It would be over five years ago since I did my first time audit. For a week I tracked exactly how I spent my days in 15 minute time blocks. For someone who thought they were pretty productive it was a bit of a slap in the face.
Since that time I have undertaken time audits every year. For the last three years since I have been running Planned + Present I have completed a time audit three times a year, as this is one of the first things members of the course need to do.
It is amazing what you learn about how you spend your time from these audits. Here is just a small snapshot of some of the things I have learnt about my time use through these audits over the years:
- There was a stage a few years ago before I simplified my wardrobe where I was spending on average 15 minutes a day working out what to wear!
- One week when I added up the time foraging through a basket of clean laundry for urgently needed items, I spent double the time it would have taken me actually if I just folded the washing in the first place.
- When I installed tracking software on my computer, I found I was spending less than one third of my work time actually writing – pretty poor given it is was my main way of making revenue at the time!
- It actually only takes me 5 minutes or less to unstack the dishwasher, but some days I delayed doing it because I “didn’t have time”!
- Before I took control of my phone many years ago, I could spend over two hours on it. I would try and justify it as “work” but if I was honest with myself, it was mindless scrolling.
- Doing important work that requires me to think takes me less time before lunch than it does after lunch. For example I found it took me at least 20 minutes longer to write a newsletter after lunch than it did if it was my first activity of the day.
Each time I do a time audit I learn something new and I make changes to the way I use my time. The reason I make changes is to free up time so I can do things like be with the family, read in the sun or spend more time with friends. I am conscious about where I want to spend the time I free up because I have learnt if I don’t think about it, the time I save just disappears.
I have also learnt through these time audits that one of the best ways to feel less busy is to have times through out the day where I am doing things I enjoy. If I have a day where I have a number of work commitments due, have commitments to take and pick up kids on top of the usual cooking and cleaning duties, it can feel like a super busy day.
But if I can add to this day, a run in the early hours of the morning, a game of cards with the youngest before school, a cup of tea and a short read of a book at lunchtime, then I feel completely differently about my day. It feels full, but not so busy that I don’t have time for things that are important for me. Other than the run, these activities take 15 minutes or less but make my day feel more expansive.
These small things change the way we perceive time and how busy we are.
If you have never undertaken an audit of your time, I can highly recommend giving it a go.
If you would like help with this then make sure you sign up to Planned + Present before midnight Sunday 20th October 2019 to have a step by step guide on taking a deep dive on where you are spending your time. Be quick as it is the last time the course will run this year.