How many hours in a working day do you think you spend working? As per a study in the UK, an average employee is productive for less than 3 hours in an 8-hour working day. That’s impossible, right? Well, that is what it seems like at first.
This article will help you assess your own usage of time. It will help you test your productivity yourself. Almost always, people have a shocking revelation after this activity which shows they are far less productive than they actually thought they were.
Do you believe that you are productive? If yes, how do you measure how efficiently are you using time? If you believe you are not productive, are you aware where exactly are you wasting time?
More often than not, it turns out that you are only half as productive as you thought you were. The revelation should at least help you stop wasting time.
This article is a Step 6: Stop Wasting Time – Activity to assess your productivity of 3 phase transformation into super human productivity. You can begin right from step 1 by accessing the index here.
To understand the purpose behind the activity I recommend you to read through the article. But, for the busy bees, you can go directly to the exercise.
You already know that there are many well known apps for tracking your budget, income, money spent and so on. While money is important, your time is more important because end of the day time equates to money. It is quintessential to know where do you spend your time on a daily basis.
- Are you aware if you are wasting time or spending it effectively
- Sample questions to test if you are wasting time
- Activity to start tracking your time
Are you aware if you are wasting time or spending it effectively
You might be busy the entire day, but you might have worked on tasks that add no value on the long run. You might have not even realized that you worked on such tasks. To help you understand if you are working on the right tasks, try answering these questions:
- Do you feel that your day to day life passes by with a lot of wasted time?
- Have you always had a dream to achieve but felt that you have been unable to make progress for weeks, months or years now?
- Do you wake up with a list of tasks every day for your long term goals only to procrastinate them repeatedly?
- Have you dreamt about starting your own business but have never ever taken even the first step?
Welcome to the gang of millions who fall into the same bucket. Getting caught up in daily routine and indulging in activities that add no value is a very common problem among many.
Achieving success on your goals and having the satisfaction of spending the day well, takes consistent and planned effort.
Sample questions to test if you are wasting time
Most of us are unaware of the amount of time that we spend on activities that kill time without adding anything of value.
To find out if you do the same, answer these questions:
- How much time do you spend in a day scrolling through the endless social media feed?
- What is the total time you spend in a day reading your work emails every now and then?
Whenever you ask these questions to people, usually they cannot come up with even a rough number. In simple words, most people are unaware of the time they spend on such activities which are a waste of time.
Activity to start tracking your time
Ignore is sometimes bliss. When it comes to time wasted, it is definitely not. The first step towards using time better starts with awareness. You have to know how many hours in a day do you spend on activities that waste your time. To understand this, you will have to follow a simple routine for the next 2 days which is not so simple to implement.
You will have to break your day from the time you wake up till the time you go to bed into slots of 15 or 30 min. 30 min slot make the job easier because you have lesser slots in a day. 15 min slots takes a little more effort but give you the real picture. Time is usually wasted in smaller chunks which totals to a massive amount of hours by the end of the day. The 15 min slots help in revealing this more easily than the 30 min slots.
For example, when we browse through Instagram feed, we usually do not do it for half an hour unless we are really idle. We do it for 10 minutes followed by working on a task and then check Instagram again.
You can begin this activity by downloading the printable version of the format that you choose. You can use them to type in on your computer. If you prefer the pen and paper way, take a print out of the sheet.
Print/Download files to track your daily activities
15 min slot:
Pen and paper: PDF for print – 15min
30 min slot:
How to track your daily activity
Once you have these slots ready, you have to write down what exactly did you do for all each of those time slots. You can fill this every 15 min or every hour for all the previous slots. If you try filling in all the slots only once or twice a day, you would have forgotten most of it making the whole activity ineffective.
You need to write one(at most 2) activity for every 15 min slot. Writing a high-level overview is good enough. For example, just mentioning office work is sufficient. There is no need to mention which task you worked on. If you are working on a lot of unnecessary work-related tasks, you might want to track the tasks too.
It is important to note down any slot where you wasted all or most of the 15 min slot. Even if you looked through your Instagram feed for 10 minutes or read a few answers on Quora or wasted time on Youtube, you need to note it down honestly on that slot. In a 15 min slot if you did some work while checking your social media feed too, you need to note them both down. It is crucial to be honest with yourself. If not, better not do this activity at all.
