not have enough time for a cup of coffee with close friends or, most likely, for movies.
The next step is to reevaluate your chart. Try to limit the time you spend on some less important tasks to get extra hours of coffee with friends.
By keeping your daily tasks, you’ll manage your time better. Hence, you’ll do what you enjoy doing.
An additional fascinating factor that Vanderkam pointed out throughout her speech is that time is very flexible.
“We are not able to make more time, but time will certainly stretch to fit what we pick to put right into it,” she added.
It’s up to us what we will choose to put into it, as well as these are the concerns.
Furthermore, Vanderkam suggests making a list of priorities on Friday mid-day. This list must contain the tasks you prepare for the following week in 3 groups:
Make sure to include 2-3 top priorities for every group.
You’ll be extra sensible and organized
In his book The Productivity Project, author Chris Bailey claims that being reasonable about how much you can accomplish is essential.
“Without becoming conscious of how you presently spend your time, it’s tough to review whether you’re acting in a manner that matches your values and highest-impact jobs. Maintaining a time log is a wonderful method to discover your beginning point, your base degree.”
As you can see, keeping track of your time and tasks will surely help you understand your baseline. Thus, you will have the opportunity to set reasonable goals and strategies for the future. Under certain circumstances, if you find breaks on Wednesdays and Thursdays, use those breaks to think about suggestions for the next job.
In addition, having accurate data on how much time you need for each task will help you organize your working day better. Another helpful action you can take is to make a to-do list for tomorrow the night before. Keep in mind to document the time of each.
Plus, once you start logging every little activity throughout the day, you’ll also see how you waste your downtime. So the previously mentioned 2 hours of watching TV can be replaced with a few other activities such as riding a bike for an hour and then going to the toilet for the next hour.
You’ll make much better time estimates
Let’s face it. You cannot always predict how long it will take to buy groceries, take the kids to college, or finish an important task at the office. Several studies show that we tend to underestimate the time it takes to complete a task.
According to the Planning Fallacy Study, less than fifty percent of people made sure to finish their tasks when they predicted. The results showed that when people make predictions about their tasks, they focus on a specific case from the past and its information. However, people need to see the bigger picture – examine all previous situations in detail. This way, they will remember their problems with previous situations; thus, they would undoubtedly have made more valuable predictions.
For instance, last Friday, you were lucky enough to complete your grocery shopping and get home in less than an hour. But, as a rule, this work takes about 2 hours due to traffic jams on the site. Thus, it would be best to devote more time to this activity, somewhere between an hour and 1.5 hours and 2 hours.
As a general rule, to make an accurate estimated time, you must keep track of your activities. This indicates documenting every duty throughout the day. After that, in a few weeks, you will be able to make even more accurate predictions about your daily responsibilities.
You’ll be much more liable and effective
Some days you will be much more efficient than others. As you already know, when you can’t focus on your office work, you can rely on social networking sites or start reading the latest news. Or when you need to do some research for an important exam, but instead, you’re binge-watching your favorite show. This is what we call wasting time.
But what happens when the entire week is ineffective? Most likely, you will not be able to complete the tasks that you set once a week.
Below is what we suggest: keep track of your lost time, the same means that you log the tasks you have completed. Thus, when you see inputs like “search the web” or “browse a collection,” that will undoubtedly be your wake-up call. After that, tomorrow, you will do your best not to repeat these actions, which will lead to much greater efficiency and increased inspiration.
In addition, keeping track of your activities can also help you improve your productivity levels. Pamela Ayuso, a real estate entrepreneur and designer, blogs about the company’s growth. She believes that, given that most of us have the same 24 hours a day, our ideal bet is to make the most of them.
“By tracking daily tasks, we can determine which tasks are eating up most of our time. With the data in hand, we can make the necessary adjustments to ensure we are using our time most efficiently.”
Therefore, if you want to focus on your work and be more efficient, remember to keep a document with your tasks throughout the day.
You’ll learn just how to single-task rather than multitasking
“Multitasking comes from the entertainment itself” – Marilyn Vos Savant.
While not exactly a hindrance, multitasking is a scam. Earl Miller, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor of neuroscience, believes that our brains can quickly switch attention from one thing to another. However, the mind cannot focus on both points simultaneously.
So you can believe that you can cook dinner and do the dishes simultaneously. But there is a chance that you will either forget to add this critical seasoning or accidentally break the glass.
When it comes to time management and logging your tasks, you need to have clear and precise information about what you are doing. This means running each task separately to make sure you can log them correctly. Hence, you will improve your single-tasking abilities and also avoid multitasking. Also, if you only focus on one session, your results will be better and faster.
How exactly do you control your daily tasks?
Why keep track of daily tasks as well as routine?
Now that you’ve learned about the main benefits of keeping track of your daily activities, let’s look at two ways to keep track of your tasks:
Pen and also paper method, or our digital planner
Pen as well as paper method
Developed by Neville Medhora, this method is an excellent option if you favor using standard writing devices, such as pen and paper.
So, at the start of your workday, take a paper and also start creating the following:
Date: Keep the day at the top of the list. This little information will undoubtedly be important for future directions.
All tasks for the day: make sure this is one of the most critical tasks and treat it wisely. If you think you can do six difficult jobs, write them down. Optionally, you can include non-work-related tasks that you plan to do after work. Keep them at the end of the list.
