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How To Take Inventory Of Your Time

How To Take Inventory Of Your Time

Whether working at home or working in an office, it is an unfortunate result that in today's multi-tasking environments there never seems to be enough time to do what needs to be done. No matter how many hours you seem to put in there are always tasks left undone or the feeling that somehow time was wasted through the course of the business day. Taking inventory of your time is a great way to see where the hours are going and possibly cut back or eliminate wasteful activities.

Determining the best way to use your time is essentially a two-step process. The first part of the process, much like budgeting a household, is to understand where your time is going. If you don't know where it is going then you don't know how your time is being utilized and if it is being spent in the most efficient manner. The second step, once you know how your time is being spent, is to prioritize and focus on more tasks that are important and eliminate tasks which have no benefit.

Over the course of one to two weeks the easiest way to determine where your time is going is to keep a daily log. This isn't a fancy endeavor so using a simple notepad or text document on your computer will allow you to take notes of what you're doing and when. The key is to remain focused and keep your log as accurate as possible with no breaks in time otherwise it would still be impossible to determine how your time is being spent. You also want to do this for more than a few days as that may not provide a big enough picture of your situation. The more accurate your log then the more detailed an analysis can be done to start focusing and prioritizing on what you're spending your time on.

It would be nice to think that personal tasks do not interfere while working in an office. That these types of interactions only affect those who work from home. The truth is because of the Internet and smart phones we always have the possibility of being distracted by what happens in our personal lives. This is a big part of taking inventory of your time and it may not seem like a big deal to receive some personal calls from family or friends but it may involve many hours of your day. This is a key part of the second step in the process which is prioritization.

Not everything that happens through the course of the day will have equal priority. Personal calls and interactions will more often than not be of the lowest priority with the exception of emergencies. Spending time playing games or browsing the Internet is obviously not appropriate during the course of a workday. It is nice to have breaks periodically to minimize stress but these types of time wasters can often prove detrimental to productivity.

After taking a few weeks of notes documenting activities it would then be good to go through the list every day and prioritize each item on a scale of 1 to 5 for most important to least important. Hopefully items which have a 5 next to them is something that could be eliminated completely. It is possible however that there are number of ones and twos that eat up significant amounts of time. At this point it is not about prioritization but about efficiency. If you're spending half your day on important e-mails then it would be beneficial to find a better way to manage what is being conveyed in an e-mail. This might be in the form of more but shorter meetings or face-to-face contact to iron out specifics and hopefully minimize the need for hundreds of e-mails.

Timing is often more precious than money in a lot of circumstances. You can always get more money but you can't get more time for what you need or love to do. An accurate understanding of where your time is going and whether or not it is being used properly or wasted is the key to taking inventory of your time. Don't let significant time sinks like e-mail and personal calls hurt the quality of your work and your ability to succeed. Taking inventory of your time requires a proactive approach to fundamentally understand what you're doing and if what you're doing is truly important. This is something everyone who is concerned about getting the most out of life should consider doing periodically.

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