Many people struggle with not having enough time to do what they truly love, or even accomplish their most basic goals for the day. As an entrepreneur and business owner with a staff of over 20 employees, it’s been essential for me to master my time in order to keep up with my projects on the road.
In this week’s video, I’d like to share my three best strategies for time management, what I like to call my “Time Mastery Trio.”
We’ll go over strategies for reflecting on what you’ve done on a daily basis. We’ll walk about tracking your efforts throughout the day. And we’ll even delve into a second-by-second time tracking technique that has revolutionized my life and could do the same to yours.
FREE TIME TRACKER TOOL
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Some of the time tracking tips we’ll talk about have been picked up on by Timothy Ferriss of the Four Hour Work Week. Read more about that here.
Time is our most valuable resource and as we become more aware of how we’re spending our time throughout our days, moment by moment, day by day, we’ll have more power to make better choices and live our dreams, to make a difference, and to have a more fulfilling life throughout the day.
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Hey everybody, it’s Brandon Pearce and today I want to talk to you about time.
So many people go throughout life feeling like they don’t have enough time to get done with everything that’s important to them.
Have you ever gone to the end of your day and then looked back and said, “Man, so many of those things on my to-do list I didn’t get done.” Or have you wondered what you even did throughout the day?
I know I’ve had that experience.
Today I want to talk to you about three specific ways that I have used time tracking to help increase my productivity and help me actually do the things that are more important to me in life.
It all kind of starts back to when I was in junior high. I had a health class where I was given an assignment to track everything that I ate for an entire week. So as I was popping candy in my mouth I had to write down the candy that I was eating. Everything good and healthy that I ate, I wrote that down, too.
It was interesting noticing how that assignment affected me. I think just naturally becoming more aware of what I was putting into my body made me make better choices about what I was eating. I had to think twice every time I ate a piece of candy. I had to think, “I have to write down that I ate a piece of candy, and I’m going to have to show my teacher that I had a piece of candy and I’m not being healthy.”
But the more that I was aware of the things that I was doing well and the things I was eating that were healthy, that helped me to eat better.
This same philosophy of tracking what I ate I later applied to tracking money that I was spending. I would track every penny that I spent, put it in the computer, and it would spit out a report at the end of the month showing me how much I’d spent in each category of my life. Just doing that naturally helped me to say, “Well I’m spending this much here, and this much here. But this is actually more important to me, so I’m gonna put more money here.”
I think ultimately the same strategy of tracking food and money applies equally well to tracking time, which I believe is our most valuable resource.
Why is it that when we track something, we’re almost naturally inclined to start making better choices?
I think it’s because the simple act of of measuring and tracking increases our awareness about how we’re spending our time (or whatever it is that we’re tracking), and having that extra information helps us to make better decisions.
Intuitively, subconsciously we already know what’s good for us, what we want, how we want to spend our time, and what’s important to us. Being able to see in context how we’re spending our life versus how we want to be spending our time helps us just naturally migrate to those better decisions.
Here are my three time tracking strategies, which I call my Time Mastery Trio.
The Daily Summary
The first one is the simplest: at the end of every day just take a few seconds to a few minutes (or however long you want to spend) and write what I call a Daily Summary of what happened that day.
I’ll do this right before bed, at the very end of the day. I’ll write down:
- the things that I thought went well that day,
- the things that I think didn’t go so well,
- how I was feeling during the day—what emotions or general emotions that I was experiencing, and
- things I may want to work on tomorrow that I want to put as a priority.
You can get as detailed (or not) as you like, but for me just taking that time every day to reflect on how the day went and on my state during the day helps me have more awareness to make better decisions moving forward.
And it also has a really cool side effect of me being able to pick any day and being able to go back to it. If I was wondering what I was doing on a given date I can tell you. That’s pretty cool to be able to look back. It’s helpful for journaling and writing blog posts as we go throughout our months, as well.
The Daily Summary has been a really great tool for me. It’s very simple and doesn’t take much time, but I think it has a powerful effect.
I write my Daily Summary using an app called Diaro, but you can do it on paper, in a journal—anywhere you want.
The Daily Log
The second time tracking strategy in my Time Mastery Trio is what I call the Daily Log. This is also very simple. I use Google Docs for this, but you can use any word processor or even paper again—whatever you choose.
I just have one document that I open and I use it for the entire year. I’ll put the header of today’s date and then below that I create a bulleted list. I just put the time right now and then I write a quick summary of what I did since I woke up. Then the next line will come maybe a half hour later or a couple hours later (depending on how often I want to keep the log). Then I’ll write a short summary of what happened since my last entry.
Getting Started with Your Daily Log
- Create a Document
- Write the Date
- Write the Time
- Write a Bulleted Summary of What you Did
- Repeat Steps 3 & 4 Periodically (Consider Setting a Timer)
Throughout the day I will get a series of logs that are easy to look back on. The Daily Log is just a quick, easy way to say “Here’s what I did today,” in a little bit more detail then I would get in the Daily Summary.
