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Why and how to do a time audit

Why and how to do a time audit

By: James Wondrasek / March 15, 2022

Why and how to do a time audit

If you find yourself chronically short of time. If you find yourself missing deadlines. If you find yourself not making the progress you need or you know you are capable of, you might be ready to do a time audit.

What is a time audit?

A time audit is a two part process. In the first part you spend 3-7 days recording what you do during your waking moments. The second part is when you take the data you collected, analyse it, and use what you learn from it to change how you work.

Step 1 – recording your time

How many days you spend recording the time audit depends on you and your life and your work. If your work is varied, you might want to record it over a week or more. If your work doesn’t change much from day-to-day then three days might be long enough.

All you need to record the time audit is a spreadsheet or even a piece of paper. The process is quite simple. Every 15, 30 or 60 minutes (totally up to you) you record what you are doing.

Obviously some kind of timer or alarm makes this easier and more accurate. Most phones have a countdown timer. Simply set it for, say, 15 minutes, and when it rings or beeps or buzzes stop and record what you are doing and restart the timer.

If it sounds tedious, find an app that lets you set recurring alarms, like Repeat Timer on the iPhone or Repeat Alarm on Android (this is not an endorsement of either app, they were simply the first search results), so you don’t need to fiddle with a timer.

Step 2 – look at where your time goes

Next step is to colour code the results using highlighters if you’re using paper, or fill colour if you’re using a spreadsheet. Green for what you want to do. Yellow for what you need to do. Pink for any unnecessary or time-wasting activities. Leave them plain if you can’t decide.

Now stand back and look. This is the big picture. Are you devoting enough time to the things you want to do? Are there blocks of pink time-wasting interrupting the yellow things you need to get done?

Step 3 – reschedule using your new knowledge

In this step you might want to count up the number of blocks of each colour and decide if the numbers need to change. We all want to waste less of our time, but sometimes you feel like doing nothing. Maybe there’s a better time and place for that nothing.

With a true vision of where you time goes, you can now take control and plan out your day or week to suit your goals. Think in broad blocks. How much time do you need to progress on your goals and when is the best time to do the work? When is the best time to do things you must do? How much time wasting can you turn into productive time or shift out of your productive hours?

Step 4 – go forth and conquer

With a schedule built on insights into where your time goes you know you are making the most of your time. It is one less thing you need to worry about. Instead you can concentrate on doing your best work.

Don’t forget that times change. Set a reminder in your calendar for 6 or 12 months to revisit the process.



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