How to Track Your Work Time to Improve Productivity
Did you get side-tracked when you went to fix that snack a few minutes ago?
Interruptions seem happen quite frequently when you work from home. Time lost from numerous small breaks such as fixing a small snack and checking the latest updates on Facebook and Twitter really can add up over the day.
At times even bigger interferences happen that can’t be avoided, but on the other side of the coin, we sometimes allow ourselves to fall prey to interferences that we could have avoided.
For example, let’s say “Aunt Martha” called to let you know that she’s planning a special dinner next week and wants to know if you have a great recipe for vegetable beef soup. Instead of letting her know you’ll find one and call her back later after work….you get up and go digging in your kitchen drawers.
Instead of politely reminding people who are interrupting your work day that you “really are working right now”, you let people assume that you’re available at all hours of the day.
These types of interferences cause us to lose a lot of productive time in our home business.
So why track your work time?
To improve your productivity, it’s important to determine what percentage of your time is spent on actual productive activities and what percentage of time is spent on interruptions and distractions. You’ll need to start by carefully tracking your work hours and examining your daily schedule.
==> Keep a Work Diary for One Week
For one week, keep a simple diary that tracks exactly when you’re doing while at work. Make sure to write down when you start actually doing work, as well as when you start doing something else, like checking Facebook or going to the restroom.
Your journal entries might look something like this:
12:15 – Started Work
12:31 – Bathroom
12:36 – Started Work
12:52 – Check Email
Don’t cheat! Anytime you do anything that isn’t strictly productive, write it down. Whenever someone interrupts you or asks you a question, write that down as well.
Try using these free timesheet calculators (and templates) to quickly tally up your total hours / minutes of productive work :
==> Determine Your Most Productive Time
What percentage of your time is actually spent on productive activities? What percentage isn’t?
Once you have your one week journal completed, you’ll have an immense amount of data at your fingertips. You’ll be able to identify what your most common distractions are which will go a long way towards helping you improve your efficiency.
You’ll also be able to see what time of day is your most productive time. This may depend on your circumstances regarding outside distractions or this may depend solely upon your own energy level as some people work better in the mornings and some people work better later in the day. Either way, knowing your most productive time can help you optimize on productive even further.
==> Come Up with Productivity Policies
Once you know what’s preventing you from being productive, the next step is to come up with policies that keep you on track.
Let’s say that one major reason you aren’t being productive is because of interruptions and distractions. Every 15 minutes or so, someone comes by your desk and breaks your concentration. That makes it hard for you to get anything done.
You might combat this by instituting a “no interruptions” policy. Put a reminder note on your office door that says “No Interruptions, Please.” Or if this seems too forward, try a little humor and post something such as “I’m super focused right now…do you really want to mess that up?“ For the phone, you might let the answering machine take over during certain hours.
In such cases as having children who may need attending to, speak to them about how to handle simple situations on their own and teach them the difference between emergencies and just whining or tattle telling. Help them understand why you’re working from home and that you need their assistance in helping you get more things done by avoiding distractions.
If the distractions are in your own work areas such as spending 10 minutes every hour checking email, you may need to make a decision to only check email twice a day: once at the beginning of the day and once at the end. (*Read my post from last week on “How to Tame Digital Time Wasters in 5 Sensible Steps” for some ideas on how to handle these types of distractions.)
==> Schedule Blocks of Serious Work Time
One of the most effective ways to increase productivity is to schedule in blocks of serious work time. This is time that’s spent purely on work and nothing else. No distractions, no Facebook – just work.
When you track your work hours, you’ll be able to evaluate how much time is spent on distracting activities. These work time blocks are just the opposite: solid work time with zero distractions.
Okay, so this week, let’s try to find out which distractions are interfering the most, and then start scheduling some blocks of serious work time when we do our best work!
Don’t forget to grab Kelly McCausey’s training on “The Power of a Focused Business” which also includes some printable focusing sheets.
Your turn to comment…
What are some of your distractions?
What has helped you to stay more focused?