This blog is all about helping you save time so you can spend it on what matters most to you. (Let’s face it, most of us moms spend our time on urgent things like laundry instead of what we really want to be doing.) But before we can talk about ways you can save time, we need to know where your time is going. And that’s where time tracking comes in.
I know tracking your time doesn’t sound very fun, but it is so important in order to reclaim your time and get some of your life back.
The best way I can describe it is through an analogy. Let’s say you go to your kitchen one morning and see ants crawling all over your counter. (Ugh, the horror!) Now, would you just vacuum up the ants and go about your business? Of course not, because they would just come right back. You would find out where they were coming from and get rid of the source. (In my case, I found a hidden gummy vitamin that they were feasting on.) You know that unless you get to the source, you’ll never get rid of your ant problem. And unless you can find what is eating away all your time, you’ll never make significant, lasting progress at getting your time back.
You may think that you already know where your time goes. I certainly did until I decided to track my time for one week in December. And I was definitely surprised by what activities took most of my time. As it turns out, I spent way more time running errands than I thought, but I also had more free time than I thought, and I had been wasting it.
Hopefully, I’ve convinced you that it’s worth the effort to track your time. The goal is to make tracking as painless as possible. There are two ways to track your time and you should pick the one that will be easiest for you– paper or digital.
Track your time on paper
If you don’t have your phone on hand all the time or just like to do things old school, then a paper time tracker is the best choice for you.
This is how I tracked my time last December, and I used this time tracker created by Jessica Turner, author of The Fringe Hours and Stretched Too Thin. The time slots are broken into 30-minute intervals, but I tracked my time by 15-minute intervals so often I had two tasks written in each slot.
Then at the end of your time period, and I recommend one week, write down a few categories that represent where your time went like work, laundry, food prep/dishes, social media and errands. Total up the time you spent in each category and you’ll know where you are actually spending your time.
Track your time digitally
If you search for time tracking apps and websites, most are created for people whose work requires that they track time to bill clients. Those apps are overkill and overcomplicated for personal time tracking.
Instead, try using Google Calendar, or whatever calendar app you have, for time tracking. Choosing to take this route is going to be more of a hassle, but it will save you money.
How to use Google Calendar to track your time
Write out categories first so you can label time entries in detail, such as Food
- Leave Google Calendar open, so you can add entries as you go through
- If you don’t have time to be very specific, you can go back at the end of the day and add the category name to the task.
- At the end of the week, look back at your calendar and add up your totals.
This method will be very similar to paper logging, but it will be easier to log your time because your calendar is available on any device.
If that sounds like too much work, or you decide that tracking your time is so helpful that you want to do it on a regular basis, check out ATracker Time Tracker and aTimeLogger. Both are $4.99 but are less complicated and better suited for personal tracking.
If all of this sounds overwhelming, remember that we are going for progress, not perfection. Even making a list of your tasks on notebook paper and keeping a tally of marks beside each will give you some idea of where your time is going.
Or you could decide to only track one day at first.
Keep it simple and make it work for you.
I’m excited to announce a new version of the blog– audio! We all have full lives and it isn’t always possible to make time to read. So click the mp3 below and you can listen to this post while you are in the car or doing chores.