Identifying time-wasting activities
Once you know the value
of your time, the next step is to review
your use of time to better understand how
you use it.
Activity logs are useful tools for doing
this. They help you understand how you use
your time, so that you can identify and
eliminate time-wasting and unproductive
habits. This gives you more time to do your
work, increases your efficiency, and makes
it more likely that you will be able to
leave work on time and have good quality
time to yourself to relax.
The first time you use an activity log,
you may be shocked to see the amount of
time that you waste! Memory is a very poor
guide when it comes to this: It is too easy
to forget time spent reading junk mail,
browsing interesting but unhelpful web pages,
talking to colleagues, making coffee, waiting
for meetings, traveling, etc.
By keeping an Activity Log for a couple
of weeks, you can identify the unproductive
time in your daily routine. By cutting this
out, or by changing your habits, you can
substantially increase your productivity.
For example, if you are ruthless in your
pruning of irrelevant emails and focused
in your daily newsgathering, you can make
substantial time available. If you take
a train rather than drive, you can open
up good quality, undisturbed working time
in your schedule.
Using the Tool:
Click on this
link to download an activity log template
in Microsoft Excel format.
Next, decide how long you want to keep
your activity log (one or two weeks is a
good length of time).
Without modifying your behavior any further
than you have to, make note of the things
you do as you do them. Every time you change
activities - whether opening mail, working,
making coffee or gossiping with colleagues,
note down the time of the change.
As well as recording activities, make note
of how you feel: alert, flat, tired, energetic,
etc. Do this periodically throughout the
day. You may decide to integrate your activity
log with a stress
Analyzing Your Log
After logging your time for a few days,
analyse the log. If you understand the value
of your time, you may be alarmed to
see the length of time you spend doing low
Work through your activity log, paying close
attention to how you spend your time.
Think about whether each use of time is
valuable. If it is not, ask yourself whether
you could avoid it, or whether you could
do things in a different way to free up
time. For example, if you flew to a distant
destination rather than driving, could you
use this travel time to get good work done?
Be careful as you review your log to not
be too ruthless. It is important to spend
some time gathering information (e.g. by
reading industry news) and maintaining social
networks (for example, by chatting to people
briefly). While these things can be cut
out altogether, this can have harmful effects
on your career in the medium- and long-term
as you miss important information, and fail
to reap the benefits of good social networks.
An important part of time management
is to cut out "time wasters".
These can be unproductive meetings
or calls from people trying to sell
you things you do not need, excessive
reading, etc. Time wasters are often
people who want your time, but have
little to offer in return.
Cutting out time wasting
often involves saying “No”
If you do this rudely,
you may get a reputation for arrogance.
If you are abrasive with your co-workers
or your team, you can damage important
working relationships. It usually
pays to be as courteous as is practical
in cutting time wasting. When in doubt,
a little explanation is sure to help!
Activity logs are useful tools for auditing
the way that you use your time.
To keep an activity log, make a note of
everything you do, and the time you take
to do it, on a form like this
one. Analyse it after one to two weeks.
By analyzing your activity log, you will
be able to identify and eliminate time-wasting
and low-yield jobs. The Activity Log also
helps you to review your use of time so
that you can find more efficient ways of
Next, we look at Using
To Do Lists, an easy technique for ensuring
that you concentrate on the most important,
highest yield work.
article helps you plan your use of time...
- To download
this section of Stress.MindTools.Com in
PDF format to use and print at your convenience,
- Read the next article on prioritized
Lists, and learn a simple technique
for increasing your effectiveness
- Learn how to get the help you need with
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