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Time Journal

For at least a week: 

  • In preparation for your time diary, I'd like each of you to put together a schedule of how you think you're spending your time. This can be based on your calendar, and should include scheduled meetings, but also other things, matching all of the columns you plan on tracking in your actual time diary. It's important to do this before you start your actual time diary.
  • Monitor yourself in 30 minute increments for a week.
  • Update every 1/2 hour: not at end of day. Keep track of things in 5 minute increments
  • Turn in a 1 page reflection about what you learned. 
We recently did this exercise in my group, and Dan Tasse and Anthony Chen both had some additional useful suggestions which I summarize and respond to here:
  • It may be hard to categorize and track every little thing 
    • It can help to keep track of categories with definitions. Dan says" I prefer to write down a short note about what category it is (e.g. "postcards project - print and cut out post it notes") so I can categorize most stuff later, after it's more clear what the categories are." 
    • It is worth doing this, both within and outside of work, so you get a holistic view of how you are spending your time and how/whether you are functioning effectively. 
    • Most people who succeed at keeping a diary only fill it out every 30 minutes or so. You can at that time think back on how you spent the last half hour and estimate at 5 minute intervals. 
    • Anthony says: "I write down what I am gonna do in the next 25 minutes. Do it. Then take a break from the computer. Repeat." The break and the reflection are both added value! As he says " I find this very helpful, especially at times when I try to tackle a hard problem. It forces me to think of the right thing to do, as opposed to just doing something right. Of course I often end up not being able to accomplish the goal within 25 minutes. It's fine to me; this technique is more of a reminder for me to remember what is that that I want to accomplish by what I am doing now." I would add: learning how to correctly estimate what you can do in 25 minutes is further benefit of practicing this :).
  • It may be concerning that others would be critical of how you spend your time
    • You do not need to turn in your time diary. It is a self-reflection tool. 
    • I would recommend tracking your home time as well as work time -- getting a sense of how much you sleep, how much you exercise, how much you socialize, relax, and how this fits with your actual needs, will be important to evaluating your use of time. 
  • You may notice that tracking your time changes what you do.
    • This is a good thing -- I tend to find I'm more efficient in weeks when I do this (I do this about once a year). That gives me a sense of just how efficient I can be when I apply myself and it's good to know.

 Attached is a sample spreadsheet you should edit to reflect your own time sinks.

Jen Mankoff,
Aug 25, 2013, 1:17 PM