Who Owns Your Time?

Have you ever tried tracking your time at work? How much visibility do have over how your hours are spent?

Before you answer, consider this scenario: you take your can in to the mechanic’s. You explain what is happening – a strange noise, a tug to the left – and the mechanic says “I understand, that will cost you $2500 to fix”.

You would probably insist that the mechanic actually examine the car, before giving you a quote. You would, in fact, be skeptical about the quote given.

If you have not actively tracked your time at work, then your view of your hours is like the mechanic’s view of the car in the above scenario: guess work.

The work

The key is to track and tag.

Note what you are doing and use simple tagging, or an equivalent, to collect data on the areas of work.

Consider tagging by project, task type, or business area. If you are a boss or manager, also note the difference between doing your work and managing, training, or supervising others.

The interruptions

Real insight comes when you start to track all the interruptions and non-growth focused work.

How much time are you spending putting out fires, correcting previous errors, etc.?

How much time are you spending doing other people’s work, instead of training them on doing that work?

How much time are you spending doing the same things, or repeating the same things, more than once or twice?

The invisibles

Then start to note how long it takes you to manage all these different areas. Finding the invisible depletions of time will be essential to improving your time management. And therefore your productivity.

You might track when you are in meetings, but are you tracking what is getting done in those meetings? Can you quantify the effectiveness of each meeting? Use tagging for detailed tracking of meeting time as well.

What about context switching? Are you tracking how long it takes you to achieve steady work-flow after an interruption, or after moving from one area of business to another?

Data shows that the brain requires about twenty minutes to be fully productive after a context switch. The more you move from area to area, the less productive you are.

What do you do?

Have you ever stopped to ask yourself what role you want to play in your business?

Will you client facing? Managerial? Strategic? Operational?

Do you want to spend most of your time on finance? On sales? On people? Or on innovation?

Will you be operating the craft of the business? Or managing the on-site people? Do clients work with you or somebody else?

Once you have a good understanding of where your time is going, and have made a decision of where you want your time to go, you can build a system to maximize your own productivity.