There is a lot to be said for planning out a year. (If you still need to plan your year: this guide will help.)
At a certain point, though, you can only add so many things into your life before you need to start subtracting to make room for all the new.
One of the best ways to start doing that is to track your time.
Most people think they’re utilizing every single minute of every day, but if you actually track your time you’ll see plenty of holes.
When I spent time tracking what I was doing during every hour of every day, I realized I was wasting a lot of time waiting on responses from people. Once I realized this, I found productive things to do while I wait for edits, responses, or anything else that depends on someone else getting back to me.
So many people claim they don’t have time, yet can tell you every detail of what happened this season on Game of Thrones.
(On a side note: Consuming media isn’t a bad thing, but consuming media at the expense of your goals is where people start to get in trouble.)
Finding A Goal
The first step is to know what goals you want in your life.
If you don’t have goals, you have no idea if you’re using your time well or not and when you have free time, you don’t know what to do.
When you have a vision for your life, or at least an overriding goal for the year, it’s easy to ask yourself, “Is what I’m doing right now getting me closer or farther from that goal?”
Your time becomes clear.
This is what a lot of “productivity experts” overlook: having something to work toward.
Who cares if you meditate, clean your room, exercise daily, plan your day, or anything else if it’s all meaningless? I’ve seen on a lot of posts on productivity forums along the lines of, “My life is totally in order yet I feel empty inside… why?”
Simple: Because we humans are meant for more than to be tidy.
Being tidy for the sake of looking like you have it together doesn’t make sense. Being tidy because that helps you spend less time on clutter and more time on what matters makes sense.
Having goals, values, a purpose gives meaning to the small tasks.
You might not know what your life’s purpose is, but having literally anything to work toward gives meaning to the day-to-day grind.
Plus, it removes that, “What should I be working on?” feeling when you have downtime.
Track Your Time
There are multiple ways to track your time.
Some prefer digital tools like RescueTime that can track your web activity.
Some prefer paper, and what has worked for me is this planner, where I can track each day 15 minutes at a time. Plus, each day is blank so you can track the days you want without wasting paper when you miss some days. I don’t work at my computer all the time, so I had to find something else I could take offline.
Every 60 minutes I go back and write down what I worked on for the past hour.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard to keep writing it down and I actually had to set a 60-minute timer to remember to do it, but it’s eye-opening.
When you complain about not having enough time to work on that creative project, but then write down “Facebook” as what you’ve spent the last hour doing, you understand where your time has gone.
Cut, Cut, Cut
Once you have an accurate look at your week and where your time went, this is when you need to re-prioritize.
There are a million reasons our time goes out the window. Not being organized enough, having too many things on our plate, saying “yes” to too many things, falling into time-wasting activities, and so on.
You can’t audit your life until you have an actual overlook at where your time goes.
This is when you can make plans for the time-sucks that eat away at your life.
For example, here are some things I’ve altered:
- I made my Facebook password ridiculously complicated and I sign out after being done. Having a complicated password prevents me from signing in at any moment. I also took Facebook, along with some other social media platforms, off my phone so I stopped burning time on those mindless activities.
- I meal prep as often as I can. One huge time suck was cooking every single day, so I’ve been working to change that. I don’t want to eat out every day, because that’s a financial drain, but just having things prepared has made everything so much easier.
- Stopped multi-tasking. I thought I was getting so much done when I would multi-task, but after tracking my time I discovered this wasn’t true at all. Doing multiple tasks took longer than me focusing and doing one at a time.
- I now only consume media I really enjoy. Sometimes we all get sucked in to keeping up with the “hot” things of our time, but that can be such a waste of time. I stopped watching a lot of TV shows for that reason.
It’s normal to fall off the wagon when you’re trying to build new habits or shift your focus, but if you keep tracking and trying to improve, you can make your life better with each passing day.
What have you realized was a complete time-suck, and how did you change it? Leave a comment!