Time For A Time Audit (Time Series Pt. 4)

By Minji

"Have you ever taken a closer look at how you spend your time?  In my role as a board certified executive/life coach, one of the most common complaints I hear is, “I’m too busy, I don’t have enough time … and how can I find balance?” My first suggestion to anyone who has this issue is to conduct a 2-week time audit."

Continuing on with our deep exploration of time where we've discussed the complexity of time, “stealing time,” and also the relativity of time, I’d like to conclude this series with a proposal for a time audit.  Have you ever taken a closer look at how you spend your time?  In my role as a board certified executive/life coach, one of the most common complaints I hear is, “I’m too busy, I don’t have enough time … and how can I find balance?” My first suggestion to anyone who has this issue is to conduct a 2-week time audit.

Here’s how to do it.  For at least two weeks, keep a regular calendar of all of your time spent.  You can do this on an online calendar, pocket book or journal, whatever you prefer.  The thing to remember is to log all of your time spent – not just meetings or appointments, but log sleep time, eating time, time you spent watching TV, working out, all of it meticulously.  Once you have two weeks’ worth of time data, it’s time to take a closer look.  Have three colors of pens or highlighting colors (if you’re looking online) ready – I like to use red, green and yellow, to keep it simple. 

First with red, highlight all the blocks of time that you feel are absolutely necessary and valuable.  Exercise a high level of discipline when you’re doing this – only highlight sparingly.  For example, your eight hours of sleep, your one hour of exercise, 30 minutes for a shower and your skincare routine, quality time you spend with your family, essential meetings at work, etc. 

Next, pick up your green pen or highlighter.  Now, go through the non-red parts of your time sheets and only color in chunks of time that are either empty or you feel were not a good use of time.  For example, if you went to a dinner event only because you felt obligated to but didn’t enjoy at all, or if you spent three hours binge-watching TV, you might color in all or a portion of these time blocks.

Then, take another very close look at your time sheets.  This time with the red and green blocks shaded in, the remaining time should only be time spend doing something that was somewhat valuable but not crucial.  Remembering actively and intentionally that time is your most valuable resource (more important than money, chocolate or skincare), take your yellow pen and only highlight time chunks that you feel were worth it – talking into account opportunity cost (i.e., if you feel like there could have been a better use of that time chunk despite the fact that it was somewhat valuable, then don’t highlight it yellow). 

Lastly, color in any leftover space with green again, and now let’s focus on the green.  This is your free zone, your surplus…if you compare it to money, basically the money you have left over after paying your bills and taking care of essentials.  How does it look – are you spending your time wisely?  What are the things you always wish you had time for but never have the time to do – could you imagine doing some of that stuff instead during these green slots of time? 

Take it one step at a time and maybe change one or two things in green – even if it’s just eliminating the unnecessary activity and giving yourself some margin, or replacing it with something you’ve always wanted to do but never had the time for.  Try this new schedule for a while, then come back and do another audit and repeat.  Don’t only worry about making sure your check book balances and take a regular look at your time too.  Even if you can't see and feel time like you can with money, it’s your most valuable resource and it makes sense to put in the effort to manage it well!