Boy, does time fly when you’re having fun and tracking every minute of your work day. In my role as an Innovative Learning Group project coordinator, that’s exactly what I do — track very carefully how I’m spending my time. Recently, I took a new approach to tracking my time and began tracking by task (e.g., reviewed a programmed course or created a project schedule) instead of by project (e.g., spent 5 hours on project A, spent 2 hours on project B) so I could see where my time was being spent. While it was hard at first to make the switch, doing so led to some very interesting ah-ha moments.
The Ah-Ha Moments
The first revelation was how many times I started and stopped the same task.
I discovered that because I was starting and stopping the same task multiple times, it took me longer to complete it. What should’ve been a 30-minute task ended up taking 45 minutes to complete because of interruptions. Now, the interruptions were valid — an email, a phone call, or question from a colleague — but, while important, they weren’t critical. Armed with this knowledge, I’m now confident and empowered to postpone responding to non-critical interruptions so that I may finish what I start.
Next, I began to see the true length of time it took me to complete certain tasks.
Sometimes a task took shorter than planned; other times, it took longer. By recording the time spent on each task, I’m better able to determine the valid and reasonable amount of time needed to complete it, which is very valuable knowledge to have for those tasks I have to do repeatedly. I’ve also found that chunking similar tasks together, even across multiple clients and internal projects, provides much-needed efficiencies and allows me to concentrate more fully on certain tasks.
My most valuable ah-ha? How tracking tasks provided a greater sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.
It’s often easy to focus on what remains undone and become discouraged. I think we can all relate to feeling exhausted at the end of a busy week, knowing we worked hard, but unsure of what we really accomplished and still feeling overwhelmed by all the outstanding items on our “to-do” list. My new approach to tracking provides me with a valuable evaluation tool. It more accurately assesses what I’m doing well, where improvements are needed, and how to view my accomplishments in a positive light.
While time still flies, at least now I know where it truly goes.