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How to Manage Your Time Better Using Cumulative Time Tracking and Work Weeks

Updated on November 24, 2014
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Heidi Thorne is an author and business speaker specializing in sales and marketing topics for coaches, consultants, and solopreneurs.

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Do you know—really know!—how much time it takes you—yes, you specifically—to do any task at home or work? Sadly, many people don't have a clue how much time it takes to do the myriad of tasks on their over-multitasked agendas. And the time required can vary widely from person to person.

Here's the challenge. Take the time (pun intended) to track the time spent on every single little activity for a week or a month (even better since some weeks have varied activities). Include the business and personal. Sleeping, eating, email, social media, reading, exercising, family time, personal and health care, watching TV... don't cheat, include it all, okay?

Surprised at what you found? I'm sure you are, just as I was.

Let's get one thing clear. There is no right or wrong expenditure of time, just more or less effective use of the minutes and hours of our limited lifespans.

Questions to Help You Look More Critically at Your Time, Your Life and Your Business

It's Been a Long Time

Looking at your time logs, did you notice that you spend an inordinate amount of time doing certain activities compared to others? See if any of these apply:

  • Don't really know how to do the activity, so it takes so much longer.
  • I feel obligated to do it.
  • It helps me avoid doing other things I don't like.
  • I feel like I'm doing something even if it's busywork.
  • I don't know what else to do.
  • Force of habit.

If you could agree with any of the above, it's time to take a deeper look at what you're doing with your time and your life. Some activities might be better accomplished by delegating or eliminating them or finding a better way to do them.

But avoid the temptation to increase multitasking to accomplish everything! This can lead to stress and, ironically, accomplishing less due to lack of focus.

What is your biggest time waster?

See results

Learn to Put Social Media in Perspective for Your Business

Time and Motion Studies

Sometimes we spend too much time doing certain things because we're not doing them with an eye for using the least amount of steps, motions, costs, people or handling.

Time and motion studies (also known as time-motion studies) are observations of workers doing their work. It can include the use of simple tools such as handwritten time sheets and stopwatches, as well as more sophisticated technologies such as video.

These studies were developed by Frederick Taylor, highly regarded as the "father of scientific management" and one of the very first management consultants, along with Frank and Lillian Gilbreth, also efficiency consultants probably best known as the subject of the biographical movie, Cheaper by the Dozen.

Taylor and the Gilbreths were pioneers in the Industrial Age of the early 1900s in which they worked, laying the foundation for new wage and work evaluation schools of thought.

Click here to learn more about the work of Taylor and the Gilbreths.

How Many Work Weeks Does that Take?

Looking at my time log a few years back, I realized that I was spending on the order of 3 to 4 hours (or more) every day (sometimes on weekends, too) on social media. Let's multiply that out, using 3 hours on average. And because I was most concerned about its effect on my working time, let's just consider the five weekdays.

  • 3 hours per day on social media X 5 weekdays = 15 hours per week
  • 15 hours per week ÷ 40 hours in a standard work week = 37.5% of work week spent on social media
  • 37.5% X 52 weeks per year = 19.5 work weeks spent on this activity annually

Yowsa! What was I doing? What did I have to show for this investment? And what was I going to do to get this under control?

My solution? Schedule it! Now I only spend 30 minutes a day maximum on social media for each weekday, with weekends off. Here is my revised investment:

  • 0.5 hours per day on social media X 5 weekdays = 2.5 hours per week
  • 2.5 hours per week ÷ 40 hours in a standard work week = 6.25% of work week spent on social media
  • 6.25% X 52 weeks per year = 3.25 work weeks spent on this activity annually

That's better!

So how many work weeks does it take you for various tasks? Here are the formulas:

  • Formula 1: Number of hours per day on average X Number of weekdays spent on the activity = Number of hours spent doing the activity per week
  • Formula 2: Number of hours spent doing the activity per week ÷ 40 hours in a standard work week = Percentage of work week dedicated to this activity
  • Formula 3: Percentage of work week dedicated to this activity X Number of weeks in a year = Number of work weeks spent annually in this activity

Even worse is when you multiply those hours by your hourly income rate. Try this for the hours spent on email and social media. No, neither one is free!

Source

The Second Job Problem

Commuting is another huge time issue for many people. Granted, many must do it out of necessity. But when evaluating business or employment opportunities, consider how many work weeks will be spent in commuting to and from the workplace.

