Time is the one resource that we cannot get more of. We all know this, we just get sucked up into the day in day out busyness of life.
The first step in being productive is understanding two things:
- How you want to spend time
- How you actually spend time
Begin by thinking through the time you spend on different activities in your schedule:
- It helps to think of your activities based on categories such as work (both in house and if you work out of the house), family, and personal. This doesn’t have to be minute to minute, just one or two times a day, log approximately how the day went. For example, if you work out of the home, don’t just log 8 hours as “work” but break it down to meetings, emails, admin, planning. And for work at the house—things like laundry, cooking, shopping, errands, etc. Also note what you allow for that oh-so-important quality time with your partner and kiddos. And last, but certainly not least, we have personal time which includes connecting with friends, downtime, exercise, and healthy sleep.
- Note that the in-between stuff is what often ends up being the biggest time suck. Attending to our devices and being constantly reachable can wreak havoc on our productivity (more on that later!). And for many of us, driving or commuting is a huge drain. By the way, planning takes time too so when it comes to tracking, just take note of all the things that you are doing day in and day out. Do this for 3-7 days to get a gauge of where your sending your energy and set yourself up for success in the next step.
A Simple Exercise to Compare Ideals with Reality: Making your Work-Life Balance Pie Chart
(1) Start by drawing a big circle and without any analysis, draw pieces of the pie to represent how you’d like to spend your time. Use rough categories to start:
- extended family
- work and/or volunteering
- personal care
- creative pursuits
Then break each one of those down a bit more. For example, you might like to spend 30% sleeping (8 hours), 15% time with kids, 5% quality time with your husband, and then the rest of your time divided up 10% each between household chores, self-care, volunteering, cooking, and relaxing.
Categories to consider allotting time to are:
- creative outlets
- volunteering &/or church activities
- time for friends
- social media
- internet shopping/surfing
- paying attention to the news
- commuting &/or errands
Personally, I’d like to spend 7 hours a day sleeping, 3 hours a day with family, 1 hour a day cooking, 1 hour a day planning, 1 hour a day cleaning, 2 hours doing self-care/relaxing/creative work, 1 hour exercising/meditating, 1 hour for my morning ritual (showering/getting reday), and the remaining 7 hours working (1 hour Instagram/social media, 1 hour managing/meeting with team, 2 hours writing, 2 hours on video course, 1 hour strategy/planning).
(2) Next draw a pie chart that is a guess at how you actually think you spend your time. Again, do this quickly and off the top of your head.
(3) Spend the next 2 days minimum (up to 7 days maximum) logging in how you spend time. Use the Notes section on your phone or carry a notebook so that you can do the best you can to track time. Take into account the amount of time spent on all of those priorities and factoring in the any other activities that ate into your day.
(4) At the end of your tracking period tally up the time spend on the different categories. To do this, take the the number of hours you tracked and convert it to minutes:
- 2 days x 24 hours= 48 hours; 48 hours x 60 minutes= 2,880
- Now use this to calculate out the % of time you spend on each category by dividing the minutes spent on each tracked category by the total number of minutes. This will give your percentage of time you spend on each category. Let’s say that in 2 days you spend a total of 4 hours (240 minutes) on social media so 240 divided by 2,880 = 12% of you time on social media.
Viola, now you have tangible feedback on how you’re actually distributing your time and you can now make adjustments based on your priorities. Most of us will find some degree of disparity between our ideal and actual use of time so by becoming aware of what’s really going on, we can make in order to start to spend your time aligned with what is important to you.
Feature photo by Nicole Vaughn