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Posted in Productivity | 3 comments

Can Time Tracking Help You Get More Done?

time tracking, get organized, productivityThis is Week 44 of a Year of Living Productively

This week I tested whether time tracking could help me get more done, although I did more routine tracking than true time. Scroll to the end of last week’s post for an explanation.

How Time Tracking Saved My Sanity This Week

  • Helped me recognize I am trying to do too much. In my excitement about becoming more and more efficient, I started trying to structure more and more of my time. I wasn’t actually doing most of my planned routine, so it was too much.
  • Demonstrated how variable my days are. One of the frustrations in creating a schedule or routine is the interruptions to the usual. The past two weeks have been very unusual. If I am going to expect to “stay on schedule,” I will be nothing but frustrated. Good to know so I won’t be perfectionistic about my routine.

How Time Tracking Made Me Crazy This Week

  • I resisted it. As I deleted more and more of my routine because I wasn’t actually using it, I resisted even tracking my routine. I knew it would be more of the same the second week: funerals, holiday events, and weather-related schedule changes that wouldn’t be the case next week. I wondered why I should even waste my time writing it down.
  • I rebelled. I not only resisted tracking my schedule after a while, but I stopped doing routine things that actually work for me. I think I’ve reached my limit on maximizing my time. I just want to have time to do whatever I feel like doing even if it’s not “moving me forward” or making me more “productive.”

Did Time Tracking Help Me Get More Done?

Heavens no!  I finished some big, time-consuming projects, but otherwise did less than ever this week. I don’t think that means time tracking is useless. I do wonder if I really need to formally track my time. It might have worked much better to just observe when I tend to do certain activities and give myself permission to do them then. Scheduling them gave my inner rebel fits: too many rules. The other problem I have had is burnout. I have been working really hard lately. I don’t want to be told what to do constantly, even by myself. I’ve recognized for a long time that the best reward for me is a day that I am free to use as I wish. I am very structured for school because it works. But apart from that, I’d like less structure, thank you.

The Productivity Approach I’ll Be Using for Week 45

This week I’ll be testing No List. I will only refer to a list of tasks that are urgent that I would otherwise forget to do. All other lists will be abandoned this week.

The concept. Those of you who have known me from Mark Forster’s forum or have read my productivity posts for a while will remember that I have used this approach in the past. I had just come off a very difficult time in my life and I needed the peace of having no list. For list lovers, it sounds like anything BUT peaceful. It was what I needed at the time, however, and I’m surprised to say I feel I need it again.

I’m always pursuing excellence. That’s a good thing if at the same time I recognize that I’m excellent just as I am. Practically speaking, I tend to think more is always better. If I write a blog post that does well, I need to write more of them. If I’m doing well on Pinterest, I need to pick it up on Google+. These things can become–not just nice goals to aim for–but must-do’s. Whereas some people find themselves constantly putting out fires and never pursuing the bigger dreams, I tend to label multiple goals and the day-to-day must do’s “fires.” Thus, I experience burnout.

I want to get a balanced perspective by only looking at the true must-do’s and trusting my instincts about everything else that should be done. If you are wondering if I’ve given up on Little and Often, I haven’t at all. I’ve discovered a problem with it that I will address with you at a later date, however.

If you’d like to join me this week, here’s what you do. Read this post where I describe my use of my no list. Decide on a way of keeping track of your must-do, must-list-or-you’ll-forget tasks. I’m going to add mine to Google Calendar. Simple, simple. If you’re interested in knowing my plans for A Year of Living Productively for the end of year, be sure to read next week!

Does the idea of going list-free freak you out?

Here are the links to the productivity hacks I’ve tried so far:

A Year of Living Productively

Week 1: Paper To-Do List

Week 2: Covey’s Quadrants

Week 3: Routines

Week 4: Paper Planner

Week 5: SMEMA

Week 6: Guilt Hour

Week 7: Envision Ideal Day

Week 8: Do it Tomorrow

Week 9: Pomodoro

Week 10: Time Warrior

Week 11: Scheduling

Week 12: The Repeat Test

Week 13: Personal Kanban

Week 14: Eat That Frog

Week 15: Vacation

Week 16: David Seah’s

7:15AM Ritual

Week 17: Another Simple and Effective Method

Week 18: Daily/Weekly/Monthly To-Do List

Week 19: Ultimate Time Management System

Week 20: Getting Things Done

Week 21: Time Blocking

Week 22: Morning Ritual

Week 23: Beat the Week

Week 24: Productivity Ritual

Week 25: Make it Happen in 10 Minutes

Week 26: Focus & Relief List

Week 27: Accountability Chart

Week 28: Limiting Choices

Week 29: Zen to Done

Week 30: Heatmapping

Week 31: Gamification

Week 32: The 12 Week Year

Week 33: David Seah’s Ten for Ten

Week 34: David Seah’s Emergent Task Planner

Week 35: Steve Kamb’s Do It Now

Week 36: Rising Early

Week 37: Computer Shortcuts

Week 38: Interrupter’s Log

Week 39: Project Management

Week 40: Little and Often

Week 41: Problem Solving Approach

Week 42: Inbox Zero

Week 43: Resistance List

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  • Jacq

    I’ve done time tracking a couple of different ways. Bear in mind that I come at this from what we used to have to do during my public accounting audit/tax days. We’d track each client / section of the audit so we’d be able to bill accurately and be able to plan the job properly for the next year for larger projects. In public accounting, you record the time whenever you switch clients/sections and put that into your timesheet every week. That works well for that type of thing.

    What I’ve done since is something similar to the keepfocused app that I’ve used where when the timer goes off, I write down what I’m doing next. My pomodroido app lets me do the same kind of thing only I don’t get a real log of what I’ve done (which doesn’t really matter I guess). I can’t stick with those methods beyond about 4-6 hours for the life of me. But I can get some solid work done in that time – enough anyway to have my free time be guilt-free.

    I think time logs that show you glaring issues in timing are good to do for a week or so – when you realize you’re having a problem – sort of like your interruptions log you did awhile back. You don’t realize how much you get interrupted until you start logging it and then it’s like “wow, no wonder it takes me so long to do this stuff!”

    It’s like having a spending log. If you always have more month than money, it can be good to track for a month to see where you habitually spend on things you’re completely unconscious of. And that don’t provide enough value. I did that for a couple of months years ago and found I was spending about 10% of my take home pay on books – oops – that was a habit I wanted to change. But if you’re like me now and have generally pretty stable habits and are happy with the whole of what you’re spending, where’s the value in analyzing the minutiae?

    Looking forward to your Christmas post!

    • http://psychowith6.com Dr. Mel

      I really agree with you, Jacq. I think it’s one of those things that for most people is a tool that can be used to make course corrections. I think it’s important that you get the data you need though. When I’m done a 24-hour time log, I really didn’t know what it meant that I was on the phone for x minutes, using the computer for x hours, etc. What might be even better would be to track to answer a certain question. Like how much time do I spend watching TV because that is something I’d like to decrease or eliminate. I like thinking of this like money. Thanks for that feedback.

      • Jacq

        Well, the other value is that by the very act of logging, you will make changes just by becoming conscious, and frankly possibly embarrassed at your habits. I do that when I track calories. That’s why companies like Weight Watchers say that the #1 predictor of success is whether you track / log or not. OTOH, who’s going to log everything they do or eat or spend for years?? Not me – and I like tracking! (Sometimes.)
        I don’t think it’s a very stick-able / long term method like some others are. But possibly good for short term awareness – you just need to build habits based on what you find that you don’t like and that’s a little harder.