Tracking Time

Lately, pretty much every second of my productive time has been logged. Now, this may seem a bit strange to many of you, but it’s been awfully good for me.

It started with freelancing

You see, I started tracking my time working on freelance projects, because on a freelance project, I need to know exactly how much time I spent in order to receive the correct amount of money for it. When I realized how effective it was, I started tracking my time on everything.

Then I started wanting to know exactly where all my time went. As a college student, with various projects across my classes, it was hard to know how much of my time was spent doing productive things and how much was lost — whether through video gaming or other pursuits.

So I started tracking all my time

I started keeping track of all the time I spent in classes or on coursework. Within a week, I knew that much of my time was simply wasted. I spent hours just sitting on the computer surfing the web. And yet, I was surprised just how much time I did actually spend on schoolwork. Combining the time that I worked with all my coursework and my freelancing, I was racking up quite a few hours in worthwhile things. Just not enough.

Why this was helpful

What really surprised me, though, was how much more I could focus when I knew that what I was doing was being recorded. I wanted to be able, at the end of the week, to see where I had spent my time. To know that I was, in fact, doing the equivalent amount of work that I would with an actual career.

Each day, I’m eager to get started. I want to be doing something that will contribute to those hours for the day. On days that I have more things that will keep me from work, like a doctor’s appointment, and extra-long drive, or time to hang out with friends, I find myself starting earlier to make sure that I can still log enough hours to feel like I’ve been useful.

What’s more, I can tell if I’m working too much. If I log over 60 hours in a week, I’m pretty sure that the next week I need to spend a bit more time in recreational pursuits. Life has to be balanced, you know. Therefore, I can know if I’m spending too much or too little time with something.

Streamlining my workflow

In addition to knowing how much time I spend, I track it according to my projects, classes, or other pursuits. For example, I know that last week I spent over 12 hours either in or working on homework for my calculus class (yeah, I’m not the biggest math whiz).

When I know where my time goes, I can decide where I can improve. For awhile, I was spending at least 30 minutes each day preparing workout plans for the swim team I coach. Then I realized that if I planned the whole week at once, it took much less time.

I love it

Knowing where my time goes is priceless. I’m so much more productive now, and I’m not so backed-up on school projects, because I’m focusing on spreading them out over the course of several days. When I finish one task, I’m immediately onto the next one, trying to keep the clock ticking, rather than stopping to play video games for a couple of hours. Procrastination isn’t a problem anymore. Really.

My tools

There are many systems out there that allow you to track your time free of cost, but I personally use Toggl. At times it has some problems synchronizing, but it lets me have a little program open on my desktop that shows me how long I’ve been working on a specific task. Plus, there’s an iPhone app that has proved to be awfully useful.

The end

All in all, time management is important for all of us. This is what’s worked for me. Incredibly well, actually.