How a time audit can improve your life

It’s the end of the week and you just realized you still have a list of emails to respond to, need to pick up a gift for your niece, have to make your grocery list, have a flyer to create and distribute for an event, and still need to pack up your old clothes for donations.

Yet, when you think about what you actually did in the last few days, you simply can’t remember. Sound familiar? Then, you need a time audit in order to thrive instead of just survive.

What is a time audit, you ask? Basically, it’s a method of keeping track of what you are doing with your time throughout the day. Many different techniques can be used, which I will discuss later. Regardless of what technique you use, the most important part of a time audit is to see where you lose precious time to nonproductive tasks, such as Netflix or social media.

That doesn’t mean that you that you can’t ever look at social media again or binge-watch Stranger Things. I’m just saying that it’s important to be aware of much time you actually spend on those activities.

Therefore, who can use a time audit? Anyone who feels like they never have enough time in the day to get things done. I don’t know about you, but to me, time is something that always seems to be ticking away faster and faster every day.

Right or wrong, I often measure my days by how many tasks I can accomplish within that day. Did I get a good start on my blog post? Did I accomplish the cleaning that I needed to do that day? Did I listen to a continuing education webinar for my vet license or learn more about SEO and having an online business today? Luckily I am a little easier on myself than I used to be with time and realize that a successful day is not always measured by checks on a list.

The beauty of a time audit means that you will end up having more time than you realized for those fun or relaxing activities that nourish you. As an example, I love to lay in our hammock in the backyard. The hammock rests in a perfectly shady spot under our trees.

I have realized that gently swaying in the hammock with a light breeze blowing while reading a book feeds my soul. You might be thinking about how I find the time to partake in such an activity. That’s where a time audit has helped me. Instead of flailing about without a schedule or any idea of where my time goes, I’m now much more efficient. And YOU can be too!

time audit

How to perform a time audit

There are many different ways to do a time audit. The method that you use doesn’t really matter, as long as it works for you. Here are some ideas to get you started.

  • One simple way is to set a timer on your phone or watch for every half hour or hour. When the timer goes off, you write down what you are doing and continue tracking throughout the day.
  • Use a spreadsheet to track your activities.
  • Use a chart to write down your actions. I have created a simple chart that you can use: time.audit.spreadsheet. You simply write down what you are doing in each time block.
  • Use a time tracking app. These are usually created for employees to track their work hours, but they can also be used for a general time audit. I particularly like Toggl and RescueTime and recommend those to my clients in my program.
  • Make a list of items or projects that you want to accomplish for the day and check off each one as you go (also write down the amount of time they took). At the end of the day, see what you didn’t finish.
  • Don’t forget to include time watching tv or social media. Both can be huge time drains.
  • I suggest tracking 5-7 full days in order to get a good idea of where your time goes. However, they don’t have to be consecutive days.
  • After your time audit is done, divide up your activities into categories. You can make them general, such as: Work; Home; Fun. Or you can get really detailed and divide them up further: Phone calls; Work projects; Social media; Meal prep; Cleaning; etc. There is no right or wrong as long as you can see how much time is spent in each category.
  • Be honest. No one else has to see your time audit except you, so don’t try to fudge the results.

The purpose of a time audit is NOT to scold yourself on how much time is wasted. Rather, it is to honestly evaluate areas that can be improved upon, in order to be more efficient. Then, you can read my priorities post here and focus on what you love.

Maybe you didn’t realize that you spend 30 minutes on Facebook three times a day. Just think of what you could do with an extra hour if you only spent a half hour total on Facebook! Therefore, be gentle with yourself and don’t judge too harshly if you notice a lot of unproductive time. That’s just room for improvement.

Please comment below if you have performed a time audit and how it has helped you. I would also love to hear your stories about how you used a time audit to improve your efficiency.

“Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it, you can never get it back.”

-Harvey Mackay

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