For example, at one of his jobs, my husband had four hours a day of commuting time. Using the work weeks formula:

  • 4 hours per day commuting X 5 weekdays = 20 hours per week
  • 20 hours per week ÷ 40 hours in a standard work week = 50% of a work week spent commuting
  • 50% X 52 weeks per year = 26 work weeks spent on this activity annually

Add 20 hours to a standard 40 hour work week and the result is a 60 hour work week. That's almost the same as having an additional part time job, not to mention the wear and tear on a vehicle or other transportation costs.

Disclaimer: The author/publisher has used best efforts in preparation of this article. No representations or warranties for its contents, either expressed or implied, are offered or allowed and all parties disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for your particular purpose. The advice, strategies and recommendations presented herein may not be suitable for you, your situation or business. Consult with a professional adviser where and when appropriate. The author/publisher shall not be liable for any loss of profit or any other damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages. So by reading and using this information, you accept this risk.

© 2014 Heidi Thorne

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    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      Ah, Frederick Taylor and his time and motion studies! I am quite familiar. I worked at one place where each employee had to designate how much time s/he spent doing what in "work units" (time increments). It's kind of like financial budgeting but with your time.

    • heidithorne profile image
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      Heidi Thorne 3 years ago from Chicago Area

      FlourishAnyway, thinking in terms of "work units" is actually very eye opening. I've luckily got more of my day under control by chunking activities (that time and motion thing!) so that I'm not bouncing around from task to task. I get a lot more accomplished. With your background, I figured you'd definitely appreciate this topic. :) Thanks for chiming in and have a great evening!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Heidi, I have laser focus, and I manage time as well as anyone I know. I keep trying to tell other writers that managing time is crucial if they are to improve and succeed. Some listen and do well. Some fail to listen and drop by the wayside. Oh well...you can lead a horse to water but.....

    • heidithorne profile image
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      Heidi Thorne 3 years ago from Chicago Area

      Billybuc, I manage my time so much better than I ever did in the past. Though not required, I keep a regular daily schedule of "business hours." And--surprise!--I end up getting a lot more done when committed to that schedule. Sounds like you've got that system down to a science. Would have expected nothing less. Enjoy your day!

    • travmaj profile image

      travmaj 3 years ago from australia

      This makes so much sense. I know I'm a creature of habits - not desirable ones in day to day activities. Nice wake up call - I must organise my time. Here goes...Thanks again

    • heidithorne profile image
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      Heidi Thorne 3 years ago from Chicago Area

      Travmaj, aren't we all! We can get stuck in some habits without even realizing it. Then we need a wake-up call from a friend, an article or a personal crisis to put it all into perspective. Be kind to yourself while you're working on organizing your time. We don't develop our time wasting habits overnight and won't rid ourselves of them overnight either. Good luck with reclaiming more of your time!

    • epbooks profile image

      Elizabeth Parker 3 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      I will do this but I'm guessing a lot of my time is on social media. Yikes! For me, it makes sense once in a while, but I'm much happier when more of my time is spent writing. Time to re-evaluate things!! Great post!

    • heidithorne profile image
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      Heidi Thorne 3 years ago from Chicago Area

      Oh, Elizabeth/epbooks! I think you'll be as shocked as I was when I did my own time study a few years back. I'm happier, too, when I'm writing or meeting with people IRL. However, I do consider my time spent with quality people online (like many here on HP) as valuable. Just have to keep everything in balance and perspective. Thanks for stopping by and have a lovely evening!

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 3 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      I know, and have long known, that you and billybuc are right about time management, but I invariably self-sabotage my attempts to budget and sensibly manage my time. Starting today I am trying positive reinforcement. I'll pat myself on the head and say, "Excellent! Good for you!" when I spend time on my intentions instead of on frittering and when I actually accomplish what I intended and in record (for me) time.

    • heidithorne profile image
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      Heidi Thorne 3 years ago from Chicago Area

      Kudos, B. Leekley, for even making the attempt to get control of your day! Lots of people turn that into a "someday" effort and don't do anything until they've wasted a bunch of somedays. But do remember to be kind and take time for doing what you enjoy, especially on weekends. Happy Weekend!

    • OldRoses profile image

      Caren White 3 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      Thanks for the tip about tracking my time. Maybe it's what I need to kick my social media addiction. I'm trying to get a business off the ground using my weekends but I'm wasting too much time surfing the internet so I'm not able to accomplish everything on my to-do list each weekend.

    • heidithorne profile image
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      Heidi Thorne 3 years ago from Chicago Area

      Hello OldRoses! I can so sympathize with your situation! Been there myself. What makes it tougher is that a lot of us are building our businesses on the Internet. So it's very tempting to slip into social media and surf mode. Hope the time tracking helps give you some of your weekend back. Thanks for joining the conversation and have a great day!

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