It couldn’t be hard right? I have been time tracking on and off for over 15 years as a lawyer. And I might learn something. So nothing to lose with a little time tracking experiment Laura Vanderkam style. Here’s what I learnt.
I made it too hard for yourself
Set your expectations low when you start time tracking! Don’t go all out thinking you are going to record 15 minute increments for a whole month, or even a whole week. Just start with a day.
I thought time tracking would be easy for me. As a lawyer I recorded 6 minute increments of time for at least 7.5 hours each day I worked between 2001 and 2016. Since then I’ve been way more casual about it while running my own business. And therein lay part of the problem. I’d made a conscious decision to try to stop time tracking at work and I found it left me with an unconscious, strong resistance to doing it for my personal life.
So I only properly completed about 2 days, sort of did another 5 days and then gave up halfway through my 2 week experiment – which left me feeling like I’d failed.
So in addition to doing one day at a time, also decide how much detail you want to record. If you want to record 15 minute intervals, then maybe one day is definitely enough. And a tip from Laura herself – stop and record a specific number of times during the day (eg. 4 times per day) rather than trying to record after every activity.
Time doesn’t just disappear
Even when you can’t remember what you did with your time – you did do something. Even if it was travelling down rabbit holes on Facebook.
It is important to know where you are spending your time – not just at work – because it is so easy to spend time on things that aren’t important. And that’s what I was doing! Too many nights sitting on the couch aimlessly scrolling or watching crappy TV I wasn’t even interested in. There are many things I would rather be doing – talking to my husband, reading a good book (I have enough!) or sewing. Tracking made me realise I need to be more conscious of how I am spending my time.
I need more structure in my life
In my aim for flexibility I think I have given up a bit too much structure. I seem to chop and change way too many times between different activities – from kids, to housework, to volunteer duties to client work etc. This means I spend a lot of time trying to reset my brain to think about the next task. So much better to focus on one thing for a longer period of time.
Also, I want the structure so that I have some boundaries around some important times with my children. Too often I feel like time with them gets hijacking with other things – whether its household tasks or business tasks. My family are my number one priority so I need to make sure my schedule recognises that.