Do You Know How You’re Spending Your Time?

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by Dana on July 9, 2012

“While we think of our lives in grand abstractions, a life is actually lived in hours. Years and decades are made up of a mosaic of repeating patterns of 168 hours. Largely, the true picture of our lives will be a function of how we set the tiles.”

– Laura Vanderkam, 168 Hours

What’s the #1 response most people give today when you ask them how things are? That’s right—busy! But what’s everyone so busy doing? Do you know exactly where your time is going?

You probably have some idea, but I’d venture to guess that there are small things that wind up taking hours over the course of a week that might not even be on your radar screen—things like commuting, watching TV, running errands, meal prep, cleaning and more.

One of the first “homework assignments” I like to give my private clients is a time tracking exercise, where they record how they spend their time over a one-week period. While they often think they know where their time is going, once they see the actual results in print, there’s usually something there that surprises them.

I thought I’d share that exercise with you today—to help you better understand where your time is going so you can make adjustments as needed. Enjoy!

Time Tracking Exercise

  • Step 1: Figure out where your time is going right now—not just where you think it’s going—but exactly how you’re spending your time on a daily basis. You can use this Excel template that I like to use for this activity or whatever format works best for you.
  • Step 2: Bundle similar activities together and add up the hours you spend in each category. For example, you might want to include categories like work (don’t forget to include commute time and after-hours activities), child care (things like baths, getting the kids dressed and ready, feeding time, playtime, etc.), house activities (like cleaning, grocery shopping, running errands), personal grooming, time with your spouse, time by yourself, exercise, and wasted time (times when you feel so exhausted that all you can do is lay on the couch and watch mindless TV).
  • Step 3:  Ask yourself the tough question—Does this reflect what I say are my highest values and the things that are most important to me? And if not, determine how far you are away from where you want to be. Use this as a powerful motivator to make different decisions about where you spend your time going forward. Remember: Your choices around how you spend your time and energy are the best reflection of your true values, beliefs and goals.
  • Step 4: Brainstorm ways to adjust your schedule. Can you negotiate one or two work from home days a week to save commuting time? Can you hire a housecleaner to cut down on your home maintenance time? Can you order items online so you don’t have to run so many errands? Get creative. Try not to surrender to any preconceived notions about what MUST be done or let yourself off the hook with the excuse that “being busy is just a part of life.” This is YOUR life. Take ownership of your future and design your schedule the way you want it to look.