Keeping a Time Log by Meggin McIntosh, PhD
Human beings are dreadful at estimating how long something is going to take. And, we are also not good at estimating how long something actually took us to do. There are really only two ways to know how long you spend in a given week doing the myriad tasks that make up your life.
- Hire someone to follow you around every waking minute (or just during your work hours).
- Keep a time log on yourself.
Many coaches work for themselves and work out of their homes (which is heavenly). The downside to that is that sometimes (only sometimes, of course), our day can get away from us and we aren’t really sure what happened. Here are ten ideas for keeping a time log – so that you can stay focused on what you have deemed most important.
- If you use an electronic calendar, be sure you have recorded all your appointments and meetings. Then, print it out so you will have it as a basis from which to work.
- If you do not use an electronic calendar, either print out blank pages from your computer’s calendar program (e.g., Outlook) or create a calendar showing the hours for which you want to be keeping a time log.
- Regardless of which of the previous you use, you must have a schedule on which to record your various tasks, activities, and appointments.
- Prepare to keep a time log on an entire week. No one has “typical” days or “average” days. You need a 5 – 7 day spectrum to get a clear sense of where and how you spend your time.
- Beginning at the start of your work day (or when you first get up in the morning), make note of what you are doing. Although extensive detail is not necessary, it is helpful to record adequate information to allow for later analysis.
- Each time you switch activities, record the time and make note of the new activity. The assumption will be that you continued the previous activity right up until you record the switch.
- Consider everything you do, including every shift of mental focus, as a shift to be recorded. For example, if you are working on some marketing materials and stop to think about one of your coaching clients and something that you need to send to him or her, that is a switch and the time should be recorded. If you aggregate or otherwise lump together what you are doing, you will have a less clear and less helpful picture of how you are actually spending your time. This, obviously, defeats the purpose of keeping a time chart.
- When you leave your office or wherever you are keeping your time log, take it with you, if it is feasible.
- If you do not take your log with you, do your darnedest to accurately record what you did during the time you were gone.
- At the end of each day, review what you have noted, fleshing out any details that you had not captured during the day.
Keeping a time log, using these 10 guidelines, will yield a picture of your day. As I always say, to know what we value, look at our time log. And if we don’t really like what our time log shows, then it’s time to do some adjusting (hmmm…just like we tell our clients).
If that sounds like you, and you’re ready to banish those burglars once and for all, you will love this practical and specific Get a Plan! Guide® to Thwarting the Thieves of Your Time, Energy, & Attention. If you like reading and having a document to refer to, you may purchase and download this 47-page, full-color Get a Plan! Guide®. You’ll be glad you did!