Lack of time seems to be a common complaint of 21st century life. The demands of both work and family life can sap our energy. Where’s the time to train for running that marathon? Or writing that novel?
Whatever you aim to achieve in your work or personal life, time management is the key to success.
If you run a business, good time management is even more important. Time costs money. Manage it wisely and you can increase profitability.
Why track your time?
When you monitor how you spend your time, it soon becomes clear where you are wasting time. It then becomes easy to ensure time is spent on the right things for optimising work productivity, or fulfilling lifetime goals. This helps to increase overall productivity levels.
Tracking time allows you to assess whether time is spent on unprofitable activities. Is your business focused on the most profitable projects? Are you wasting time on projects that do not warrant the investment?
If projects take too long it reduces the amount of profit. By checking the ratio of time spent against profit gained, you can accurately assess the true return on your investment in the work you do. This will help to increase profitability.
Increases focus and attention
In the early half of the 20th century, Elton Mayo conducted a series of experiments on workplace productivity at Westin Electric’s factory at Hawthorne near Chicago. His major finding was that employees change their behaviour to be more productive when being observed. This has become known as the Hawthorne Effect.
Tracking time allows you to create a similar effect. When someone is actively tracking their time, whether for work or personal activities, it increases productivity.
How to track time
There are many tools out there to help you track your time. Some of the most useful to use in the business environment involve tracking software, like those offered by Planday. The software allows employees to easily track and report time and activities through either website, desktop or mobile apps.
The data can then be used to create reports, which give management a clear and accurate overview of efficiency. This information can be a vital aid in planning business development strategies.
Alternatively, you can create a customised time tracking log on your computer, by using a diary or a calendar.
How to reduce time wasting and increase productivity
Time tracking can highlight where time is being misspent and productivity compromised. It may highlight the time wasted on emails, social media, news websites, or in your personal life, daily household chores and watching cat videos on YouTube…
Here are a few tips on how to stay focused:
- Have specific times for checking email – if something is urgent you will rarely hear this via email.
- Turn off your phone – there is little that cannot wait for a few hours. If you can’t bear the thought of this, leave the handset in another room to avoid being distracted.
- Hide any social media apps which may tempt you to lose focus.
- Be aware of when you do your best work – if you’re more creative in the morning use that time for creative tasks and relegate more routine chores to the afternoon.
- At the end of the day organise your To Do list for the following morning, so you can get started as soon as possible.
- Have a morning ritual to help you get motivated – anything from a cup of tea, a short meditation, listening to a specific music track, or lighting a candle.
- Do the most important thing first – stop using distractions to avoid challenging tasks. The biggest hurdle to finishing difficult jobs is usually starting them, so don’t give yourself a choice – just get stuck in.
How to increase productivity using the Ivy Lee Method
To be properly productive you need to know how to prioritise. Ivy Lee was an American productivity consultant who devised a simple, but effective method for increasing business efficiency in the early 20th century.
The Ivy Lee Method involves five easy steps:
- At the end of each day write down the six most important tasks you need to accomplish the following day. That’s right, you can only choose six.
- Prioritise them in order of importance.
- The following morning concentrate only on the first task and work on it until you have finished. Only then can you move on to the second task.
- Using this method to work through the list. At the end of the day move any unfinished tasks to the new list of six for the following day.
- Repeat this process every working day.
As Stephen R Covey said: “The key is in not spending time, but investing it.”