You might know someone who wakes up at the crack of dawn, works out, walks their dog, reads, and eats breakfast all by the time you’ve just rolled out of bed. How do some people do so much when we all have 24 hours a day? In a previous blog, we took a deep dive into various productivity methods but only briefly touched on the importance of evaluating what you do with your time. In this blog, we’ll explain how to conduct a time audit and analyze your time management.
What is a time audit?
A time audit is an evaluation of how you use your time, usually conducted daily for a week, to understand your work behavior and habits. What are you really spending your time on? How long are you spending doomscrolling? Doing a time audit will help you improve your time management, perform better, and stop you from feeling like you are always running out of time.
How to track your time
When thinking about time tracking, you should consider what you will track and how you will do so. Plan ahead so that you track your tasks on a normal week— don’t track the week right before a holiday or when you’re working on a big project. You can track your time with pen and paper or use digital services, but using pen and paper can take more time and cut off your workflow. If you prefer working digitally, you can use a spreadsheet to log your tasks. To truly gauge what you spend your time on, you should set an alert for every 15-30 minutes to log what you’re currently doing. If you want to use software that does the analysis and tracking for you, you can take a look at these services (most of which are free and easy to use!):
- Life Cycle: only useful for more general categories like commuting and time spent at the office, etc., but can be used in conjunction with other software to have a complete overview of your day-to-day activities. Life Cycle tracks everything automatically, as long as you keep it running in the background.
- Clockify: has all the features you can ask for—a time tracker that allows you to start and stop the timer as you work, a timesheet that lets you log weekly tasks, a dashboard that helps you analyze how you spent your time, and more. Clockify is also available on most platforms.
- Toggl: tracks time-blocks you set and helps you summarize your week with a detailed report to analyze your productivity and time management.
- RescueTime (paid subscription): automatically tracks your digital footprint and time spent on different apps or websites across your devices. Calculates a productivity score for each day.
When using software, you should also use categories or tags (meetings, emails, etc.) to make it easier for data analysis. If you prefer using pen and paper to track your tasks, you should use highlighters to categorize your activities. Make sure to do this at the end of the day to stop yourself from getting distracted while doing work.
How to analyze
First, evaluate the data you have collected over the week. Record the aggregate for each category. Once you have an overview of each category, sort the tasks into high priority and low priority, or similar tags. You can also use the prioritization methods we mentioned in our time management blog to sort your tasks. Keep breaks and lunchtimes as these are natural parts of your day and should be taken into account when you plan your new schedule. Construct your average workday from the data and compare it with an ideal workday. Through this comparison, you should be able to assess and remove unnecessary parts of your schedule and set realistic goals for your future self.
Conducting a time audit is the first step to becoming more productive and efficient. After data analysis, you should work on prioritization and scheduling. Shuffle your tasks for a more efficient timetable and remember to plan your breaks as well! The most important aspect of a time audit is sticking with the resulting improvements made to your schedule. If you want tips and tricks on prioritization and scheduling, make sure you read our time management blog!
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