Quit wondering where the workday went. Find out and discover how to better manage your time. Keep a detailed time log for a couple of weeks.
Write what you are doing throughout the day or take advantage of an application that will automate the processes.
Some insights will become apparent within days, but use logs to analyze key time periods. For example, track your time throughout a monthly work cycle, during a project or in your busiest time of the year.
As you analyze the data, you will uncover better ways to manage your work. Here are some of the things you may discover:
- Interruptions are deadly. People frequently ask for “just a minute,” but the reality is that it can take anywhere from 10 minutes to half an hour to return to what you were focused on before an interruption. Search for the common sources of interruptions so you can plan ways to avoid them. Example: A brief daily meeting with each direct report can keep those people from popping into your office and sending emails throughout the day.
- It takes longer than you think. Being too optimistic about how quickly you can complete a task makes it impossible to create a realistic schedule. For projects, check how long each task takes. Check whether the time you are spending on tasks is reasonable given the return you gain from that time. (Hint: Email probably shouldn’t take a quarter of your time.)
- You aren’t doing what you should. Compare your goals and job description to your time log. Are you devoting enough time to important work? Did you spend any time this week engaged in strategic thinking or coaching employees, for example? By minimizing the waste you identify from your time log, you can schedule time for meaningful work.