screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-10-12-11-amHow we think we spend our time and how we truly spend our time, are two different things. When trying to create a more balanced life, the biggest struggle we all face is a lack of time. We generally know what it is we want to be doing. We may wish we could spend more time exercising, reading more, spending more time with loved ones, or focusing on that new project. What we don’t know is how we will ever find the time to do the things we want to be doing?

When we have a good understanding of where we spend our time and how much time we are using on each task, we can begin the work to better manage the time we have. Whether you admit to having a few time wasters in your day, or you consider yourself a productivity expert, a time audit will reveal where you truly are spending your time.

A time audit is simply a log of how you spend your time. For the audit to be effective, you need to create it in real time. Therefore, creating a list from memory is not going to do the trick. An effective time audit should be done over a period of time, usually one week and cover regular intervals of time such as every 60, 30 or 15 minutes.

An effective time audit will allow you to discover the time wasters in your day, show you areas where you can better batch your time, and allow you to prioritize and schedule tasks around other priorities.

Here’s how to do your time audit:

The first step is to download this time audit worksheet. The time audit should cover one full week. You can decide if you would like to track your work week or all seven days. You will need to print one worksheet for each day you wish to track. You will keep these sheets next to you at your desk or in your planner, whichever is most convenient.

The next step is to set a timer for a set amount of time. You can track your time as little as every 15 minutes up to 1 hour. The shorter the timeframe, the more detailed your results!

Now, track your time! Each time the alarm sounds, write down exactly what you were doing at that time and reset the alarm. You don’t need to go into detail or spend much time tracking. The entire process will take seconds, and the results will be well worth the interruption.

Once you have collected a full week of data, it’s time to review your results. Go through each day and highlight anything that you should not be doing. I like to use different colors to designate what is a time waster, what I should delegate to others, what is important client facing work and what is a business building activity.

Once you review your time audit, you can develop a plan to better manage your time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself:

Where am I wasting time? Chances are there are some obvious time wasters in your day. Common distractions include watching TV or the news, surfing the internet and social media.

Where can I batch my tasks? Batching similar tasks together allows you to be more efficient. Rather than making phone calls at random, schedule a block of time to return calls or make phone calls. You can also schedule a day for errands and out of office activities.

What activities are not the best use of my time? There are some tasks that simply don’t matter. If something seems trivial, decide if it is necessary and if so, is there someone else who can complete that task for you?

We all have the same 24 hours, but it’s ONLY 24 hours. Time is a precious resource that should be spent on things that are important to us and leave us satisfied. When you make the best use of your time, you focus on the priorities and free up time by letting go of the rest. In business, this means you can focus more time building your business while having time for the things you enjoy the most.

How are you spending your time?

How we think we spend our time and how we are truly spending our time, can be two very different things.

When we have a good understanding of where we spend our time and how much time is used for each task, we can begin the work to use our time more effectively.