A Powerful Technique to Manage your Time

What happened while you were rushing?

(click below to view the video or read on if you’d prefer!)

Welcome to the fourth edition of Career Tips in 2015! This is also the second installment of a three-part series on personal effectiveness. Last month, we looked at reasons why managingpersonal effectiveness your time might make sense and in fact could deliver for you benefits both at work and at home.

If you missed that article and would like to catch it, just click here.

If you are someone who has either White Rabbit or headless chicken moments, feels rushed, or frustrated about how much time you spend at the office, how late you leave in the evening, or irritated that you often take work home, let me suggest that you start keeping a time log.

A time log will enable you to find out where your time actually goes during your workday. A time log will help you figure out what your workload really is about and why you need to work so late so often and even during weekends.

But what is a time log? Firstly, a time log is NOT a day planner.

This image is a screenshot of an electronic calendar and this is a week which is not overrun with meetings so there should be time to get other things done, like working on a report you’ve been meaning to review for awhile. In contrast, a time log is about how you really spend your day.

You need to note down every single thing you do once you set foot in the office – all the times you got a coffee, all the chats with Peter, Paul and Mary, all your phone calls and all the times when you dealt with emails which were screaming "read me" at you… The more detailed your time log, the richer its content, the more you will get to know what you really do during your work day.

Let me make one thing clear: there is no right or wrong here. This is not about telling you how you should spend your day. This is about showing you the difference between your original plan for your day and what happened in actuality.

From that point on, you need to draw your own conclusions because only you can know the value of how you spend your time. The time log shows you how you chose to allocate your time – even though at the time you were unaware of the choice you were implicitly making. Managing your time better will mean making different choices in the future.

A last point about keeping a time log: it’s a pain. You need to carry a notebook a painwith you or at least have handy a notepad on which you must make sure to jot down everything you do. An incomplete time log will not be so helpful. And keeping a time log takes time: it may at first therefore seem counter-productive but let me assure you that it is well worth the investment as it is a fundamental step to taking more control over your workday.

How do you feel about this tip? I would expect you to have at best mixed feelings! But, in my experience, the time log’s analysis phase is a very rich experience. If you’d like, I can help you create and analyse your time log so you can decide what kind of changes you’d like to make so that your workday unfolds more often like you planned it.

Let me know what you think by either leaving me a comment (see below) or dropping me a line at alexandra@coachingforinspiration.com!




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  1. Excellent, Alexandra! I agree that to manage our time we must first be aware of how we are using it. A simple time log like you have recommended could immediately show us where we are “throwing time away” or giving it up to distractions. I must say though that I would need someone like you to keep me accountable with this excercise. My first reaction is to squirm at the thought of such “tight reins!” But I know it’s for the better, and hopefully only necessary for 3 days like you suggested! Great tip and I’ll be trying it out myself!

    • Dear Oma,
      Indeed, keeping a time log which will yiled rich pickings is a right chore! You need to be committed but also to be able to forgive yourself for whatever you forget and just plough on. And, if you want me to be, I’ll be right there with you!! Cheering you on — not just keeping you focused. Many thanks for your comment, Alexandra

  2. Anahita Purandokht says

    Yes its a bit freaky though.. I unfortunately often know where my time has gone.. what about owrking in open spaces and having time suckers around.. you can’t work because two colleagues are discussing loudly, or another is calling a friend and giggling… do you also put that in the log 🙂 ?

    • The time log will tell all — the good, the bad and the ugly!! and for the latter two, what those are about. You will find out things that you can have an impact on and others that you can’t — or need to think creatively about. That’s the difference between problems — which you can solve — and constraints — which are a given. But at least, the time log will show you where to focus your energy — including developing resilience to noisy surroundings. Hope this helps and let me know how you get on 🙂 Alexandra

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