How much time do you spend at work doing things that don't contribute to your success?
At first, you may say "not much." But – especially if you haven't used Activity Logs before – you may be surprised by how much more time you can find.
When you properly understand how you use your time at work, you can minimize or eliminate low value activities. This means that you can do more high value work, while still being able to leave the office at a sensible time.
So, how can you understand this? One useful way is to keep an Activity Log, and that's what we're looking at in this article.
An Activity Log (also known as an Activity Diary or a Job Activity Log) is a written record of how you spend your time.
By keeping an Activity Log for a few days, you can build up an accurate picture of what you do during the day, and how you invest your time. You'll find that memory is quite a poor guide, and that keeping the Log is an eye-opening experience!
Your Activity Log will also help you understand whether or not you're doing your most important work during the right time of day. For instance, if you're more energetic and creative in the morning, you'd be better off doing your most important work during this time. You can then focus on lower energy tasks, such as responding to emails or returning calls, in the afternoon.
Activity Logs are also useful for helping you identify non-core activities that don't help you meet important objectives. For example, you might spend far more time than you think surfing the Internet, or getting coffee each afternoon. When you see how much time you're wasting on such activities, you can then change the way that you work to eliminate them.
To keep an Activity Log, download this template, or open up a new spreadsheet and set up the following column headers:
Then, without changing your behavior any more than you have to, note down everything that you do at work, as you do it.
Every time you change activities, whether replying to email, working on a report, making coffee, or gossiping with colleagues, note down what the activity is, the time of the change, and how you feel (alert, flat, tired, energetic, and so on).
Then, at a convenient time, go back through your Activity Log and write down the duration of each activity, and whether it was a high, medium, low, or no value task. (Evaluate this based on how far it contributed to achieving your job goals.)
Once you've logged your time for a few days, analyze your Activity Log. You may be alarmed to see how much time you spend doing low value jobs!
You may also see that you are energetic in some parts of the day, and flat in other parts. A lot of this can depend on how you are, the rest breaks you take, when and what you eat, and the work that you're doing.
Once you've analyzed your Activity Log, you should be able to boost your productivity by applying one of the following actions to various activities:
Activity Logs are useful tools for analyzing how you use your time. They help you track changes in your energy, alertness and effectiveness throughout the day, and they help you eliminate time wasting activities, so that you can be more productive.
Activity Logs are taken much further in Mind Tools' "Make Time for Success!" With more than 100 pages of time tested tips and techniques, this course helps you learn how to leverage all of the opportunities that life has to offer. Click here to learn more.
With the Mind Tools Club, you get much, much more than you do here for free.
And we'll give you the 4 workbooks above when you join!
Learn on the move with the free Mind Tools iPhone, iPad and Android Apps. Short bursts of business training ideal for busy people.