Trying to manage your time better? Check out this article by guest blogger, Brian Lachniet, who just happens to be my husband. He has his own blog on his passion, computer programming, at www.blachniet.com.
Time is a precious resource. We never seem to have enough of it. I’m a software engineer and my industry, like many others, is constantly trying to find ways to make more with less time. In this post I’m going to detail a process that I’ve used to improve my efficiency on tasks at work and at home.
If you do this step correctly, it will be painfully tedious. Start by tracking the amount of time that you spend on every task throughout the day. I mean it, every single little task: cleaning dishes, responding to emails, giving your child a bath, paying bills, making dinner, mowing the lawn, etc. Track it all. Before you start a task, write down the name of the task and the time you are starting. Before you move on to the next task, write down the time you finished and the total amount of time it took.
Notice that we didn’t plan out the tasks that you want to do yet. We’re just getting a record of the things that you actually do throughout the day and the amount of time it takes you to do them. Do this for a week.
You may notice that this really helps you stay focused on a task. You may be less likely to allow distractions to slow you down, because you want to see how fast you can get the work done. However, you may also quickly notice that you spend a lot of time tracking the amount of time you do things. That is why you only do this for a week.
Now it’s time to take a look at all the data that you’ve gathered. There’s two important piece of information you should extract from your data collection:
- For each task, the average amount of time it takes you to complete
- The total amount of time that you spend on tasks throughout the day
In addition to gathering this data, you should also take a look at some of the tasks that took the longest and try to think of ways that you could reduce the time you spend on them. You may have already thought of ways to speed them up in the previous step. Something that you can do to speed up almost any task is to reduce the number of distractions that you have. Maybe you need to have your son play in his room while you make dinner so you don’t have to chase him down to retrieve the pots and pans that he stole.
After you’ve gathered the information from the previous step, you can plan tasks for the upcoming week. You have a set of tasks that you would like to complete in the upcoming week and you have an educated guess of how long each of those tasks will take. You also know how long you generally have during each day to complete work.
Let’s say that you generally spend 10 hours total during the day on tasks. Go ahead and plan the work that you want to complete on each day of the upcoming week. Use your estimates of how long each task takes to make sure you don’t plan for more than that 10 hours per day.
You may notice that a side effect of all this planning is that you actually end up with more time on your hands. The planning helps you focus on the task at hand and you don’t waste any time during the week trying to remember what work you needed to get done.
Rinse & Repeat
I like to repeat this set of steps every few months. The collection and analysis steps can be rather tedious and time consuming, so you don’t want to have to do it too often. The planning step should happen on a weekly basis. By performing the entire set of steps again in a few months you can account for any environmental changes that might cause some of your tasks to take longer (maybe another child), or account for new tasks that you need to complete on a regular basis.
As far as tools, I love using Toggl to track my time. There are a lot of time tracking tools out there, but I love Toggl’s simplicity. However, an app is not the best choice for everyone. For some people, an app may just be another distraction, so a pen and notebook might be best. The most important part of all of this is to make it work for you. Everyone works differently, so you need to find the way that you best improve your efficiency.
This post/page may contain affiliate links. Please read my full disclosure policy.