Let’s be honest- we’re not always telling the truth about how productive we are. Admit it- you probably spend ten hours or more per week watching TV, right? Probably another five with email?
Yikes. It’s embarrassing just to think about. That’s why I started tracking myself- I was way underestimating the time I spent on non-productive tasks.
If you’re a business owner or just a busy person in general, it’s important to understand that there are many different tools that you can use to keep yourself on top of all your responsibilities. Most of us underestimate the amount of time we spend on social media sites, watching TV or doing other activities that aren’t really contributing to our personal or our business growth.
So, let me introduce you to two of my favorite tools that I’ve recently discovered and implemented in my business to see where I’m spending time and adjust my habits accordingly.
Tool #1: Toggl
Toggl is an excellent and free tool that allows you to manually track the time you spend on various projects. It’s perfect if you need to bill your clients on an hourly rate but it also works extremely well if you want to see how you’re spending your time individually. For example, I allot time each week for my coaching and freelance business, my writing business and writing my academic dissertation.
I use Toggl to ensure that I’m meeting my targets for each of these individual activities and to adjust my schedule for the following week if I wasn’t able to keep up or if any changes need to be made. It did take some training for me to get used to having Toggl open as a tab on my computer while I was working and to remember to hit stop and start and to label things accordingly.
However, Toggl makes it super easy to see how you’re spending your time by giving you an overview of things with different colors. Adding different tags and using the color feature makes it easier for you to visually display how you’re spending your time. It’s also perfect if you need to refer back to a client’s invoice instead of estimating how many hours you spent on a project.
Tool #2: Rescue Time
If you’re like me, way too many hours end up being spent on communication and in particular, answering emails. Rescue Time is an app that allows you to categorize various websites as productive, neutral or highly distracting among other categories.
This means that it’s easy to mark when you’ve achieved your goal successfully because Rescue Time monitors what you’re doing. It can tell you how much time you spend on particular websites, thereby blowing up the idea that you think you only spent 20 minutes on Facebook when in reality it was actually two hours.
What I love about both of these tools is that the free versions are more than sufficient for what you’ll need in most cases. This makes it easier to ensure that you are actually doing what you say you’re going to do and to give you a clear breakdown. For example, one of the reasons that I started using both of these was because I didn’t know how much exact time I was spending working on my freelance writing client business and answering emails. I was far underestimating the time I spend in my email inbox but overestimating the time I spend on client projects. Implementing both of these tools gave me a clear window of places where I could improve and encourages me to stay on track.
One of the ways to make both of these tools work for you is to use what I call ‘gamifying’ things. This means that you have a target set every single week. Perhaps you want to spend 10 hours working on your novel and 5 hours reading and learning. You can have the Toggl app on your phone for doing things on the go but the web version also works extremely well and you can sync between both. You’ll be able to see in Toggl, whether you’re on track for any of your goals and it can also encourage you to work through things more quickly than you tend to procrastinate and drag out. No more excuses about spending 4 hours to write one blog post, for example, if you’ve only allotted one hour in your schedule.
I regularly strive to hit my targets on particular goals such as spending time writing my dissertation. Those are the goals that it’s very hard for me to reach if I don’t have a specific hourly goal every single week. However, I also try to minimize the amount of time I spend on administrative tasks. Toggl and Rescue Time work both ways to help you put in more hours on those projects you’re constantly putting off while also decreasing the amount of time online you spend on tasks that are simply extremely distracting by encouraging you to do them as quickly as possible.
If you’re like me and you find that you were wasting serious time on nonproductive activities, don’t judge yourself.
Learn from it and move on.
But let’s keep it real- as soon as I’m “off the clock” I’m binge-watching Survivor on Hulu again and ain’t nobody gonna stop me! I enjoy it so much more knowing that I didn’t get derailed during the day by wasting time online.