I don’t know if you’ve ever had the experience of getting lost in the web of Facebook articles and whatnot. Pretty soon hours are gone and you don’t know where the time went.
Having a timer that I set on my phone to remind me to keep the log (or even just having it in the back of my mind—that knowledge that I’m keeping a log today) helps me remember what I want to focus on that day.
If I’m browsing Facebook and a timer goes off, and I enter the log and I wonder, “What did I do in the past 30 minutes? … Well I was doing this… and then I got sucked into Facebook.”
Writing that is a good wake-up call and helps me remember what it is that I meant to be focusing on, putting me back on track. Now it could be that what I was reading on Facebook was actually really cool, valuable information and I learned something important and I can write down exactly what I read about. That’s also helpful for me to be able to go back in and say, well it wasn’t a complete waste of time, right? I actually got something out of it.
The Daily Log is really powerful for that. It helps me feel like I’m actually accomplishing more. I’m accomplishing the same but tracking it helps me remember and be aware that I am accomplishing more.
The third time tracking strategy in my Time Mastery Trio is By-the-Second Tracking.
Now this one is a lot more intense, but it’s extremely powerful and I think it has the potential to revolutionize the way you spend your time.
The idea is to track every second of every day for an entire week (or however long you decide).
This is very interesting because it not only is a log of what you’ve done, it’s not like looking at back in the past or asking “What did I do?” and then writing it down. It’s focus is on what you are doing right now.
I think it’s really powerful for helping you be present with what it is you’re working on, and making sure that you’re working on the things that are most important to you.
Some of the ways that I have used this are through online time-tracking tools. I like the tool called SlimTimer. Toggl is another one. There may be better or newer ones out there now, but if you just Google “Time Tracking App,” you’ll find plenty of options for free time-tracking tools.
The idea is you just type in what it is you’re working, on or what you’re going to work on now, and hit the start button. Then it starts counting away by the second. Once you finish that task, hit stop and type in the new task you’re going to do. Hit start again and then it counts away. So the timer is constantly running while you’re awake. While you’re asleep and when you’re sleeping you’ll type sleep before you go to bed.
As you’re tracking everything that you do throughout the day, minute by minute, second by second, what you end up with is a great picture of how you’re spending your time throughout the day and throughout the week.
These programs can run reports. If you categorize the tasks that you’re working on you can see how much time you’re spending on different parts of your life – how much time you’re spending with your family, how much time on work, etc. You could break it down by project, as well. You could get as detailed as looking at how much time you spend using a particular app on your computer (RescueTime is a good program to track that).
There are so many different ways to track your time, and you can do it however deep you want to go—you could just have three categories and track that. I think you’ll get more benefit the more detailed you go, but it is also a little bit more time intensive to constantly be switching task.
As I said, it’s a very powerful tool. I’ve only done this two or three times in my life, but every time I’ve done it, it’s been very revealing about my priorities and my values. It’s made it clear to me how I’m spending my time versus how I want to spend my time.
If you have seen the blog The 4 Hour Workweek or Timothy Ferriss, he actually picked up on an article that I wrote about this very topic. If you want to find it, it’s on my blog (and on his—he guest posted the article). It’s called How I Spend My Time Now. Check it out if you want to see the breakdown of how I spend my time (at least one of the times that I did this exercise).
It’s a really fun exercise and I encourage you to give it a try if it’s interesting to you.
If you find yourself getting overwhelmed by the process, or if this sounds like too much, that’s okay. Do something simpler that is a time tracking method that better fits your schedule and your lifestyle.
If tracking every second of every day, the By-the-Second tracking is too intense, try the Daily Log. If tracking your time in 10-minute increments is too much, do every hour or every three hours, or just do it at the end of a task. If that’s too much then just fall back on the end of the day Daily Summary.
See how it affects you.
See how increasing your awareness of how you’re spending your time changes the way that you spend your time and the choices that you make with regards to that.
Your Most Valuable Resource
I believe that time is our most valuable resource and as we become more aware of how we’re spending our time throughout our days, moment by moment, day by day, we will be more empowered to make better choices, to live our dreams, to make a difference, and to have a more fulfilling life throughout the day.
I hope you find these tools helpful for you and that you can apply this Time Mastery Trio or any aspect of it in your life. If you’re able to do all three, Wow! I think you’re going to be amazed at the results in your life. But if you could only implement one or one at a time, give it a shot. I highly encourage it and would love to hear how it works for you!
If you want to send me a note or write a comment below, I would love to hear how implementing these tools is affecting your life and your time tracking. If you have other ways of you track time you’d like to share with me, please feel free to send them over.
I hope you enjoyed this video. Thanks for watching and remember to live well and enjoy life now!