Where does my time go?

There are times when I start doing something, and the next thing I know it is time for the next meeting. This often happens at home, when I sit down to relax for a few minutes and then suddenly my wife is wondering why I’m not ready to leave. I will have gotten lost in a book, a show, a conversation, or another project. Very few of us are good estimators at our time usage.

When I started this project last summer, I downloaded the free version of toggl in order to quickly track what I was doing both personally and professionally. I could do it on my phone or in a browser, so it was easy to work with. I didn’t go crazy with categories and 15 minute increments, but simply tracked some key areas:

  • Personal: Eating
  • Personal: Reading
  • Personal: Devotional Time
  • Personal: Email, blogs
  • Personal: Social Media
  • Personal: TV
  • Personal: Mentoring
  • Personal: Out with friends
  • Personal: Chill/Nap (this is important!)
  • Work: 1:1
  • Work: Team Meetings
  • Work: Mentoring
  • Work: Email/Slack
  • Work: Project A
  • Work: Project B

So what did I learn? It made me more intentional with what I did. Personally, I became overly cognizant of how much time got spent on social media, and this has led to a significant reduction in time on these platforms overall. At work, I started to become aware of going to email instead of using some downtime to finish up a task. I also was more careful of sitting in meetings and doing email instead of paying attention. I also started to shut down at an appropriate time and not keep working at the expense of my personal life.

Try it for a couple of weeks and see how it works for you. See what lessons you can learn about how you spend your time. There is no answer that will satisfy everybody in terms of how your time is spent. That is up to you, your family, your work.

Once you have done that, maybe you need to switch something up. I am a person of routine anyways, so this can be hard. My morning consists of reading blogs, personal Bible reading and prayer, shower and dressed, and making a cup of chai to begin the day. At lunch I try to get a couple miles of walking in or a nap if it is ugly outside. During this time I stopped playing Words with Friends, which I found was becoming more of a distraction than a chance to challenge my brain.

Another great personal example that I have heard others do is set a timer. They don’t want to give up video games, but they recognize the need to reduce the time spent on them.

For work, I committed to more walking meetings. When I have a 1:1 or another meeting for which I don’t have to be in front of the computer, I walk while on the call. It keeps me from being distracted by email or Slack. I have also tried to regroup my to-do list so that I focus on the important items when I have some downtime during the day.

Some may question having chill/nap time on this. Doesn’t that mean you aren’t being productive?! I have always found that I can become more productive if I can get a short nap in at lunch, or after going out fishing, or reading something unrelated to work. It was great to see this backed up in an episode of Art of Manliness called A change is a rest . Sometimes walking away from a complex problem will help you to recenter your brain and your creativity.

So spend some hard time doing the analysis of how your time is spent. It might be good to share it with your partner, friend, or a mentor to look at it closer and get some objective feedback. And then make some small changes to see how it changes your productivity.

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