Know Your Time/ Time Data Gathering


Time is one resource that we have that is completely inelastic. We can’t increase the time we have. Once the time is past, we can’t get it back. We can always get more money, work, or food. But we cannot get more time.

The fact that we have a set supply of time (24hours a day) means that we should be using our moments intentionally. Using time purposefully may mean choosing to watch YouTube, or choosing to work restoring the Harley Davidson in the back yard. The point is that we should choose what to do with our time.

If you want to start using your time more effectively, you should start with a simple data gathering exercise: write down what you are doing. For two weeks, simply write down everything you do. When you start a task, write down when you started. When you finish something, write down when you were done, and the next task that you started. Sometimes you will find that you are jumping between tasks and have to write down a lot of small entries very quickly. Sometimes you will work on different work for 90-minute blocks and only have 4 or 5 entries for the day. Don’t worry about a fancy system or app; just use a piece of paper and pen.

After two weeks of writing down your time usage, you will be able to look at your paper and start to see some trends. If you really need to do in-depth analysis, you can always spend a couple of hours entering your time into a spreadsheet.

Your data analysis of how you use your time will reveal that you aren’t spending your time on the work that you say is most important. Once you have your time-data, you can start to think about what you need to adjust. And as you make adjustments, keep recording your time. Review your progress and adjust again. Recording your time, and using the data to improve is an easy way to quickly increase your productivity. Seeing the problems in your time allocation will inspire you to change your focus to the work that is most important.

The idea for recording and analyzing your time comes from Peter Drucker’s book The Effective Executive. A blog post about this can be found here.