This is a guest post by Ashley over at BossSanders.com. This is her contribution to our series “Building A More Successful Blog in 30 Days“. You can follow her on Twitter. She goes by the name @bosssanders
If I were to ask you to please tell me how you spent each hour of your day, could you? No really, COULD YOU?
In high school, I had a major revelation. Up until that point, I had never really considered how long it took me to reach certain goals and accomplish specific tasks. Sure, I had written out schedules, but they were always loose and always specific. They seemed good enough, though – I made it to meetings and classes on time and seemed to be rather productive. I thought I was doing good.
Until I wasn’t.
Realization Sets In
It wasn’t until a job with a catering business that I realized every schedule I had made before that point had been almost meaningless – floating numbers and times blocked out on a page. It wasn’t until that job that I realized you can’t schedule your day with goals and tasks you don’t even know how long it will take you to achieve. That’s when it hit me – if I didn’t begin to take my time more seriously, neither would anyone else – and, furthermore I could possibly LOSE valuable time during my day or end up MISSING appointments and deadlines all because I wasn’t scheduling my time correctly.
Make A Schedule
One of the first steps to tracking your time and where it goes is to set up a schedule. You’ve all heard of the “food diaries” that nutritionists have you log your current diet in – and, in a way this is kind of like that. Simply put, you make a slot for every hour of the day – all 24 – and then divide those up by 30 minute increments. (So, there should be 48 blocks.)
Go about your day as you normally would, and log each and every activity – from taking a break, sleeping, preparing food, family time, blogging…whatever! Log it all. Don’t begin your schedule just when you wake up, either. It may seem useless to log hours during which you plan to sleep, but the information will be useful later on.
Do this for 3-5 days. If you’ve never done this before, you’ll be surprised by the results.
5:30 AM – Sleep
6:00 AM – Sleep
6:30 AM – Wake up, breakfast
7:00 AM – Run
7:30 AM – (Still running)/Shower
8:00 AM – Work – Write article for magazine
8:30 AM – “
9:00 AM – “
9:30 AM – Watched TV
10:00 AM – TV
Chances are, with the first exercise, you’re going to recognize a lot of “lost time” – time that you have no clue what you were doing or why you were doing it. Did I really end up watching Lost Reruns for 2 hours? Did I really take a 30 minute shower? Did I really just take 40 minutes to vacuum one room? Some time blocks, you may not even be able to remember (and forgot to fill in) what happened at all.
So, the next step is to time yourself.
Get the timer out and see how long it takes to mow the yard or any other chore. How long does it take you on average to write a blog post? Figure out approximately how long it REALLY takes you to do these things. Not how long you think it SHOULD take you, but how long does it really? This step is key. What good is a schedule if you don’t give yourself enough time or too much?
It’s OKAY if you find that you take much longer than you should in some areas. You can use these times and numbers as goals to beat in the future. The idea is that you will begin to see areas in your life that you can improve, and also get a better idea of tasks that you can stick into slots when you only have a few extra minutes to spare.
Make A New Schedule
This time, the idea is to block out your time as you did in step one BUT rather than logging what you DID, you’ll be planning the next day. Consider your priorities and your goal list and block out the hours in 30 minute increments. Be sure to give yourself enough time to accomplish goals, but not too much time that you’ll not know where it went later.
You’ll be amazed at how much time you REALLY do have. For example, in my sample schedule, I may have felt like I didn’t have enough time during my days and evenings without even realizing the time spent watching TV. Or, maybe I was getting caught up in surfing the internet while I was supposed to be writing and working on my blog – or whatever!
Once it’s all down on paper and in black and white, you’ll begin to see blocks of time that could be moved around (maybe wake up 30 minutes earlier or watch 30 minutes less of TV?) in order to get more accomplished. You can add in blocks of time that are nothing more than buffer zones and challenge yourself to beat your time goals, rewarding yourself with the extra time as “free time” or using it to accomplish even more.
Lists and strict schedules aren’t for everyone, and that’s not really the purpose of this exercise, anyhow. The point is to become aware of exactly how you spend your time now verses your priorities and goals and how you work towards those with your current schedule. It’s about being aware.
Your new schedule may need to be tweaked many times before you find something you love, and even then you may choose to simply use it as a loose guide – or you may just fall into a great routine and not need a paper reminder – and, that’s okay too! Heck, you may even decide you liked wasting half of your day better, and that’s fine as well! At least you KNOW now where that time is going and can make the conscious decision on how to spend YOUR time.
Two very effective products that will help better manage your time are:
Do you find that you waste more time than you realize? What are your thoughts on trying this method of better managing your time? Will you try it?