Everyone thinks they know exactly how they spend their time – but do you actually spend your time the way you think you do?
Most of us are bad at estimating how long it takes to do a certain task. Are you ready to figure out how you spend your time and learn the secrets to time management? In this post, we’re breaking down everything you need to know to do a complete time audit and maximize your time.
Have you ever set aside 30 minutes to do something and then, when it’s done, realized it took you two hours? Don’t worry – you’re not the only one. Time is valuable. Time is money. Time is a limited resource. So if you really want to take control of your life, you’ve got to learn how to manage your time.
The best way to reclaim and manage your time is to do a full time audit. You can do one at work or at home, or both. When your time audit is done you’ll be able to increase productivity and lead a more fulfilling life where you can actually reach the goals you have.
Ready to get started? Keep reading to learn how to do your time audit.
What is a Time Audit?
You can think of a time audit as an investigation – a deep dive into what it is that you do and how long it takes you to do it. You need quantifiable and measurable results, so you have to be accurate as you track and record your time.
When it’s done, you’ll be able to see where time is being lost, and you’ll have the framework needed to build an optimized schedule. Evening opening up 10 minutes of time can have a huge impact on your day.
What You Need to do a Complete Time Audit
As we mentioned above, most people aren’t able to estimate their own time usage, so in order to get accurate data, you’ll need a time tracking app. With a tracker or a tracking app, you can get the data you need in order to produce accurate results.
Your time audit should be done over a 30 day period, so you’ll also need to have a calendar on hand. And before you can start, you’ll need to make a thorough to-do list.
Your to-do list should include everything you need to get done during your time auditing period. Don’t forget the time it takes to eat lunch, take breaks, and chat with your coworkers. Once we get further into the process, you’ll need to track the time for every single task that you need to do, whether it’s work-related or personal.
Steps to Completing a Time Audit:
1. Write Down Your Goals for the Month
Make a list of your main goals for the month. These overarching goals, combined with your to-do list, are what you’ll use to measure your success.
If you’re doing your time audit at work, make sure you include any major projects that are due in the upcoming month. If you decide to do your audit at home, your big goals might include cleaning your basement or purging your closet.
2. Track All Time for a Complete Month
To do a proper time audit, you have to track every single thing you do. There are many time tracking apps that can give you a good overall view of how you’re spending your time. If you decide to use a stopwatch instead, create a spreadsheet and record your data with precision.
Don’t think you can track every minute of every day for an entire month? It’s okay to start small and track your time for one week, but the longer you track yourself, the better your results will be.
3. Analyze Your Time Audit Results
Whether you track your time for a week or a month, once the results are in, it’s time to analyze your data. Take a detailed look at how you spent your time. It’s helpful to review your results by the amount of time spent on a particular task. Look at how long each task took you and ask yourself the following questions:
- What tasks took longer than I thought they would?
- What tasks took less time than expected?
- Aside from my biggest goals and projects, are there items that took up a lot of time? Look for things such as checking your social media, browsing the internet, and chatting with coworkers.
- What items did I not account for at the beginning of the month or week? Did I account for eating lunch? Commuting? Enjoying happy hour or having dinner with friends?
- Did I complete the big goals I set forth at the beginning of the month?
Once you identify which tasks took the longest and which ones are eating up most of your time, you’re ready to move on to the next step.
4. Set a Schedule for Times Blocked Out Based on Your Results
When you have a good understanding of how long it takes you to do certain things, get your calendar out. Set aside time every day and/or every week to meet your biggest goals and make time for everything you need to do. Use the average times from your tracking app to plan out every single thing on every day of the week.
Don’t be surprised if you find that your days fill up quickly with all the things you have to do. This is how you’ll learn to set realistic goals that you can actually meet and exceed in future weeks and months.
5. Block Out Times for Breaks, Meetings, and Interruptions
Set your schedule in a way that will make it possible to meet your goals. Account for time to commute, have lunch, and take breaks – and pay special attention to where you’re wasting your time.
If you find a task that takes you hours to do but doesn’t put your closer to your goals, see if you can cut back on that time. When in doubt, ask coworkers for some assistance.
It’s crucial that you set time for breaks and unavoidable interruptions. Without them, you’ll be less productive.
6. Set Realistic Goals for Next Month
With a proper time audit, you can set yourself up for success. There’s no point in telling your boss you can accomplish something in two days if you know it’s going to take you two weeks to work it into your schedule. Keep your goals and schedule realistic and you’re certain to enjoy more success.
By setting realistic goals and identifying wasted time, you should be able to create more time in your schedule for the important things. When you know what you can do and what you have time for, you can identify a problem before it arises and take a proactive approach. In some cases, it may be necessary to bring in outside help to assist you in your workload.
Putting it all Together
Doing an accurate time audit is the only way to know how you’re really spending your time. And when you know how you’re spending your time, you can adjust your schedule to accomplish what’s important.
Get a calendar. Download a time tracking app. Make a to-do list. Write down your biggest goals for the month.
Track everything you do throughout a week or month period and take some time to analyze your tracking results. Once you know how you’re spending your time and wasting your time, you can set realistic goals that you can actually meet next week or next month. Block out next month’s goals based on the time results of your audit – and don’t forget to schedule downtime for lunch and breaks.
The hardest part of time auditing is tracking every single thing you do. You have to be diligent. You have to be thorough. You can’t leave anything out. There’s no point in doing a time audit if you don’t end up with accurate results.
Author Bio: Market Station is Denver’s newest apartment complex. Located in the heart of downtown Denver, these apartments are equipped with full-service valet parking garage and much more.