Genuine Curiosity

Author Dwayne Melancon is always on the lookout for new things to learn. An ecclectic collection of postings on personal productivity, travel, good books, gadgets, leadership & management, and many other things.


Audit time!

Lately I've been frustrated that, even after a very busy day, I don't have as much to show as I'd hoped. So, I have gone back to the classic approach as I wrote about last year: I'm time logging again.

This year, my time logging is going more smoothly - I'm doing a lot of it electronically. Here are the basics:

  • I'm using a Microsoft Word document called "timelog.doc" and have added a shortcut to this document to my Startup group on Windows. Therefore, my time log opens up every time I boot my system.

  • I have created a few ActiveWords macros to make things easier.

    • "newday" adds a divider, inserts today's date, and moves me down a couple of lines to start my logging

    • "ct" inserts the current time and a couple of spaces so I can easily timestamp things

    • "log" opens up my time log document (because I accidentally close it a few times a day)

  • I'm logging more "extra" details than I did last time, such as:

    • the activity I need to be doing (or should be doing, or want to do) for the next chunk of time ("Need to review slides for xxx meeting")

      • this allows me to see how many times I end up doing something other than what I intended to do

      • if I deviated from the plan, I fess up on the next timestamp if I didn't do what I set out to do

      • I also record unexpected obstacles - like yesterday when I tried to print my credit card statement for expense purposes, but Chase's card member site was down for a flippin' long time

    • how many messages are in my Inbox (I only do this periodically - usually before I start processing my inbox, then again when I shift to a new task

      • this enables me to see things like

        • how much time I spend processing email

        • how many messages per minute I'm processing (am I meeting or beating the 2 minute rule or not)

        • the impact of any ratholes I got dragged into while doing email

    • how many caffeinated drinks I'm consuming

    • my energy level (on a 1-10 scale)

      • I look at this to see what impact certain foods and drinks have on my energy, as well as which activities energize me

    • what and when I eat and have snacks

I'm only a few days into it, but I'm already uncovering some sources of unproductive time, particularly during the work day. Here are some things I'm seeing so far:

  • It seems my days are either too structured (filled with meetings) or too unstructured (on days when I don't have meetings, I am not being deliberate enough about what I *want* to work on - this is what triggered my previous post)

  • Any time email processing takes me to a web browser, I'm in danger land

  • My mid-morning and mid-afternoon Zone Bars are really good for my energy level

  • I've been drinking way too much caffeine - I've cut it by 75% in the last couple of days

  • I feel better when I take a walk outside at lunch (vs. sitting inside the whole time)

  • I gain energy from making phone calls, but lose energy when I receive them

  • I don't schedule enough "catch up time" after meetings to write up notes, etc.

I'm going to keep doing this for a few more weeks to see how I can tune my behavior, and I know I'll learn more. I'm also looking for a good PalmOS-based time logging system that is easy to use and (ideally) synchs easily with a PC. I'll let you know if I find anything I like.

I highly recommend time logging periodically. If you're interested, a couple of good places you can learn about it are:

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