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Time Tracking: Why You Should Do It and Analyzing Your Data

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As a follow up to our epic piece on Time Tracking (and why it’s the most important thing you can possibly measure in your life), here’s a follow up with yet more reasons as to why you should track your time, and what to do with the data once you have it.

While I’m going to give some good personal examples that come out of my own time tracking, it should be said upfront that the only real reason why you should track your time, is that if you can measure it, you can improve on it. To everyone who’s on the fence about whether to implement this or not:

It’s not our job to convince you to do things that make you more productive. We just show you the way.

So if you’re ready to start with time tracking, here’s how you do it:

  1. Read our article on time tracking.
  2. Track your time. I suggest 3 consecutive months.
  3. Stop tracking your time.
  4. Analyze the data and make improvements. Start tracking again if necessary.

Working with Time Tracking Data

Time tracking data is not that complicated. It basically tells you “over this period of time, I spent so-and-so hours and minutes doing X, and so-and-so hours and minutes doing Y”. The logical follow-up to this should be “hmmm, I’m spending too little time on X and too much time on Y”, or something similar.

For example, in my own life, I found that:

  • I only spend about 2.5-3 hours a week working on Asian Efficiency. This includes writing awesome articles, doing research and experiments, connecting with people in our industry and working on some of the behind-the-scenes.
  • I spend on average 1 hour and 9 minutes at the gym every day. This includes travel time.
  • I work on business-related tasks about 30 hours each week, pushing close to 36 on a long week. Note that this does not count the time I spend doing other “business-like” tasks like writing Asian Efficiency articles or any personal projects I have going.
Using this as a start, once you have your own time tracking data you should be:
  1. Doing an analysis of averages, seeing roughly how many hours you spend working each week.
  2. Calling yourself out on bullshit. Do you spend 5+ hours a week watching TV? Playing video games? Partying? Know what is draining your time, factor in the recovery time and make adjustments.
  3. See how much you actually stick to your schedule (if you have one already).
  4. Rework your schedule. Just like your finances, know where you’re spending too much, too little, and what you’re willing to spend time on (or not).
  5. Create time. Yes, I know it sounds ridiculous. But knowing exactly how much time I spend on other things each week let’s me know where to subtract time spent, and how to allocate it productively instead.
  6. Working out where your most productive hours are. This is where you’re working on something and powering through it without procrastination or problems. It’s when you’re in flow. For me, I found that it’s between 4-6pm.

Next Actions

  • Start time tracking if you haven’t already begun. Do it for 3 months.
  • Look at the areas where you spend too much time. Look at the areas where you spend too little time.
  • Make conscious adjustments and stick to them.
  • Come back in a few weeks and adjust again if necessary.

If you have any question about working with your own time tracking data, shoot us an email or let us know in the comments below!

Photo By: JD Hancock

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3 Comments

Posted by Anzumainia  | October 3, 2011 at 11:43PM | Reply

would have been interesting to know what in what why you track time without losing your workflow …

Posted by AE Aaron  | October 4, 2011 at 2:51AM

Hi Anzumainia, I’m not really sure what you’re asking – could you reword?

If it’s how to stay in flow while still tracking time, well, switching an activity takes all of 1-2 seconds in my phone, so there’s no break in flow.

Posted by Brittany Joiner  | November 18, 2016 at 8:13AM | Reply

I couldn’t agree more – time tracking is the best way to quantify and measure if you’re actually spending time on things that you should be. When I started doing it, I realized I was spending almost 20 hours a week on things I called “Routine” (cleaning, laundry, cooking dinner, driving etc.) Once I realized that, I thought about ways I could eliminate that, or make those times more productive. Within about a week, I brought it down to about 6 hours, and I’m able to keep it under 10 every week now! I literally added 10 hours to my week, just by noticing where I was spending time and adjusting it.

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