Time Spent: This is incredibly useful information if you typically run multiple conferences throughout the day. Just add them to the corresponding side of the paper as a hint.
Tracked Hours: Keep track of the moment you start servicing a task and after it completes. Then document the moment diagram for this action on the right-hand side of the sheet below your conference tip. Do the same for all other jobs. Creating these time blocks will undoubtedly give you a better idea of how you spend your work time, which jobs require more time, and also you will see how efficiently you worked that day.
Daily Overview: At the end of the day, write a summary of your day—your daily progress.
Here are several various other function pointers that Medhora offers:
✔ Write a to-do list the night before. Thus, when you start your workday early in the morning, all you have to do is follow the list.
✔ Break your work down into smaller, achievable parts. So, instead of having one big task, you will need to complete many tasks. In addition, you will truly feel satisfied when you complete the task you just did.
✔ A simple focus you can use when you feel like you’re procrastinating is to use extra paper with a piece of tape on the top. Then pin that paper to your list and also change it so that you can only see your first task. Also, if you feel like you’re not working at the moment, seeing only one task at a time indicates that you won’t be bothered by others on the list.
How do you keep track of your practices?
In addition to work and activities in general, you can also track your behavior. The structure of behavior includes following a specific regime or actions. Now and after that, you need to evaluate your progress. By doing this, you will know if this procedure produces the expected results and if you need to customize some actions.
For example, let me state that you are learning Finnish. It has been six months, and you haven’t missed a single class. However, you are not satisfied with your knowledge of the Finnish language for some reason. This comment tells you that you must convert something. Perhaps you need to work harder on your homework or work on your discussion skills.
Here’s the catch: when you set any benchmarks for a habit, you must follow them. Also, you need to keep a log of these daily/weekly activities. When it comes to our Finnish example, you will have to cut down on time spent learning the language.
The habit tracker and also how it functions
One of the most valuable ways to evaluate your routine is to use a habit tracker. In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear describes the primary goal of this method.
“Habit tracking is an easy way to tell if you’ve been following a habit.”
Below’s how to use a habit tracker:
- Use a notebook with a calendar or use a Google sheet/Excel/Digital Planner.
- After that, compose down all your month-to-month habits. For example, your activities could be reading, exercising, learning Finnish, and doing yoga in November.
- Whenever you finish some activity, include a checkmark, an X icon, or any other sign beside the habit.
- You can choose the days for every habit, as an example:
Monday, Wednesday, and also Friday – exercise,
Tuesday and also Thursday – learning Finnish,
Saturday and also Sunday – yoga
Everyday – analysis.
Here’s an instance of finishing all activities during the first week of November.
Habit tracker – first week
As you can see, your behavior from month to month can be divided into the same routine for each week of the month. This method remains in line with the regimens and activities of highly effective people. For example, Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter and Square, has a different routine for each day of the week. So Monday is for running his businesses, Tuesday is for focusing on products, etc.
If you stick to this standard, you will have an entire month full of meaningful boxes. This will become your source of inspiration. In addition, after the first month, you will have the opportunity to change the regularity of some activities, if necessary. For instance, if you enjoy doing yoga and it helps you stay relaxed, you could do it more times a week instead of two.
What activities can you identify?
In the above book, Clear recommends the two-minute rule. This implies starting with tiny practices. Tiny habits are all those activities that you can complete in 2 minutes or a lot less.
For instance, these are some small activities that you can do daily:
- Read one web page of your preferred publication.
- Practice meditation for one minute in the morning.
- Do one push-up or stretch for one min.
- Wake up and go to bed at a determined time.
- Water your plants in the afternoon.
In addition, you can evaluate activities that affect your health and well-being, such as:
- How much coffee you consume daily.
- How much water or alcohol you drink daily.
- Whether you eat enough veggies as well as fruits.
For more detailed information about your diet, you can also track your intake of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.
What about those tasks you would rather avoid or do less frequently? Clear calls these avoidance behaviors. These activities either harm your health, your funds, or your productivity. Here are some examples:
- Removing alcohol, caffeine, or sugar intake.
- Giving up smoking cigarettes.
- Investing much less time in front of the display (outside your job hours).
- Investing much less cash on online purchases.
Just as you track the behaviors, you wish to build. You can also check those habits you intend to stay clear of.
How can I be able to track behavior?
Even holding a record of your habits is a habit you need to acquire. If you’ve never kept track of your regimen, we’ve got some simple tips to get you started:
✔ Fill up the habit tracker as fast as you build the habit. In doing so, you will not forget to discount your daily success.
✔ Keep it simple. When you finish the preferred activity, mark the box with its name. You don’t have to add any additional information. And also, keep your habit tracker helpful to make sure that you can conveniently discover it and load it out.
Finally, if you break the habit, try not to repeat the same mistake the next day. You may have had rational reasons for skipping the routine, but make sure you get back on track the next day.
By keeping a record of your daily tasks, you will gain control over your time and increase your organizational skills and productivity. In addition, you will be able to make more accurate time calculations and learn how to work with a single task rather than multitasking. If you’re not exactly sure how to start tracking your activities, choose one of the two methods covered in this article.
In addition, we recommend that you also record your activities. It’s not easy to develop a habit. However, whenever you complete your daily activity and write it down, you will be happy with your achievement. Also, the habit tracker will help you stay on track with your routine, which can be a real struggle at times.