Updated: Aug 23
A time audit can help you take control of you time so that you identify and eliminate activities which suck your time and drain you. The time audit will help you focus on activities that energize you and help you reach your goals.
feeling like you are in control of your time.
having time to spend with friends and family.
taking time to care for yourself.
Imagine doing all of that, AND being able to give time to focus on your priorities at work....
even if you run your own business or are the CEO of a struggling nonprofit!
It is possible when you start with a time audit.
What is a time audit?
A time audit is a chance to record and reflect on how you spend your time. The usual advice is to record your time over a week, but Cassie Holmes, author of Happier Hour: How to Beat Distraction, Expland Your Time, and Focus on What Matters Most, suggests 2 weeks to get a more realistic pulse of your time habits. I record my time every week and incorporate time recording as part of my regular practice.
Why conduct a time audit?
By tracking and reflecting on your time, you become aware of your time vampires, feel more time affluent, and spend your time more mindfully.
Find the time vampires
The vampires are those lurking activities that suck away all your time. If you ever had a moment where you thought, "where did all my time go?", that was a time vampire! When you track your time, you can see, "oh, I spent 5 hours on Netflix or scrolling social, no wonder I didn't have time to work out!". A time audit will help you find those hidden time suckers so that you can find stratgies to uncover lost time.
Feel more time affluent
A time audit gives you a chance to reflect on how you are spending your time so that you can see which activities bring you joy and which ones are energy drains. Most of our stress and even burnout comes from feeling time poor. This does not mean that the solution is having nothing to do - as much as you may dream of that. The magic happens when you are doing things that energize you and bring you joy. Cassie Holmes explains that we feel more time poor when we are doing activities that don't feel like they are our choice. By conducting a time audit and taking the time to reflect on your week, you can identify how much time you are spending in energizing versus vampire type activities. You can then use that information to plan your future time to minimize energy draining activiites and maximize your energizing activities.
Make better choices in how you spend your time
One of the main reasons I track all my time, is that it helps me be more effective with all my time. Just by forcing myself to write down what I am doing, I am more thoughtful in what I am doing from moment to moment. The act of writing down what you are doing, makes you more aware, and more likely to make better choices. If you have ever tracked calories by writing down everything you eat, you have experienced this. For example, if you have to write down that you consumed a 1,000 calorie ice cream treat, you may reconsider and go for a lighter dessert. The same principle happens when tracking your time. If you are writing down, "scrolling TikTok", you may spend less time or even reconsider and change the activity you plan to do. As I go through my day, I consider what I am about to do, write it in my recording software, and I click 'stop' when I am done. When I have to think about what I am about to do in order to write it down, I find I make better choices in how I spend my time.
How to conduct a time audit
Record Your Activities
Start by recording your day in 15-30 minute blocks. You want to be fairly detailed, but you don't need to list out every single activity. However, if you write only 'work', that won't help you in analyzing how you are spending your time, so try writing 'checking email' or 'conducting 1:1s', etc. The key is to account for all of your time. Don't leave holes of unaccounted time. You can simply have the times through the day, and write down the activity. The easiest way is to simply record every 15 minutes what you are doing. Depending on how tech savvy you are, there are several ways you can do this:
Paper and pencil: use any notebook or calendar and simply list out your activities for the day.
Spreadsheet: Create one column with time and and another with activities. I would also add a third column for your reflection.
Time tracking software: There are several options on the market. I use Toggl. Most of its functions are available with the free version. I can add projects and clients so that I can review the week or month how much time I spent on that activity. I can also see pie charts of how my time is divided.
Analyze your Results
At the end of your week, you want to take a few minutes (you can do this in 15 minutes or less), and look back in how your spent your time. This is when you can identify time vampires and activities that energize you. Cassie Holmes suggest reviewing your week and marking each activity as positive or negative so you can see how much of your time is spent doing things that energize you and bring you joy and make you feel more time affluent.
Plan for the future
Once you know how you are spending your time, you can make plans for spending time the way you want to spend it. Consider the activities that energize you. How can you spend more time doing those activities? How can you eliminate the time vampires? As you find the time vampires, you can replace them with more activities that bring you joy and energize you. This will help you feel more time affluent and effective in the future.
Conducting a time audit will help you identify those activities which are sucking away your time, making you feel time poor and stressing you out. the time audit will also help you identify activities which energize you, bring you joy and help you make progress on your goals thereby making you feel more time affluent, less stressed and more productive.
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