Managing our time is arguably one of our hardest tasks, because it requires managing ourselves. Our natural behavior patterns fight desperately against organization and productivity. Thus, we must reset our behavior. Self-discipline and self-evaluation will highlight previously unknown behavior patterns and tendencies. In order to better utilize my time, I decided to write down what I did every fifteen minutes, every day, for at least seven days. Here are five things that I learned about my behavior from tracking time.
1) I am more squirrelly than I originally imagined.
For the past five years, I have either taught or helped in children’s church. I learned that when a kid asks to go to the bathroom, they are most likely bored and hoping to escape their seat. Tracking my time showed me that I tend to escape my work and responsibilities just like the kids at church. I found myself periodically escaping my desk to go to the bathroom, snag a snack, or say hi to my mom – basically anything to elude my work. Before I decided to track my time, I was completely oblivious to this habit. Now that I am aware of its presence, I must work on taming my inner squirrel.
2) My time tracker became my accountability partner.
Like most teenagers, I have struggled to control my social media usage. At times, I have maintained control through online blocks and restrictions. Unfortunately, as soon as those blocks were removed I would binge on the social media that I had resisted all day. When you are writing down every single task and activity, writing “watched YouTube” or “scanned Instagram” looks extremely pathetic. They are a blaring red blotch on a record of otherwise productive activities. Having a visual of where my time was going forced me to make more responsible decisions.
3) I spend more time online than I originally thought.
Even though copiously writing down everything I did made me more responsible, I still wasted a shocking amount of time. On one of the first days I tracked, I spent about [gulp] six hours online. Admittedly, for most of these six hours, I was doing something else while I was online. While I blow dried my hair, I flipped through various blogs. While I ate breakfast, I scrolled through social media. Calculating my numbers, I only spent about two hours and fifteen minutes online while not doing anything else, and most of that time was late at night, which made me realize that practicing self-control when tired is especially difficult.
4) My idea of fifteen minutes is way longer than an actual fifteen minutes.
I tend to overestimate my ability to accomplish something quickly. What I think will only take fifteen minutes usually takes thirty to forty-five. Even a simple task, such as washing dishes or folding laundry, can quickly eat up more time than originally assigned to the task. Before I started tracking my time, I did not realize my ability to overestimate, and as a result I would get frustrated when there was never enough time in the day to accomplish my goals. Tracking my time taught me that a real fifteen minutes is much shorter than my imaginary version.
5) I caught a glimpse of adulthood.
From seeing how many hours I spent on school, I caught a glimpse of how few hours I work compared to the rest of the adult world. I have eagerly been awaiting the time when I will start a job, but now I realize that first I must develop the time management needed to juggle school and work (without letting either ball drop!). With my previous work habits, it would have been unrealistic to try to hold a job. I realized that I need to build a strong work ethic before I apply for a job, rather than haphazardly throwing it together when I am in the thick of school and a job.
Tracking time is an effective form of self-evaluation. While it does require dedication, it bears an equal reward. You will find yourself more diligent, more focused, and thus more productive. Your most useful time periods will be revealed. You will also notice your least productive time periods. Tracking time forces you to be honest about how effectively you utilize your day, thus giving you the opportunity to strengthen your weakest areas.