Time Logging: The Answer for Busy Lives

Marc Bilodeau/ Minimalism, Self Help, Subjectivity

There are so many things to do, and so little time to do them. Does that sound familiar? Sure, we’ve all been there. It’s reasonable and normal for this to happen occasionally. At least for us earthbound people, there are only 24 hours in a day. When everything begins to pile up, it stresses us out and causes anxiety. Unfortunately, it’s a real problem when it happens more days than not. Thankfully, there is something easy to do to find more time. It’s called time logging.

Diets, Budgets, and Time Logging

The most precious commodity is time. It’s finite and irreplaceable. We all have a set amount, and some have more than others. We must make the best of it. But where does that time go? Perhaps we can remember some aspects of the day, and possibly list some highlights. However, our brains are not perfect, and our memories are flawed. Therefore, the only way to know where the time goes is to track it.

Tracking our time is no different than tracking a diet or a financial budget. When tracking a diet, we list what we eat and drink for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. After a few days, patterns begin to emerge that can reveal areas that can be improved. A financial budget tracks where we spend our money. After a period of time, it becomes apparent where money is being spent. Then, some adjustments can be made to reduce spending and increase savings.

Like a diet or financial budget, time logging is simply recording the time and duration of activities throughout the day. Time logging isn’t necessary every day. It is only needed for a few days or a week. Afterwards, the time log can be examined to identify activities that may be wasting time.

How to Get Started

Tracking anything has its benefits. Just by tracking, you will begin to make changes unconsciously and automatically. Awareness brings motivation and change naturally. Time logging is no different.

The practice of time logging doesn’t have to be difficult. Some people may prefer a notebook that lists start times, end times, and a brief description of what was done. Other people use post-it notes. However, I prefer to use an app since I have my smartphone with me almost all the time.

There are some great apps out there to track time. Modern iOS and Android operating systems have wellbeing apps built in that track smartphone usage. However, they cannot track outside activities such as sleep or work. Therefore, I recommend an app called aTimeLogger to track every activity.

Since there are literally thousands of activities, it helps to group them together. For example, morning routine can consist of: making the bed, brushing your teeth, showering, and dressing up. However, it helps to track activities that you know waste time. Instead of creating a social media group, separate each social media platform and track them separately.

The hard part is to remember to log your time. At first, it may seem difficult. However, it doesn’t take long to get into the habit of logging time. It is easier and faster when narrowing activities to track into groups. After each day, review the log for accuracy and reflect on where your time goes.

My Time Logging

I used aTimeLogger to log my time from March 31, 2019 to April 6, 2019. Before I logged my time, I thought about what kind of activities I wanted to log by asking myself some questions such as:

  • Am I wasting time getting ready in the morning?
  • How much time do I spend on TO-DOs?
  • Do I spend too much time on my hobbies that it interferes with other tasks?
  • How much actual work am I doing while at work?
  • Am I spending too much time on social media?
  • Am I spending enough time with my family?

After some self reflection, I customize the app into groups and activities:

  • Have TO-DOs: Activities that must be done against my will.
  • Relationships: How much family time, couple’s time, and time with friends is being spent?
  • Self Maintenance: Activities required to maintain the body.
  • Want TO-DOs: Hobbies and activities I enjoy doing and WANT to do as much as possible.
  • Watchlist: Activities that I think may be wasting time.
  • Work Time: How much time am I spending on the clock vs. actually working.

My groups and activities match what’s happening in my life. In the future, I will review them and update accordingly before I start a new time logging session.

What Time Logging has Revealed

Am I wasting time? Of course I am! However, none of my Self Maintenance, Relationships, Work Time, and Have TO-DOs are suffering because of it. When those areas suffer, there is a real problem and changes have to happen.

Time Logging
time logging using aTimeLogger than examining the results in Microsoft Excel

The positive observations:

  • I utilize my time appropriately and stay productive when on the clock. 89% work time was productive. This is well above the average of three hours.
  • I have plenty of time to do the things I enjoy without interfering with other areas.
  • There is plenty of time for self maintenance tasks.
  • Thankfully, I am not spending a lot of time on streaming services like Hulu and Netflix. However, I should always ask myself if I can be doing something more productive when opening these apps.

The areas that can improve:

  • I spend a lot of time on social media. However, my social media time is primarily on Reddit which averages 2 hours and 30 minutes a day. While other social media averages 9 minutes a day. Obviously, reducing time on Reddit will free up time.
  • Random Internet happens. Ideally, I should be conscious when this happens and try and utilize this first time for activities on the Relationships, Have TO-DOs, and Want TO-DOs lists.

Conclusion

Time is the most precious commodity. It’s finite and irreplaceable. Time logging is easy to do with a little discipline and some preparation. It doesn’t need to happen every day to be effective. A few days to a week is enough to find more precious time. Like tracking a financial budget or a diet, logging identifies areas that can be improved. Sometimes changes happen on their own just by being aware. So, start time logging today and find yourself more time!