Most people dedicate eight hours every day for work. However, why do some succeed and why do others fail? Moreover, there are people who allocate less time at work yet achieve greater success than those who put more time at work. This is why you should audit your time. How you spend every minute you allocate for work will determine whether you achieve your business objectives or not.
What Is A Time Audit?
In the movie, “The Pursuit of Happyness”, Will Smith’s character Chris Gardner, is an intern vying for one of the few open slots at a prestigious stock brokerage firm. The interns are tasked to bring in new business for the company.
Because he has to pick up his son from school, Gardner only has six hours to cold call prospects while the other interns had nine hours. In order to make the most of his time, Gardner closely audits the time he spends on the phone.
Using data from his time audit, he realized that by not putting down the phone, he can add eight more minutes of productivity per day. Gardner also refrained from drinking water so that he would not waste time in the restroom.
By carefully accounting for his time, Gardner could work his way more effectively through the cold calling list.
Essentially, a time audit is an accounting of the hours you spend at work. Companies have their accountants perform audits to make sure every resource or asset is put to productive use. Time is a valuable asset. Properly invested, it can yield high returns for your business.
Time Audit Results In Effective Time Management
What do we mean by properly invested? Generally, when we talk about a good investment, we refer to an asset or security that was purchased at the lowest market price. The lower the cost of acquisition the lower becomes the risk. Consequently, the higher becomes the potential for profit.
The same logic can be applied to time.
You don’t have to spend a lot of time at work to become productive. The idea that you should dedicate at least eight hours at work is not a standard. It was merely a suggestion by a man called Robert Owen.
Owen was concerned that companies were working their employees too hard. So he suggested equally distributing the 24 hours we have in a day for work, recreation and family.
That suggestion was made back in the 18th century!
Fast-forward to present day and many studies have debunked the effectiveness of the eight hour work day. In fact, there are studies that show you can be more productive by working only five to six hours per day.
It all comes down to proper time management. Auditing the time you allocate for work will give you an idea of how best to schedule your hours for optimum productivity.
5 Strategies To Audit Your Time For Greater Productivity
- Learn To Delegate Tasks
If you want your business to grow, you should spend more time working on tasks that directly contribute to your bottom-line. Non-essential tasks such as filtering e-mail or taking phone calls are “time killers”. They are best delegated to people who specialize in managing those types of tasks.
A good option would be to outsource non-essential work to virtual assistants. These are professionals who work online and have the experience as well as the expertise to manage different types of responsibilities. You can find virtual assistants for any skill you need for your business.
Bestselling author, entrepreneur and speaker Tim Ferris swears by the effectiveness of virtual assistants. In his book, “The Four Hour Work Week”, Ferris said he was able to cut down 14-hour work days into just four hours per week by delegating tasks to virtual assistants.
Virtual assistants normally work 10 hours per week per client. If you work 40 hours per week, by hiring a Virtual Assistant, you could cut down your work hours to 30 per week or six per day.
- Set CLEAR Goals
Goal setting is a proven way of staying productive. The popular advice was to set SMART goals. SMART was the acronym for:
S – Specific
M – Measurable
A – Attainable
R – Relevant
T – Timely
However, in this day and age where economic conditions can be volatile, unpredictable and chaotic, flexible business strategies have become more important than rigid or highly-structured processes.
Instead of setting SMART goals, you should set CLEAR goals:
C – Collaborative
L – Limited
E – Emotional
A – Appreciable
R – Refinable
The first step in establishing CLEAR goals is to identify the long-term objective then break this down into smaller goals or components. These components can be assigned or collaborated with the members of your team. As we mentioned in the previous section, delegating tasks will help you get more things done.
Set limits on these smaller goals. This means you should have a time-table for delivery or completion. Lastly, you should be open to the idea of refining these goals in case business conditions change and run contrary to your long-term objective.
Adopting a strategy of setting CLEAR goals will help you move closer to accomplishing your objective in a more precise and controlled manner. Because the objective is broken down into smaller goals you can accomplish more in less time while managing the risks of making costly mistakes.
- Embrace Technology
You can track your minutes on a piece of paper like Chris Gardner or on a white board. Studies show that pen to paper is a great way of remembering tasks because there is a direct link between your brain, hand and the details you put on paper.
However, if you want to be more precise you can take advantage of technology. There are software programs that you can download on your PC or mobile device to help you audit your time.
Project management programs like Evernote, Asana, SalesForce and WebEx have features that allow you to better organize your daily activities. Many offer free versions which are good enough to help you stay on top of your tasks.
- Use Focus Blocks
Productivity experts such as Steve Pavlina recommend the use of focus blocks as a way to audit your time. A focus block is the amount of time dedicated to complete a task or a goal. It is followed by a quick rest period to recharge and reset your mind for the next task.
According to Pavlina, Americans only generate 90 minutes of productive time every work day. In an 8 hour or 480 minute daily work schedule, 90 minutes represents only 18% productivity.
With focus blocks, you allocate 90 minutes per goal. This means 100% total focus without any distraction. Once the 90 minutes are up, you can take a break for 30 minutes.
Assuming that you follow an eight-hour work schedule, you can have up to four focus blocks. If you are able to complete four goals, then your productivity rating shoots up from 18% to 75%.
- Learn To Prioritize Tasks
Let’s assume you agreed with our suggestion and decided to use focus blocks, the next question is:
Which goal or task will you work on first? There are three ways you can answer this question:
- Start with the Easiest Task – It will take the least amount of time and will get you off on the right foot by having an immediate accomplishment.
- Start with the Hardest Task – Remember that when you are using focus blocks, you have to stop working once the 90 minutes are done. It doesn’t matter if you completed it or not. Chances are, 90 minutes may not be enough to complete a hard task.
At the very least, you could accomplish a big portion of the required work. By doing the hardest task first, it will keep you from procrastinating.
- Start with the Task with the Highest ROI – Determine which project will pay you out the most. Prioritizing projects that have the highest ROI will make sure the time you allocate on each task will be well compensated.
Regardless of which method you choose, learn to prioritize goals and make your decision earlier. Knowing in advance which tasks you plan to prioritize the following day will help you prepare better. At the same time, it will save you precious minutes.
Conclusion: 3 Steps To Ensure A Successful Time Audit
A time audit will be useless unless conditions exist to support its objectives. Here are three steps you should follow to make sure your time audit will be successful:
- Avoid Distractions – You could be knee deep in work when out of the blue, your phone starts ringing. It could also be sounding off to notify you of messages. Of course, you might be tempted to check on your social media status. Remove all sources of distraction from your work space. Program your voice mail then put your mobile phone away.
- Organize Your Work Space – If you constantly find yourself looking for things for work such as office supplies or files, then you should organize your work space. It should have everything you need before you start work.
- Commit To The Process – There are days where work may get difficult and it may seem you are not accomplishing anything. When this happens, stay the course and commit to the process. The data you get from the time audit will help you find ways to get things done.
A time audit will help you find ways on how to manage your daily activities so you can be productive. You will come to realize why some tasks should be prioritized over others.
Productivity isn’t measured by the number of tasks you complete. It is based on the number of goals that you achieve. Remember, in business, if you are not moving forward you are moving backward.