Use An Activity Log
A method you can use to get more detailed insight into how you are using your time is an activity log. An activity log is simply a page or two in your journal where you record how you spend a day. When you first use an activity log, you may be shocked to see the time you waste!
Memory is a poor guide for this, as it can be too easy to forget the time spent on non-core tasks. Do you have any idea how much time you spend eating lunch? Reading junk mail? Talking to colleagues? Doing the laundry? Or fetching a missing ingredient at the grocery store?
Activity logs can also help you track changes in your energy, alertness, and effectiveness throughout the day.
Many people discover they work at different degrees of effectiveness throughout the day as their energy level fluctuates. Your efficacy may vary based on:
- blood sugar levels
- routine distractions,
- the length of working without a break
- stress, or
- other causes
Use an activity log assignment
Keep an activity log for two days to better understand how you spend your time and when you perform at your best. Choose two days that you would consider to be ordinary.
In your journal, log your activities, the importance or value of that activity, and how you feel throughout each day. List the start times of each activity and write down a new start time each time you change activities.
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Here is an example of an activity log:
Time – Activity – Description – Duration – Value (high, medium, low) – How I feel
8:05 – prepare breakfast – 20 – high – tired
8:25 – read newspaper – 10 – medium – tired
8:35 – drive to work – 35 – high – flat
9:10 – fetch coffee + greet coworkers – 10 – low – flat
9:20 – open + check mail + start computer – 5 – medium – flat
9:25 – interruption coworker – 10 – low – flat
9:35 – check mail – 5 – medium – flat
9:40 – start working on important report – 10 – high – alert
9:50 – telephone interruption – 10 – low – flat
While you do not have to state your mood for each activity, try to establish a pattern by listing at least every hour how you feel: alert, flat, tired, energetic, and so on. The more detailed your log, the easier it will be to see patterns emerge.
After two days, analyze your daily activity log. You may be alarmed to see the amount of time you waste doing low-value jobs. You may also notice that you feel energetic in particular parts of the day and flat in other parts. Much of this can depend on the rest breaks you take, the times and amounts you eat, and your nutrition quality.
Also, take into consideration the energy drainers and energy gainers. Could an energy drainer or gainer be something you ate? A conversation you had? Something you did? An interruption? The activity log gives you a basis for experimenting with these variables.
Understand your peak times. If you are a morning person, get up at the crack of dawn and get jobs done. Recognize your most productive times, and schedule your most important tasks within those times.
Your analysis should help you determine the time you can free up during your day. Gain that extra time by applying one of the following actions to as many time-wasting activities as possible:
- Reduce the time spent on legitimate personal activities such as making coffee. Take turns with your team member to do this—it saves time and strengthens team spirit.
- Try to lessen the number of times a day you switch between different kinds of tasks. For example, read and reply to e-mails in blocks only once in the morning and once in the afternoon.
- Schedule your most challenging tasks for the times of day when your energy is highest. That way, your work will be better, and it should take you less time.
- Cut out jobs that your employer shouldn’t be paying you to do. These may include tasks that someone else in the organization should be doing, possibly at a lower pay rate, or personal activities such as sending non-work-related e-mails or checking your social media.
It is obvious that when you use an activity log you gain valuable insights.