Time: It’s something that we have a limited amount of yet often use quite carelessly. Fortunately, learning more about how we spend our time (and being able to change these habits) is as simple as using a time log.
One of my favorite time management tools, a time log helps you see time spent at a glance. By tracking time and recording it, you become more mindful about how you spend your time moving forward.
First, I’ll cover what is a time log. Then, how you can use them. And finally, what they will help you achieve in your day-to-day life.
What Is a Time Log?
Aptly named, a time log is a tool used to help you receive a comprehensive overview of how your time is being spent.
If you want to know exactly how much time you are truly spending on work, you would time yourself and note these time frames into a digital document or a sheet of paper.
The goal of a time log is to help you become more productive and efficient. When we don’t know how much time we’re spending on various tasks, it can be easy to waste our time without knowing it.
Time logs give you the insight you need to make changes in your life that’ll then drive this forward progress.
With a better understanding of how much time you dedicate to certain things in your life, you can produce better results.
What Are the Benefits of Tracking Your Time?
There are many benefits of tracking your time and using a time log.
Do you struggle to follow through on activities? Then these benefits can act as incentives to get started.
But what do you serve to gain from tracking your time?
1. Improved Productivity and Sustainable Working Habits
Understanding how we use our time allows us to see just how much of it we dedicate to certain tasks. But it can also reveal just how much time we waste as well.
With a time log, you are able to find where you are falling behind. And then you can organize your work and other activities in such a way that is more sustainable for you over time.
This is a major advantage for those who find that their days are overloaded and disorganized.
2. Increased Progress in Life and Work
Time wasters abound in our lives. We know that they exist. But we only see their true impact when it is in front of us.
By using a time log, you’ll know just how much time you’re spending doing professional or personal tasks.
With this knowledge, you can improve your progress by adjusting the time spent in various areas of your life.
3. The Ability to Remain Accountable to Yourself
Knowing that you are timing yourself and attempting to perform to your expectations is an excellent way to remain accountable to yourself.
A timer that is regularly recording your work will help you stay focused and on track.
Some people will only use a time log to gain insight into how they’re currently performing. But if you make it a regular habit, you should be able to avoid some of the common distractions that are currently impacting your productivity.
4. Motivation to Enhance Your Performance
Knowing that we’re underperforming can be a major motivator.
This is something that people who are naturally competitive and driven can take advantage of when they begin time tracking.
Use your time log as a personal challenge. Note your current and past performance and challenge yourself to do better every day.
You’ll begin to notice that your performance and your progress will grow over time.
And this offers you the time management capabilities you need to succeed.
5. A Better Understanding of Your Capabilities
Without an understanding of how much time we use to complete certain tasks, we can’t develop realistic expectations.
You may think that you’re capable of completing a work assignment in an hour. But your regular time may actually be an hour and a half or two hours.
Tracking your time and recording it allows you to see how much time specific tasks take when you’re staying focused and productive.
This then makes it easier to create schedules and routines for ourselves that are tailored to our capabilities.
6. Being Able to Focus on What Matters Most
Much of what we do is out of habit. But being able to cultivate new habits and fit more of what we need into our days begins with a better structure and an understanding of what we are devoting our time to.
With a time log, you can learn what you’re spending time on, what you need to eliminate, and what you wish to add to your day.
Tracking your time can help you get more out of your efforts. And create a schedule that works best for you.
And it all starts with creating your time log.
How to Start Your Own Time Log
Starting a time log is something that anyone can do.
Follow these 3 simple steps start using your time more wisely.
Step 1: Finding the Right Time Tracking Tool for Your Needs
The tool that you’ll use to track your time will depend on your own personal preferences.
You can use the old-fashioned timer and track your time this way. Or you can use more modern tools like Toggl to record and keep track of each task.
I recommend using a digital tool.
- Apps allow you to accurately track your time down to the second
- They detail how this time is being used
- And trying to track time manually can make it easier to make mistakes
Here are some time tracker app recommendations:
These recommendations offer great flexibility for those who want to track all aspects of their lives.