Being dishonest or skipping the slots where you wasted time or is dangerous. It will give you an impression that you are super productive while in reality you are wasting cartloads of time on social media.
Once you have completed this activity for the day, write down beside each slot if you spent that slot on anything useful or did it go wasted. When you do it the first time, you will have a jaw-dropping realization of the time you waste every single day.
Leave a comment on whether the results came to you as a surprise. Let me know the time in hours wasted on unproductive things and I will try my best to suggest ideas.
How to calculate where you are wasting time?
To learn how to stop wasting time and be more productive, you have to track your usage of time first. If not, you will keep on wasting time without even knowing or accepting it.
Therefore, an important part of this activity is to evaluate where are you actually wasting time. Not always is that very obvious. For example, you might be attending meetings which you think are useful. However, let us say your total time spent in meetings in a day is 4-5 hours. You need to evaluate if that was a useful expenditure of your time. It is quite possible that you were a part of the meetings for the heck of it.
Wasting time is not always straight forward such as using social media, watching TV, Youtube videos or wasting time on the internet. Even the activities which are keeping you busy the whole day could be where you are actually wasting your time.
When I did this activity I realized the sheer amount of time I spent reading and replying to emails. On the surface, it looked necessary. I need to read and reply to emails if I have to be successful right?
The massive time spent on email was dictating my day. I now check email only 2-3 times in a day and have reduced the time spent more than 5 fold without any impact. Yes, that’s right. No impact whatsoever. In fact, it made me more efficient.
Varied weekday and weekend patterns
Most people have a similar pattern of time spent on a working day and a totally different pattern on a weekend. The ideal way to complete this activity is to do it both for weekdays and for weekends.
Please note: The purpose of this is not to spend your weekend working on long term goals. If your belief is that weekends are not for work, that is something that you can stick to even in the future.
The whole purpose of this activity is to help you identify where are you wasting your time and utilize it work on your dream goals. You might believe that your day is busy and you are not wasting a lot of time, however you will realize at the end of this activity, how much of your time is actually well spent. This realization in itself will suffice and serve as a reminder. Your subconscious mind will remind you to work on your goal every time you are tempted to spend time on needless activities.
Commonly asked questions
For how many days should I perform this activity?
Perform it for at least 2 weekdays and 2 weekend days. If you have the patience to do it for a whole week, nothing like it. Anything beyond a week is not necessary.
Can I start this any day?
Absolutely. You can start off tomorrow or even today, whatever time of the day it is. The only days that you have to avoid starting this activity are those days where your day is significantly different. For example, if your normal job is programming, while today you are attending a training session, do not start the activity. Since the purpose of the activity is to identify your daily time usage patterns, do not begin this activity on days which are one-off exceptions to your normal cycle.
What if my daily pattern changes?
Let us say you go through a major change in your daily schedule, such as
- A different job which requires more travel, different timings
- Starting a new business
- Major life change such as getting married or having a baby
- Shifting to a new house/location
In such cases, it is recommended that you do this activity again.
To summarize, the purpose of this article is to shed awareness of where you are spending time. Only after you know how much time you squander will you the importance of not wasting time. Irrespective of whether you spend it well or poorly, you need to measure it first.
If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it.
Once you are done logging the activity, you will quickly measure the areas where you are wasting time. With this awareness alone your efficiency and your progress towards your long term goals will skyrocket.
Leave a comment on whether the results came to you as a surprise. Let me know the time in hours that you wasted on unproductive things and I will try my best to suggest ideas.
This article is a Step 6: Stop Wasting Time – Activity to assess your productivity of 3 phase transformation into super human productivity. You can begin right from step 1 by accessing the index here – 3 Phase Transformation into Living Your Dreams
Maxim Dsouza has spent over a decade experimenting and finding various time management techniques to improve his productivity. He strongly understands the fact that time is a limited commodity and tries to make every second count. He has extensive experience in leadership in startups, small businesses, and large corporations.
He has helped people of different professions and age groups gain clarity on their goals, improve focus, revise their time management skills and develop an awareness of their psychological cognitive biases.