Keeping a Time Log by Meggin McIntosh, PhD

Apr 8th, 2013

calendarHuman beings are dreadful at estimating how long something is going to take. And, we are 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.

Since most people will not choose the former (although it *is* an option), let’s explore ten tips so that you can do the latter – because as an entrepreneur – you simply must know.

  1. 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 to work from.

  2. 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.

  3. Regardless of which of the previous you use, you must have a schedule on which to record your various tasks, activities, and appointmentsPrepare to keep a time log on an entire week. No one has “typical” days or “average” days – particularly those who work for themselves like you do. You need a 5 – 7 day spectrum to get a clear sense of where and how you spend your time.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. Consider everything you do, including every shift of mental focus, as a shift to be recorded. For example, if you are working on a budget analysis and stop to think about another project you are working on, 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.

  7. When you leave your office or wherever you are keeping your time log, take it with you, if it is feasible.

  8. If you do not take your log with you, do your darnedest to accurately record what you did during the time you were gone.

  9. At the end of each day, review what you have noted, fleshing out any details that you had not captured during the day.

  10. 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.

© Meggin McIntosh, PhD (also known as “The PhD of Productivity”®) was a university professor for over 15 years and spent five of those years working with faculty at the University of Nevada, Reno.  Since leaving the full-time academic life for the full-time entrepreneurial life, Meggin writes, consults, and does workshops for smart people who want to be more productive, thereby being able to consistently keep their emphasis on excellence.  Thus, the name of her company is Emphasis on Excellence, Inc.

Hot SpotsAnd to help you with your productivity you may be interested in the teleseminar Identify and Capitalize on Your Own Productivity ‘Hot Spots’. Throughout your days and your weeks, you have “hot spots” where you have the potential to be optimally productive. It is during these times that you can be “in the zone,” working at “Mach 10,” and getting things done that are of the most benefit to you and your company.