November 7th turned out to be a great day for me to film that video. I was struggling to focus after a super-productive day the day prior.
The Monday before that, I was fighting a migraine and wound up spending the afternoon after my client session sleeping it off.
Life happens. Energy fluctuates. Plans go awry.
I find that spending a week or so baselining my calendar helps me to see where my time is going. This technique is particularly useful when I find myself being “busy” and not accomplishing anything.
Doing this practice over an extended period of time helps me see patterns.
For instance, from doing this practice during the last year, I discovered that I have a pattern of having a “down” day – where I struggle to focus and get motivated – after I have a hyper-productive day.
Now that I have awareness of this pattern, my current challenge is to figure out how to more evenly spread my energy through the week and maintain a steady pace. Ups and downs in energy are natural – they just don’t need to swing so wildly.
I know my current circumstance differs from many readers. I have more control over my schedule than most people do. I’m also in a rare period where I don’t have any externally developed deadlines to meet. It’s a good opportunity to learn more about my natural cadence.
It’s also a great opportunity to see where I am truly “wasting” time and evaluating why I’m procrastinating / avoiding the work / distracting myself.
- Use your daily calendar – wherever you look to figure out what you need to do that day. This example uses Google Calendar – which is where I do most of my scheduling.
- If you have not done so already – create a separate “calendar” that is shared with no one. This will be your task / done list. Others don’t need to see what you actually did.
- Color-code the tasks you have blocked time to do. This will differentiate them from meetings/teleconferences/other scheduled events that involve others.
- During the day, as you task-switch, spend a few seconds adding what you did. It doesn’t need to be specific. For instance – if you spent 1-hour answering help-desk calls, just type Help Desk. If you spent another hour watching cat videos, just type Personal. If you were playing task whack-a-mole, just type Random, or Mole, or whatever lets you know that it was spent doing those uber-small, annoying, random work things.
- Make sure you also keep track of the time you spend preparing for and following up from meetings. This includes any time spent going to and from. Meeting-switching eats up more time and cognitive load than we think.
This process is harder to explain (and read) than it is to do. For those who track time for billable hours- this practice is a no-brainer.
Hope this helps.