It has been said that what gets measured gets improved, and there is nothing that needs more improvement than how we spend our time. The good news about time is that your competitor has just as much as you do. The bad news is he or she may be using it better than you.
Unfortunately, you can’t change that. However, what you can do is manage your time better by setting clear priorities and sticking to them with rigor.
To do that, though, you must first be aware of how you spend your time. You can’t solve the problem without first identifying what the problem is.
Why track your time? No matter what business or life role you fill, noticeable improvement only comes when you have a measurable baseline to compare those improvements against. From the business perspective, you want to track how much time is spent on one project or life role vs. another so you can not only bill accordingly but also forecast future earnings. If you’re in more of a mid-level position, then tracking your time serves as a reference tool for when you go to your boss and say, “Hey, I’ve spent X hours on this project. Show me the money!” Maybe not in those words, but you get the idea.
To improve your productivity, here are five time tracking tools to help identify how you spend your waking hours -- and therefore, how to improve them:
1. Time doctor
Nobody likes going to the doctor, but this trip is worth it. Time doctor is smart in that it notices small changes in behavior when you work that prompt you to update your project. For example, I can set my current time task to writing my next Entrepreneur piece, but if I immediately switch over to check my email, the doctor will check in and ask, “Are you still working on your next (hopefully amazing) article?”
2. Eternity Time Log
It doesn’t get much more straightforward than this. Eternity provides an overview of how you spend your life such as work, hobby or family roles. Each role can be further subcategorized if you want to track specific tasks associated with each position, followed up with a graphical report for all you visual learners out there.
Not much ambiguity in this one. Timetrack was made for one thing and one thing only (yup, you guessed it -- to track your time). Time can be tracked both on and offline and even shared amongst a team -- a great way to incentivize others. After all, who really likes being the one with the least amount of time spent working?
This one is cool. Timely integrates with any of the major calendars (Google, iCal, Yahoo!, Microsoft) thus serving as both a scheduling and tracking tool. As a result, Timely forces you to be more mindful and disciplined about the appointments you set for yourself, resulting in more efficient work.
5. My Minutes
Here’s another handy app that lets you not just track but budget your time. Think of this from a goal-setting perspective. You can set the minimum or maximum amount of time you want to spend on a project and My Minutes will alert you when that time is up. You can also add a daily to-do list that will pop up to remind you what you need to do to start your day.
Tracking your time may seem a bit irritating at first but doing so forces you to consider what is worth spending your time on. After all, what you value is where your focus lies. Make sure you focus on the right task.