Where Did All My Time Go?
Using A Time Tracker
Do you find that you ask this whenever you plan on working on a project or personal development? Do you have a realistic measurement of how you spend your time? In a previous episode of Complete Developer Podcast we discussed setting and attaining goals to take control of your life. In this episode Will talks about his experiences that lead to instituting a time tracking system not only for on the job but also in his personal projects. Our goal here is to help you prioritize your goals and determine how you are spending your time.
Short Term Process
Start off with a simple assessment of how you feel at different intervals throughout the day, week, and month. Note any correlations between how you feel and what you have been doing. Did you come home from work feeling energized having had a good day? What did you work on today? Did you come home more exhausted than usual?
Look for options that increase the activities and projects that you enjoy. If you enjoy technical writing look for ways you can increase this in your life. Analogously, look to decrease the activities that you do not enjoy. A simple way to do this is to figure out your hourly rate. For a simple metric take your annual salary and divide by 2000. Therefore if you make $50,000 a year your hourly rate would be $25 per hour. Now look at a cost benefit analysis of the activity that you do not want to do. How much does it cost for you to do the unpleasant or unproductive activity? If you can afford it outsource the work and focus on more productive projects.
Finally use measurements to prove your point and quantify it with numbers. Do this when suggesting improvements to your manager or making suggestions to your spouse. If you are spending most of your time in meetings and not coding you will be able to show them how it will save money by using your time more efficiently.
Long Term Process
Start out taking time to make yearly goals. This is not something to do in a hurry while you’re waiting on the party to get started New Years Eve but take a couple of days or weeks to carefully look at your goals for the year.
Evaluate these goals at regular intervals. In the goal setting episode we will discuss different levels of goals and how the shorter term goals are used to break down long term goals into manageable chucks of work. Review short term goals on a monthly basis whereas long term such as annual goals should be reviewed quarterly. Reevaluate each goal and your progress toward that goal. Look at the time spent working toward each goal.
Goals are dynamic, they change as we do and the longer term the goal the more dynamic it will be. Our goals change with time as we learn new information or have changes in priorities. Use the quarterly reevaluations to determine if you are moving toward your goals and what can be changed if you are not. Sometimes that means changing the goal.
On the work front it is also a good idea to have a record of your hours outside of an employer’s system. Will and I like to use Toggl at Complete Developer Podcast and in our personal and professional lives. Through using Toggl I was able to see how much time editing took each week and how improvements I made in the process effected the time I spend editing. I’m using it now as I type this post.