If you want to lose weight, you keep a food diary. If you want to get out of debt, you record your spending. Likewise, if you want to use your time better, you should keep a time log.
But how do you do that?
That’s a question I’ve been asked a lot lately. Here are some instructions:
- Print up the spreadsheet from My168Hours.
- Start whenever you want; it doesn’t have to be Monday morning. Now is a good time.
- Write down what you are doing, in as much detail as you want. “Work” and “wrote up op-ed pitch for USA Today” are both fine, but one gives you more info to work with later.
- Think of yourself as an attorney billing your time to different projects. Keep the spreadsheet with you. If you forget to record what you’re doing for a while, just approximate the time later.
- Keep going for 168 hours. You might want to try a second week too, as recording your time is a habit, and building habits takes time.
After you’ve recorded 168 hours, break your activities down into categories. How much time did you spend working? Commuting? Interacting with your family? Sleeping? Exercising? Doing personal care (like showering or doing your hair)? Doing housework or household administration? Watching television? Reading?
Do these numbers reflect the number of hours you’d like to “bill” to these projects? What do you think would be ideal? Can you change your schedule to get closer to that ideal?
A version of this post originally appeared on Laura Vanderkam’s website.