I’ve been a fan of time management expert Laura Vanderkam ever since I read her book 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think. (Read Susan’s post about outsourcing to make life easier, also inspired by 168 Hours.) Her research challenges the conventional wisdom that people, especially mothers, do not have enough time to be professionally successful and do other things that matter in life. Laura is a strong proponent of tracking your time, ideally for a week (168 hours), to find ways to spend time more productively.
After years of working mostly from home, I recently started a new job where I commute to an office downtown every day. Adjusting my already busy schedule to add activities like getting ready every morning and commuting presented a significant time management challenge for me.
To help me adjust to my new routine, I decided to follow Laura’s recommendation and start tracking time. I managed to log an entire month of my time and this is what my time allocation looked like, averaged across a week:
Here are a few of the insights I gleaned after tracking time and analyzing the data:
- Errands and housework take much more time than commuting. I averaged six hours a week driving around in the car by myself – less than an hour a day. However, I spent more than 12 hours a week on housework, errands and cooking, almost as much as the quality time I logged with my family. Since tracking my time, I’ve tried to cut down errands and housework time by trying things such as outsourcing some errands to the concierge service at work and decreasing the complexity of the meals I make.
- Meetings suck up a lot of my time. I averaged about 47 hours a week working and 19 of those hours were spent in meetings. My job requires a lot of collaboration so meetings are a necessary evil but 19 hours seems excessive. I am trying to be much more vigilant making my meetings as efficient as possible. My team has also adopted a “no meetings Wednesday” practice that has helped us all free up more time for thinking work. I adore Wednesdays.
- I get a lot of sleep. When I started commuting into work, I began waking up at 5 a.m. most days to give myself time to work out (I averaged 3.5 hours of exercise a week). I have always been more of a night owl so I thought waking up at 5 a.m. would result in less sleep. It didn’t. I averaged eight hours of sleep a day because I’ve naturally started going to be earlier. Maybe I am really an early bird!
- Social media is the new TV. Although I don’t watch much TV (I average about two hours a week), I spend four hours a week on social media and email. I only averaged 2.5 hours a week of reading and I would rather use that time to read more.
I would love to know if you have ever tracked your time and what you learned from doing it.