How To Do A Simplified Time Audit
Since I am no longer making new posts at the Sublime Your Time blog, I’m going to start posting more business, success, and time management articles here at the CJ Blog, in addition to the usual topics I already discuss here.
I’m doing this for several reasons, the primary of which is to save time on my end, but also because of something big I’m announcing at the Blackdragon Blog tomorrow. Once that this announcement occurs, this subject combining will make a little more sense.
Anyway! Today, I’m going to show you an easy way to track your time usage to see where the time sinks are in your day-to-day schedule. I have already covered the concept of the time audit right here. I strongly suggest you read that article if you have not, since the time audit is one of the best ways to improve your time management.
The summary is that you write down literally everything you do, and the exact time you do it, and do this for two or three days. It’s a little tedious, but you will gain a huge amount of important information when you do it, and I strongly recommend you do this. You will be shocked at where you’re actually spending your time.
A simplified time audit is another variation. It’s not quite as accurate as a full time audit, but it’s a little easier and you can do it over a longer period of time, say a week or two. Once done, you’ll have a pretty good amount of information as to how you are spending, or wasting, your time.
Here’s how you do it:
Step One: Break down all the work you do into 5-10 categories. If you’ve read my book, you know there are three types of work:
1. Standard Work (SW) – Work you must do that sustains your income.
2. Improve Income Work (IIW) – Work you don’t have to do, but improves your income if you do it.
3. Useless Work (UW) – Easy, routine or lower-stress “busy work” that you shouldn’t do at all.
Use these three categories as a starting point, but not the actual categories you use. For the purposes of the simplified time audit, these categories are too broad. For example, you could set up categories like checking email, writing, marketing, client work, operations, financial, etc.
Using myself as an example, with my personality and my businesses, my categories are below. Remember, yours will be different, so just use this as an example; don’t copy my categories verbatim since many of them won’t apply to you.
IIW – As above, any work that improves my income. This could be marketing, tweaking, writing new books, developing new seminars, etc.
Non-IIW projects – Work that needs to be done, often outside of my business life, that improves my life somehow but doesn’t improve my income.
Blog work – Any work managing or maintaining my blogs. (Improving my blogs would be IIW, not blog work. See how this works?)
Blog writing – Writing blog articles.
Email and comments – Responding to emails and/or responding to comments on my blogs or the private SMIC forum.
SW – As above, any “usual” work that I have to do that maintains my current income and doesn’t fall into any of these other categories.
BH – Billable hours, which means work I do for my corporate consulting clients.
MW – Monthly work, a list of 14 items that I have to complete every month (SMIC podcast, my email newsletter, backing up my web sites, etc).
As I said, use your own categories. Those are mine. I have eight categories; you may have five, six, or ten. Try to keep the number under ten, just for your own sanity. Most of you reading these words are going to have a far less complicated work schedule than I do.
Step Two: On a spreadsheet, list out your time categories on the left-hand column, then across the other columns list the date and the number of minutes you spend in each category. You can do this for a few days, a week, or even two weeks. I generally do this for 10-14 work days. (I personally work seven days a week, by choice, but I have big goals and I love to work.)
Step Three: Every day you work, use a timer app on your phone and time all of your work. When you’re doing IIW, start your timer. When you switch to checking email, stop that timer and start your email timer. If you go back to doing IIW, stop the email timer and re-start the IIW timer. (As I’m typing these words, I have a timer going for blog writing, and I’m 21 minutes in so far.) Do this for the rest of the day until you’re done working for the day.
Step Four: When you’re done for the day, enter in your minutes into your spreadsheet in the correct category slots. If you want to be really nerdy, you can have the spreadsheet calculate the percentage of time you spend on these things. (I do.)
Step Five: Repeat tomorrow, and for the next few days.
Step Six: When all done, go back and look at exactly where you’re spending your time. Then ask yourself these questions:
1. Am I spending too much time in one or two areas? (I already know the answer to this: YES!)
2. Is there anything I should stop doing? (Again, YES!)
3. Is there anything I should do less of?
4. Is there anything I should outsource?
4. Are there any important areas (IIW, as just one example) that I’m not spending enough time on?
5. Am I not working hard enough? Could I be putting in some more work hours per day to accomplish my goals? Am I slacking off, being lazy, or being distracted?
6. Am I spending too much time in easy/fun areas (Useless Work) when I could be spending more time in important areas?
Give it a shot. You’ll be shocked at what you learn, and how just a few little tweaks in your schedule can give you some major returns.