This is a very simple way to do something fairly magical: make more time.
There are 3 steps and only one is hard!
Select the record-keeping medium of your choice: an excel sheet, a notebook or word document, for example.
For the next week, you are going to keep AS EXACT A RECORD AS POSSIBLE of each day’s waking hours, ideally broken into half-hour chunks. For instance, it might look like:
9-9:30 AM: Made banana peanut butter smoothie, answered work emails, played 10 minutes of Boggle online.
9:30 -10 AM: Checked social media for 20 minutes; drank second cup of coffee, watered plants, did dishes.
10 -10:30 AM: Started edits on third draft of novel.
Warning: this is going to be annoying. You will forget to do it.
The point, however, is NOT perfection.
7 days is the goal because it gives a nice big pool of data.. The point is to get as accurate a time breakdown as possible, to become aware of your habits, and to identify your time-wasters.
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Now, the nice thing about Step 1 is that I find it tends to AUTOMATICALLY cut down on time-wasting. It’s hard to spend hours binge-watching Netflix when you know you’re going to have to write that down as your activity from 10-1.
But the real benefit of tracking is identifying how much time you spend doing things that aren’t in line with your goals.
If you look at your time-tracking over 7 days, odds are you can find a few time-wasters that you can happily cut down, freeing up time for things you REALLY want to do.
The point isn’t to become relentlessly efficient; it’s to find creative ways to free time up for important, interesting, or fun activities.
The best part about cutting down lame activities is the time it buys you.
For instance, looking over my sample schedule above, I can see I spent a full half-hour between 9 and 10 AM messing around on social media and playing online games.
If neither of those activities is particularly important to me – they aren’t – I can limit myself to 10 minutes on social media, and free up 20 minutes to do things that are more enjoyable like talking to my partner, getting a little yoga in, or teasing my little brother over Google chat.
20 minutes might not seem like much, but over the course of 7 days, little time adjustments really add up.
Once you’ve done your tracking, cutting, and increasing, try out your newly adjusted schedule for a few weeks – then, track your time again. Are you happy with the new way your time is organized?
Kate Hamill lives and works in New York City, where she consumes an inordinate amount of Sriracha daily. You can catch up with her on Twitter at @katerone.