What I Learned From a Month of Tracking Every Minute of My Time
A few months ago, I was at a First Round networking dinner (another benefit of choosing the right investors) when a fellow CEO suggested a productivity hack to help optimize your schedule and make sure you’re doing more of what you want to do and less of what you don’t.
It’s as simple as this: track and categorize how you spend your time. Then use the data you gather to see if your time is actually spent accomplishing your goals.
While it sounded a bit labor-intensive to record everything I did, I knew the long-term benefits would be worth the effort. As I have most of my life in my calendar, it turned out be easier than I expected to track how my time was spent. So for four weeks, I tracked the time I spent on every meeting, every call, and every serendipitous/impromptu interaction with my team.
At the end of the tracking period, I made a chart that showed exactly how my time was divvied up each week, and another for the full four-week timeframe. I made categories that reflect the work I’m currently doing (these will obviously be different for everyone, and mine evolve over time as my role evolves).
Looking at the past month this way was eye-opening. One particularly challenging week I spent over 80% of my time in meetings. Only 4% of my time that week was spent with the Product team (a part of HotelTonight I like to lean into), while 17% was in “external” meetings, like informational interviews and networking. While I really like and value these meetings, this wasn’t striking the right balance for me. I wasn’t leaving myself enough time for things I really wanted to be doing more of, like getting advice from our investors, building relationships with strategic partners, working with Product, talking with press, and being readily available and accessible to HT team members.
So I resolved to be more proactive about how I spend my time, rather than reactive, and figure out what I could cut down on or do differently. Right away, I started blocking off and freeing up my own calendar, actively scheduling things I want to spend more time doing, rather than watching as my schedule gets slammed. I say no to external requests more often. I make it a priority to build in “white space,” aka unscheduled time, so I can be totally engaged in the scheduled time I do have. I now reserve 15% of my time to work with Product, and 25% of my time for email, deskside chats (we have an open floor plan and people at HT often spontaneously drop by my desk to chat or ask a question, which I like and encourage), ad hoc board requests, and the inevitable fire-drills. And as I’d hoped, the last few months have been way more productive and less stressful.
It’s really easy to be reactive with your calendar, especially as you get busy. But when you operate that way, your time gets filled up with things that aren’t accomplishing your goals, and can feel draining rather than productive. No matter the role you play in your company or what your priorities are, I highly recommend taking a look at how you’re distributing your time and how much of it is spent driving toward accomplishing your goals. If it’s not as much as you’d like, it’s in your hands to do something about it.
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By: Sam Shank, CEO and Co-Founder at HotelTonight