Key Learning Outcomes
- Learn about the benefits of recording the time you spend on both low-value and high-value activities so you can ultimately increase your productivity.
- Apply our four-step process for completing an activity log.
- Identify your low-value activities that should be delegated or are time wasters.
- Recognise the areas of your business where you can gain efficiencies and improve on the scheduling of activities.
When people are trying to lose weight it is useful to keep a food log, which is a record of everything they eat during the day. When doing this for the first time, people are usually shocked at how all those snacks and nibbles add up. An activity log for time management works in a similar way – it tracks everything that you do for a period of time. You are likely to find you are spending far less time on high-value activities than you thought.
An activity log is not a time sheet but an effective time management tool to use every now and again to monitor and analyse how your time is being spent, so you can make improvements. It does take a little bit of discipline and commitment, but most worthwhile tasks do. The following steps will guide you through the process and we suggest completing the log for a full week to get the most benefit.[wlm_ismember]
Step 1: Get prepared
Print our activity log template or use it as a guide to set up your own. You will see that we have set it up as a seven-day log with a time frame of 8am to 6pm; however, you will need to modify it to reflect your individual work days and times.
Step 2: Log your activities
You need to use the log to note what you are doing in 30-minute blocks of time during the day. We find it is easier to handwrite the notes, rather than inserting them in a spreadsheet as it is more convenient. As we said earlier, this does take some commitment and discipline. We are generally not good at remembering lots of details, so try as much as possible to add to the log regularly during the day.
Step 3: Create a system
For each time block you need to note what you are doing. Try to come up with your own system that makes it easy to analyse the log at the end of the week. For example, rather than simply adding the name of someone you met with, add some details about the purpose of the meeting. For example, it might have been a catch up meeting with a supplier or a sales meeting with a prospective client.
When logging your activities it is useful to note how you were feeling in terms of your attitude and energy levels by putting either a smile or a frown in the box. This will give you some valuable information when you analyse your log. Few of us feel on top of the world 100% all day every day, so this information will enable you to look for trends that will help maximise your productivity.
Step 4: Analyse the log
Once you have completed the log for the week, it is time to sit down and look at a few key areas that will help with your time management.
How much of your time was spent on high-value activities? The best way to calculate this is to use a highlighter pen and go through each day. High-value activities can include a face-to-face meeting with a client, training or mentoring session with a team member, productive ON the business time or self-development. You will find that there are a number of activities that are necessary but are not high in value, such as checking emails, paperwork and travel. You will also find that some time is wasted or is non-work related.
The key is to try and maximise the percentage of dollar productive time in your week. No matter how effective you are, it is unlikely that 100% of your activities will ever be high in value, but these tips will help you to move closer to the target.
- Look for activities in your week that can or should have been done by someone else. Often business owners and managers will be doing things just because they have always done them, or because it is easier if they do them rather than train someone else. It is essential that you learn to delegate as your business grows.
- Be aware of wasted time. You might be surprised by the number of blocks that are empty or that have filler items such as coffee or internet research. No one can work productively 100% all day every day. It is necessary to have some breaks, but watch that the percentage of wasted time does not creep up.
- Look for similar activities that can be grouped together into one time block. For example, you might have spent 10 minutes here and 20 minutes there on phone calls to clients. If you combine these into one time block, you will find not only does your time efficiency increase, but the calls will be more effective due to the greater focus.
- Watch for wasted travel time. If you spend time visiting clients, try to link your appointments together to minimise travel time. When booking in appointments, offer morning or afternoon on one or two days, and ask the client which will suit them best. They will make the choice and it will minimise the time you are out of the office.
- Check emails and your phones at set times during the day. You will be surprised at how much time is wasted constantly checking electronic devices.
When you look through your activity log look for trends in your energy levels. You might find that you were feeling good each morning but not so great in the afternoons. It is important to schedule important activities at times when you are feeling good. Everyone is different – there is no right or wrong. The key is to be aware of your own rhythms. Some people are much more efficient in the mornings, so they come into work early powering through a mountain of tasks before the phones start ringing. Others are slow to start the day, so they find working a little later suits them best. It is important to understand when your peak periods are so that you can schedule that important appointment or activity at the right time.
An activity log is not something you need to complete every week or even every month. It is something that you should do whenever you feel that your time management is failing you and you need to get back on track. You might find that once you have done it a few times you only need to complete it for a few days to see where bad habits have crept back in. Like most things, knowledge is power; the more you know about how you are working, the easier it is to make changes and improvements. Use this is conjunction with our other time management tools to ensure that you are making every minute count.[/wlm_ismember]
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