How to Manage Your Time with a Journal

Do you feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day? Are you tired of feeling rushed and frazzled?

Better time management can make you feel as though there actually are enough hours in the day to get everything done and better time management can leave you feeling refreshed — less rushed, less frazzled, less stressed. Time management is an executive function; that is, a skill that uses multiple cognitive functions.

A first step to improving your time management ability is to keep a time journal.

Keeping a time management diary can be a valuable tool to help you to see where the bulk of your time is being spent. If you are constantly being interrupted by phone calls or find yourself surfing the net when you should be working, a time management diary can help you to pinpoint areas where you might need to make adjustments.

Once a year, select a typical week or two and gather data on your regular daily routine. Record your activities in half-hour increments, noting the things that impacted the work flow. Take the data, look for areas where you could improve your use of time and develop a specific action plan to bring about the desired improvements

Gather Data:

Keep a daily time log for one week if you have a somewhat routine schedule and for two weeks if your schedule is less predictable. This will provide information for you to improve your use of time.

  • Select a typical week, (i.e., avoid vacation, sick leave, personal leave, holiday, etc.)
  • Record activities at least every half hour. Be specific. For example, identify visitors and record duration and topics of conversations. (Be honest. Only you will have access to this information.)
  • Write a comment on each activity. Did something take longer than usual? Why? Were you interrupted?
  • At the end of the day note whether this day was typical, busier than usual, or less busy than usual.

Analyze Your Use of Time:

Working with the data gathered, analyze your current use of time. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Are there any surprises in my use of time?
  2. Am I spending my time as I think I should be?
  3. Am I wasting time on activities that do not advance me towards my goals?
  4. Is there a balance between the various facets of my life: work, family, play, personal, etc?

Action Plan:

From your analysis, develop specific action plans to bring about the desired improvement in your use of time.

Follow-up:

Six weeks after beginning your time management improvement effort, assess your progress, and determine what work still needs to be done. If you find yourself reverting to time-wasting habits, explore questions like these:

  1. Why am I not spending time the way I want?
  2. Why am I settling for second-best in my priorities?
  3. What changes am I going to make?
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