Browse the options and decide which one you prefer.
Step 2: Develop Goals and Find a Place in Which to Record Your Results
Time logs give us an insightful peek into our lives and how it is spent. As such, time logs are typically used for a brief period of time (sometimes further) in order to give us the information we need to use our time more wisely in the future.
The first thing you need to reap the benefits of time tracking and logging are some goals. By this, I mean setting up limits for how much time you would like to be spending on certain activities (and how much time you may think you are already using for these items).
You may believe that you only spend one hour daily checking emails. But when using a time log, you may find that this number is much larger.
Along with your time goals, you will want to find a medium in which you can record your results. As it is with time tracking, some people will prefer to record this information manually.
Many of the time trackers suggested above come with dashboards. These allow you to identify time blocks and export this information.
Whatever you feel is most productive and comfortable for you is what you should use.
Step 3: Assessing Your Time Log Results and Readjusting to Meet Your Needs
Knowing how you spend your time is a powerful tool for change. Armed with the results, it is time to figure out, what are the next steps?
Here are a few questions to ask yourself. These will help you get started.
Where Could I Be Spending Less Time?
Once you’ve filled your time log, chances are that you’ll find plenty of activities that are taking far too long.
Take a brief look over your entries and ask yourself: where am I spending too much time? How much time should I be spending on certain activities like posting to social media or checking my email?
All of us have a picture in our heads of how much time we’d like to spend on certain tasks.
Knowing the time you spend now can help you aim for these goals as you seek to cut down the amount of time you dedicate to these tasks.
Make sure to record these goals somewhere visible so that they are always on your mind when you’re working or taking on personal tasks.
Are There Any Time Wasters I Could Remove?
Time-consuming tasks aren’t the only items that will stand out when you assess the tasks on your time log.
Another important area to focus on is tasks that you may want to get rid of entirely.
Look over your time log: are there any time-wasting activities standing out that you could eliminate from your routine? If they can’t, could certain tasks be outsourced or delegated to help you save time?
We all have the same 24 hours in a day. Make sure that you’re using yours to do things that are essential and enjoyable.
What Do I Need More of in My Day?
Spending too much time on tasks results in less room for things we want or need.
Now is the time to look over how your day is being used and see what you can achieve by cutting down or removing certain tasks. This will help you have a better idea of how much time will be leftover when you readjust.
Now ask yourself: are there any activities that you’ve wanted to pursue but never believed you had time for?
An excellent example that many workers can relate to is going to the gym. More often than not, those who are busy with work believe that they do not have time to work out.
But once you finish your time log, you may find that you have an extra hour that you can dedicate to physical activity.
Try to incorporate these new items into your daily routine. And record how much time you spend on them, repeating the process to engage in these activities more efficiently.
What Is a More Realistic Time Frame in Which I Can Complete Certain Activities?
You can only be productive when you set realistic expectations for yourself.
We would all love to complete a major work project in 30 minutes or less. But it’s highly unlikely that this would be possible for us to do.
It’s important that when you’re looking to cut down on time spent on specific activities, you set realistic goals for yourself based on past performance.
If you know that you’ve dedicated your full focus and optimized a task to the best of your ability, chances are that your logged time is an accurate depiction of how much time that task will take.
Treat your day like a game of Tetris. Fit all of your tasks into your schedule, focusing on creating a productive, desirable routine each day.
Time Log: What’s Next?
Once you have all the information you need from your time log, develop a schedule and challenge yourself daily.
This is as simple as time blocking your tasks based on how much time you spend (or how much time you wish to spend), fitting the pieces together, and continuing to monitor your progress to ensure your productivity is improving.
Of course, time tracking alone won’t help you to become more productive. If you want to supplement what you’ve learned here, I have covered plenty of excellent time management habits in the past that you can combine with your time logging efforts to get even more out of this practice.
Time logs are excellent tools for anyone who is trying their hardest but feels like they are always falling behind.
If you are interested in learning more about how you use your time, the guide above will help you begin working on your own time log that will give you the power you need to reshape the way you spend your days.