It’s five o’clock on a Friday and you’re just about done with work. You realize that you didn’t finish one of the projects you were working on for the week and now have to take it home for the weekend! Where did all of the time go? You simply can’t remember. It sounds like you need a time audit in order to improve your time management, decrease stress and increase joy in your life.
What is a time audit, you ask? Basically, it’s a method of keeping track of what you are doing with your time during the day. Many different techniques can be used, which I will discuss later. Regardless of what technique you use, the most important part of a time audit is to see where you lose precious time to nonproductive tasks, such as watching television or lurking on social media. That doesn’t mean that you that you can’t ever look at social media again or binge watch Game of Thrones. I’m just saying that it’s good to know how much time you actually spend on those activities.
Who should do a time audit? Anyone who feels like they never have enough time in the day to get things done (ahem, like me most days). I don’t know about you, but to me, time is something that always seems to be ticking away faster and faster every day.
Right or wrong, I often measure my days by how many tasks I can accomplish within that day. Did I get a good start on my blog post? Did I accomplish the cleaning that I needed to do that day? Did I listen to a continuing education webinar for my vet license or learn more about SEO and having an online business today? Luckily I am a little easier on myself than I used to be with time and realize that a successful day is not always measured by checks on a list.
The beauty of a time audit means that you will end up having more time than you realized for those fun or relaxing activities that nourish you. As an example, I love to lay in our hammock in the backyard. The hammock rests in a perfectly shady spot under our trees. I have realized that gently swaying in the hammock with a light breeze blowing while reading a book feeds my soul. You might be thinking about how I find the time to partake in such an activity. That’s where a time audit has helped me. Instead of flailing about without a schedule or any idea of where my time goes, I’m now much more efficient. And YOU can be too!
How to perform a time audit
There are many different ways to do a time audit. The method that you use doesn’t really matter, as long as it works for you. Here are some ideas to get you started.
- One simple way is to set a timer on your phone or watch (if you have a fancy watch) for every half hour or hour. When the timer goes off, you write down what you are doing and continue tracking throughout the day.
- Use a spreadsheet to track your activities. Here is a free daily spreadsheet I created that you can download: Time Audit spreadsheet. This spreadsheet is to track a full day of activities.
- Use a chart to write down your actions. I have created a simple chart that you can use: time.audit.spreadsheet. You simply write down what you are doing in each time block.
- Use a time tracking app. These are usually created for employees to track their work hours, but they can also be used for a general time audit.
- Make a list of items or projects that you want to accomplish for the day and check off each one as you go (also write down the amount of time they took). At the end of the day, see what you didn’t finish.
- Don’t forget to include time watching tv or social media. Both can be huge time drains.
- I suggest tracking several days or even a full work week in order to get a good idea of where your time goes.
- After your time audit is done, divide up your activities into categories. You can make them general, such as: Work; Home; Fun. Or you can get really detailed and divide them up further: Phone calls; Work projects; Social media; Meal prep; Cleaning; etc. There is no right or wrong as long as you can see how much time is spent in each category.
- Be honest. No one else has to see your time audit except you, so don’t try to fudge the results.
The purpose of a time audit is NOT to scold yourself on how much time is wasted. Rather, it is to honestly evaluate areas that can be improved upon in order to be more efficient and have more time to spend with your family and yourself. Maybe you didn’t realize that you spend 30 minutes on Facebook three times a day. Just think of what you could do with an extra hour if you only spent a half hour total on Facebook! Therefore, be gentle with yourself and don’t judge too harshly if you notice a lot of unproductive time. That’s just room for improvement.
Please comment below if you have performed a time audit and how it has helped you. I would also love to hear more suggestions about how you used a time audit to improve your efficiency.
Joyful thought for the day, “Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it, you can never get it back.” -Harvey Mackay