Mondays are productivity days at SimpleProductivity blog.
Have you ever gotten to the end of a day with nothing accomplished and have no idea where the time went? Or sat down for a minute at the computer just to look up hours later? Or decided to check something on your phone, only to lose an hour?
I can say “guilty” to all three.
There are many theories out there on time management, including one that says you can’t manage time, only your own behavior.
But there is one thing in common about all of the theories and methods: they require you to have an idea of how you are spending your time now.
You have to know where you are coming from if you are going to get where you are going.
Where Do Your Hours Go?
You may think you know exactly where your hours are going each day. And for a large part, you will have a feel for it that is about 75 to 85% accurate.
After all, we know where the big chunks of time are going: work, school activities, sleeping.
And for the most part, those are things that we have to do, and they won’t change.
It is getting a handle on how you spend the rest of your time that will make a difference in your productivity.
How Do You Spend Your Time?
There is a general method to getting a handle on your time expenses. You must identify what you are spending your time on, decide if this is good or bad, and then modify your behavior accordingly.
Identify Your Activities
Identifying time expenses is not difficult, but it is tedious. You can use computerized methods as long as you are at the computer; but other time must be tracked in a different fashion.
The automatic tools out there help you figure out what you are doing. Rescue Time lives on your computer and figures out what programs you are in, mailing you a summary every week. The time tracking log on this site can help with other time tracking. There are applications out there for Android (this Make Use Of article is a good starting place) and iOS (Google for the plethora of apps) as well.
What I Use: I use Rescue Time to help me figure out what I am doing on the computer. The results are often shocking, but I can use them to limit my computer time. I am also in the early stages of using Toggl on my iPhone to help with the rest.
Once you know how you are spending your time, you can make decisions about whether or not you like the results. Some things to consider:
- Are there activities with no worth?
- Are there activities with little benefit that I spend too much time on?
- Are there ways I could simplify the activities to make them take less time?
- Do I have to do all these activities?
- Is there a default activity?
- Did I get sidetracked?
- Did I do unplanned activities that led to other tasks not getting done?
- Did I have enough time to relax, eat, sleep, etc?
My Decisions: My RescueTime profiles showed an exorbitant amount of time on two time wasters: Facebook and Bearville. Neither one is necessary, and Facebook is actually an irritant. I decided to eliminate Facebook except for a limited time one day a week, and to limit the time I can daily spend on Bearville.
I also decided that I was spending too much time on meal preparation, so I went back to making meals that are minimal preparation time, and crockpot meals.
My default activity of being on the computer is still running strong. I decided I needed to limit that time. This also leads to being sidetracked, and other activities not getting done. For this, I have a list of things I need to do before I sit down at the computer, and I stick to the list.
I am not spending enough time without a screen in front of me, and I need to get more relaxation and craft time. To this end, I have decided to spend 15 minutes a day doing something without a screen that doesn’t involve housework.
I am not sleeping enough, which is leading to day tiredness, which is leading to decreased productivity. I don’t know if I can solve this problem, but I have things I will be trying. I will be removing my iPad from my bedroom, thus eliminating the possibility of reading in bed (and getting caught up in a story and then staying up too late). My bedroom light is on a timer (left over from a recent vacation) and I set it to go out when I need to sleep.
Use The Tools
There are tools out there to help us stay on track. Besides doing a periodic check-in with a time mapper, you can also get tools to help you keep on track.
I am a big fan of timers to help me stay focused, particularly with housework.
Use appliances and appliance timers to save you time. Crock pot meals have come a long way in the past 20 years and are healthy, easy, and not piles of mush like older recipes. Use appliance timers to do the small things like start your coffeepot in the morning.
I love the “nanny” tools for browsers, such as Leechblock and NetNanny. These tools keep you away from websites that waste your time, or get you started on rabbit trails that will suck all your free time.
And most of all, know your triggers. If you waste time when you are tired, stressed, etc., find better activities. For me, that means that if I am tired, instead of cruising Facebook, I go to bed. (I know, it’s obvious. But I still didn’t do it!)
By figuring out how you are spending your time, making decisions on the value of each activity, and using the tools to help you avoid time-wasters, you should see a boost in productivity. I can speak that I certainly have gained hours back after applying these principles!
Photo by h.koppdelaney. Licensed under Creative Commons.