Do you ever think something is going to take you “___ ” hours and it takes you 3 times longer? Even when you’ve done a similar project many times before and, in theory, “should” know how long it takes you?
If so, tracking your time can help you stay in productive mode!
I’m not proposing a system where you track the time it takes you for all the projects, activities, and tasks you’re involved with (unless you want to). That, to me, would be tedious and unsustainable.
I am suggesting that, for tasks you routinely do, such as preparing for a meeting you’re chairing, writing a weekly team update, grading, planning a lesson, etc, you track your time and get real with yourself about how long these tasks take.
How time tracking helps you stay in productive mode
It allows you to manage your workload
The main reason I love this practice is because it helps me manage my time in a way that’s grounded in reality versus guesswork. For example, every month I write a newsletter for my coaching clients. In my fantasy world, I’d whip that off in 1 hour. The reality (I know, from keeping track of the time) is that it takes me between 4-5 hours. I can plan my work and manage my load much better when I have this time data.
Similarly, I had a coaching client who was buried in grading. He initially predicted that it would take him 5 minutes to read and comment on a short student assignment; in practice, each student’s assignment took him 15 minutes to grade. Multiply that by 120 students, and it made a big difference for how he scheduled this task into his day. Once he saw things for what they were, he was able to create a strategy that allowed him to complete the grading and also tend to his other responsibilities.
You don’t overload yourself
Once you know you long a recurring work task typically takes you, you can wisely schedule your daily or weekly “to-dos” so you are not overloading and overextending yourself. This helps you stay productive because you’re not maxing yourself out. Hoorah, you’re planning based on facts!
Your wellbeing is given a chance (or better!)
We need regular rest to stay well and be productive at work. (See these blog posts for more: “To be productive at work, you need to rest” or “Why is it so hard to rest?“). When you don’t take on too much, because you have allocated the right amount of time to a project, you give yourself a chance to rest and reap the benefits of doing so.
Ways to track your time
My favourite tool is Toggl, because it is so simple to use, allows for flexibility, and generates useful reports. I highly recommend it. You could, of course, use a timer on your computer and transfer that information to a spreadsheet by category.
Over to you
How do you determine the time it will take you to complete your priorities at work on any given day?
Do you ever avoid the “big stuff” because it feels so daunting?
If you use time tracking now, what could you tweak about your current process? If you don’t use it, but are ready to try it out, what’s your next step?
Are you continuously running into challenges with overworking, or mis-estimating how much you can get done (and, consequently, feel like you let yourself and others down)? I can help! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.