For the last three and just-over-a-half weeks I’ve been tracking every 15 minutes of my time. I started with Laura Vanderkam’s January time tracking challenge (along with the other members of The Bullish Society) and I found it so interesting that I kept going.
This might sound like a terrifying idea to you, but I promise it’s not about obsessively monitoring your own productivity to turn yourself into a capitalist drone. It’s about looking critically at the way you spend your hours so you can decide if you are using them the way you want. In Laura’s book, 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, she encourages you to do fewer of the things that you don’t like, and to spend more of your time on activities that you are good at and find enjoyable.
So what have I learnt from this process? I’m actually less of a procrastinator than I thought. There have been a few days where I’ve slipped up and wasted an hour or so scrolling through the internet – with the world as it is right now, who can blame me? – but for the most part it’s been 15 minutes here and there. There may be a little bit of chicken-and-egg syndrome going on, as sometimes when I’ve found myself procrastinating I’ve pulled myself back on task thinking ‘I don’t want this 15 minutes to say “procrastination”!’, but does it matter?
It’s also helped me make decisions. As I mentioned in the announcement post for this blog’s relaunch, it took two days for me to convince myself to spend the money to buy the theme. I thought that maybe if I used a free theme, I could save money by learning to code all the cool stuff myself.
But when I looked back at my time tracking spreadsheet and thought about it, I realised that I had spent enough time on my theme already. I didn’t want to spend another week or two setting up a theme I was only going to change later, and then further weeks and months learning to make it look halfway decent. I wanted to get on with the part where I would get to write blog posts and use the blog to promote my Planning Your Work Wardrobe ecourse (which actually makes me money).
So I bought the theme, and then after another couple of weeks of filling my time tracking spreadsheet with ‘WordPress faff’ while I set it up and got my blogs ready for public consumption, I was able to start logging ‘wrote blog post’, ‘took photos for next month of posts’, and ‘worked on short story’ in the spreadsheet. Not only do I prefer doing those things, but it’s much nicer to look back on at the end of each day and week!
If you have made grand plans and you want to follow through on them, I would strongly recommend tracking your time. You will learn where your valuable hours are best and most enjoyably spent, and see how to make practical changes and sensible decisions.
Let me know what you think in the comments. Do you think time tracking could help you? Have you tried it before?