Time tracking is a lot of work, but it can have a lot of benefits. In 2013, I tracked every hour of my November, and this year I'm planning on tracking every single hour in February.
Here are the three reasons why I try to track 1 full month every two years:
We are given 24 hours per day to spend, invest, and enjoy. Good stewardship involves being able to account for the assets that you are entrusted with, but too often I find myself asking the question “where did the time go?” That question is the opposite of giving an accurate quote.
Good stewardship requires mindfulness and intentionality. When you start tagging tagging your activities, you become more mindful of what you're doing and less inclined to waste time.
I group all my time-wasters (fiddling with apps, youtube, gaming, surfing the web) in a category called selfishness. Discipline tells me that when I finish a task, I have to start tagging another. My laziness wants to open YouTube, but I don't want to log hours in selfishness categories.
This technique only works if you log ALL your time though, which requires a lot of willpower to form the habit.
I am an hourly worker at my jobs. If I don't report hours, I don't get paid. Forgetting to clock in and trying to remember when you work is hard unless you have some sort of data. Diligent time logging can tell you all that and a bag of chips.
When you accompany your punches with a comment on what you did, you can begin to track how much time it takes to do things. Last time I did this, I learned how long it takes me to cook dinner, clean the house, walk to school, and a slew of other things that I thought I knew how long they took, but consistently underestimated. The data doesn't lie.
Lastly, over the course of a month, you can generate some really cool reports of your data to measure sleep patterns, homework patterns, time spent socializing, eating, gaming, you name it.
Setting up a time logger
I use an app called aTimeLogger. The first time I did time tracking I had WAY TO MANY activites in thee (20). It took a lot of willpower to figure out what category some things fell into.
Now, I use four categories (that could be stand alone activities): work, social, health/growth, selfishness. I've found that 99% of activities fall into these categories and I am most interested in tracking how others oriented/work oriented/health oriented/selfish I am as far as my use of time goes.
Once the system is set up, whenever I change activities, I open the app (on my main screen) and tap the action and enter a comment. That's it.
Time tracking can be a daunting but rewarding endeavor. It's not something to do 365 days a year because of the mental effort it requires to keep it up, but doing it for one month at a time can form habits that carry over to months without time tracking. If you like the benefits but have some questions on how to implement, leave a comment below.