Do you often ask yourself this question after a hectic day full of calls, customer appointments, meetings, and maybe some work on your most important project?  

Time has slipped between your fingers, and you don't have the feeling that you have achieved anything. Even though you have a full day of work behind you, you feel solidified that you have gotten no further.  

There are still too many unfinished business items on the to-do list that have priority. Here's the bad news: With the mere feeling that something went wrong with your time management, you, unfortunately, get stuck.  

You have no measurable facts that show you where you may have spent time on the wrong tasks, what took much longer than planned, and where you were again surprisingly disturbed. 

However, there is also good news: you can easily track down the time-wasters! 

Find Out Where Your Time is Going 

If you have only guessed how long you have been doing something, you do not have a clean database. Instead, record all your activities for just one week, and you have a rough overview.  

Two or three weeks are better because, due to the more significant amount of data, they compensate for random events such as holidays, illnesses, special stressful situations, and one-sided activities (e.g., you are at a congress for two days). 

In our modern working world, the separation between work and private life is not always so clear: You come later because you are still taking your children to school, but you still work on necessary e-mails at home after work.  

For many people, simply being present at the workplace no longer provides information about their actual work. That is not the only reason why it is essential to observe all of your time. You will then get a comprehensive picture of whether and how you are using your time for your well-being and to achieve your goals. 

Recording your times and their use is problematic at first, but then brings you an irreplaceable knowledge, whether you are working on the right tasks, spending enough time for your family and your well-being, and getting closer to your goal. 

What Should You Observe? 

It is up to you which areas of your life you want to track. First, enter the areas as categories in which you classify your times.  

The more complex your professional and personal relationships are, the more precisely you should differentiate between the areas. An example: You have a family and a wide circle of friends and are a member of several associations. Here, I see three categories in the private sector: family, friends, clubs. 

Perhaps, you work as a salaried employee and set up your own business alongside: These should be two categories. Please don't forget the time you need for your well-being: breaks, fitness, training, or just hanging out in front of the TV.  

If you assign all times to a category, you will soon see where your time is going. I recommend these categories as a basis, but you should adapt them to the essential roles and areas of your life: 

  • Family (having fun with children, doing taxes, calling in-laws, walking the dog) 
  • Friends and clubs (call a friend, lead a board meeting) 
  • Me (meditate, wash your hair, go for a run, watch Netflix, read a book) 
  • Housework (shopping, filling the washing machine, ordering a plumber) 
  • Travel times (is currently not so much an issue due to Corona) 
  • Professional (appearing at the workplace, calling a customer, preparing a presentation) 
  • Project 1 (everything that relates to your current professional project and brings you closer to this goal) 
  • Project 2 (designing a sticker printing etc) 

The "what" is now clear. However, the "how" depends on your personal preferences.