I’m sure it’s something that you’ve heard time and again -- if you work for yourself, you need to track your time. But why is that so important? Even if you don’t work with clients, or have to turn in timesheets to anyone, tracking your time can give you valuable information and help you see where things aren’t going how you might think they are.
SEE WHERE YOUR TIME IS (ACTUALLY) GOING
I’m willing to bet that you probably think you know where your time is going when you’re working from home (or from a coffeeshop, or a coworking space). But do you actually know?
When you track your time, you’re able to actually see where your day is going and what you’re doing. So if you think that you’re only spending an hour on writing your blog posts, but it’s actually taking three? Then you know that your time isn’t being spent in the way you think it is.
And when you know where your time is actually going, you can determine if it’s being spent wisely. Which allows you to start creating new habits around how you’re using your time that will allow you to be more efficient and productive.
Which leads me into the next point, which is that you can...
DETERMINE INEFFICIENT HABITS
So now that you know where your time is going, you can see if the things you’re doing with it are efficient or not efficient. And if they aren’t efficient, there’s a 99% chance that means you’re not being as productive as you could be.
Now, I don’t say that to say you need to be productive all the time. But if you’re working 12-16 hour days (which is something that is unfortunately a normal experience when you work for yourself), you want to make sure that you are maximizing your productivity when you are working.
Let’s take checking your email, for example. If you’re like most creative business owners, you have your inbox open at all times in your browser. (I’m totally guilty of this, too!)
And you think you’re spending maybe an hour each day in your inbox, but when you track your time you realize that you’re actually spending four hours in your inbox -- but that time is spread over 10-15 minute chunks throughout your day, so it doesn’t feel like that much time.
But really, spending four hours a day on email is not an efficient use of your time. So now that you see what your current habits are, you can start to introduce new ones -- maybe you check your email for 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the afternoon, and close out of your email the rest of the day.
LEARN WHAT YOUR MOST PRODUCTIVE TIMES ARE
So you’ve been tracking your time (ideally for a period of at least 30 days so you can see the patterns emerge) and you’ve determined your inefficient time habits. Now, you’re all ready to start scheduling your day in a more efficient way.
What you can do now is look back over the past 30 days and see when you were the most productive. What times of day did you get a ton of things done? When were you dragging your feet, or not on top of your game at all?
This will allow you to learn what your personal productivity “golden hours” are, and start creating your new schedule around that.
So if you know that you are insanely productive between 10a and 2p, but from 2p to 4p you are not ever getting your best work done, you can schedule all your meetings from 2-4p and never schedule a meeting between 10a-2p.
Doing this means that you are protecting the times of day that you know are the most productive for you, and you’re still able to schedule in everything else that you need to do around those times.