Are you working long hours but feeling like you’re making little progress? Does the end of the day hit, and you can’t really account for what you’ve accomplished all day? If you know time management is a problem, this is for you.
According to research, “Less than 1 in 5 (18%) [of people] have a proper time management system,” and “49% of people have never carried out a time audit.” As a result, the study found that only 20% of people feel they have their work under control daily, which means it’s very likely that you are one of the people who don’t feel like you have things under control.
How are you supposed to make the progress you want toward your goals and continue moving the needle forward when you don’t have control of your day? How are you supposed to lead your team, when you struggle to know what it is you need to do on a regular basis?
Honestly, it’s going to be really hard to do that, and if you’re trying, you probably feel overwhelmed, exhausted, and confused. That’s why we’re going to spend a few minutes today addressing how to get started with time management.
There are a lot of time management strategies out there, but before you jump into trying them all, you need to start here—time tracking.
What is a time audit?
A time audit is simply tracking your time. It’s taking an inventory of what you do each day. When you do a time audit, you begin to clearly see where all your time is going. If you constantly end your day wondering how you didn’t get more done, this is where you need to begin.
It’s easy to create a plan for your day. The trick is creating a plan you actually follow. Your daily schedule might look perfect on paper, but are you following it? Time tracking will help you see the truth.
Doing a time audit is simple. All you do is keep track of how you’re spending your time for a week. There are plenty of apps that can help you do this, but we find sometimes nothing can beat paper and pencil. We’ve created a resource you can use as you conduct your time audit. All you need to do is print it out and keep it near your workspace. It is broken up into 30-minute increments for you to write down how you spent your time.
We encourage you to write down what you’ve been doing every 30-60 minutes because if you wait until the end of the day, you will likely forget some of the things that you spent your time doing.
What to look for during your time audit
Once you’ve completed your audit for the week, it’s time to analyze it. Here is what you’re looking for:
Do you spend longer on tasks than you plan on them taking?
If you think you only need 15 minutes to check your email in the morning but notice on your time audit it really took 30 minutes, your schedule is always going to be off by the end of the day. We can all learn from the Bill Gates quote, “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.” The same is true for our daily schedule. We overestimate what we can achieve in a day and underestimate what we can do in a year.
The first step to creating an accurate schedule for your day is knowing how long tasks actually take you instead of how long you think they take.
What interruptions occur on a regular basis?
Does answering the phone constantly interrupt your day? Do employees or coworkers stop in your office to catch up throughout the day? Do you work from home and find letting the dog out is taking up more time than you realized?
There are all kinds of interruptions that occur during the work day. Some interruptions are going to be unavoidable. It’s part of life. But, you need to learn how to identify the interruptions that can’t be avoided from the ones that can. If you find there are a few common interruptions showing up throughout your work day, work on creating systems to address them.
For example, turn your ringer off on your phone (if that works for your type of business) and only check messages and return calls at the hours that you desginate.
Where are you wasting time?
Are you wasting time scrolling through social media every time you are switching tasks? How about responding to each email as it shows up in your inbox? Do you check your analytics obsessively throughout the day? Does getting a new fresh cup of coffee take you 15 minutes when it should really only take 5 minutes?
Look for the areas that time is wasted throughout the day. This helps you identify ways to be more productive. You may find ways to batch certain tasks together to reduce the amount of wasted time of switching from one task to the next. Or you may find that you just need a little more discipline and focus throughout the day.
What can be delegated?
As you look through your time audit, identify any tasks that you can work toward handing off to someone else. Delegating the tasks that don’t need to be done by you allows you to focus on the areas of your business that need your attention in order to grow. This could be hiring a bookkeeper, passing part of a project off to an employee, looking for a virtual assistant, or finding a freelance graphic designer. There are numerous ways you can get tasks off your plate and free up some of your time.
Ready to start your time audit?
If you want to take more control of your day and know where you’re actually spending your time, start your time audit today. You can jot your tasks down on a piece of paper or download our free Time Audit printable to get started.