4 Reasons Why You Should Track Your Time

A couple of years ago, I came across RescueTime, a powerful application that tracks (in the background) the time users spend on their various daily activities. The application gives users an assessment of their productivity based on how they allocate their time.

Curious to learn how it worked and to see how productive I was, I installed it on my computer and mobile device. Given that I spent a good chunk of my time working on my computer and mobile device, it was a fit for me.

At first, I didn’t expect to gain a lot of insight on my productivity; I was convinced I was productive enough and had a good command of my time. Turns out, it was an enlightening experiment, which opened my eyes to the benefits of tracking my time more diligently (including activities that weren’t performed on the computer).

If you’ve never done this exercise—i.e. tracking your time—I highly recommend it, even if you’re convinced that your productivity is unequaled. And if you aspire to increase your productivity and better manage your time, it’s a must. And here are 4 reasons why I recommend you track your time.

1. It Gives You A Clear Picture

You may think that you know where your time is currently spent. But if you’re not systematically tracking your time, I’m almost certain that you don’t; there are times spans that elude you, and you’re only going to capture them when you track your time diligently.

One of the most important things tracking your time helps you do is to expose time-wasters: activities that eat up your time but make no real contribution to your life. You may be surprised at the time consumed by unproductive activities. Once you identify these activities, you’re in a better position to purge them out of your life.

2. It Holds You Accountable

Humans are good at fooling others and themselves. If you’re standing in the cold waiting for the bus and it’s late by 2 minutes, you’ll feel like the bus was late by at least 5 minutes. But when you look at your watch, the data won’t lie; it will tell you it was 2 minutes, not 5 minutes.

We’re not as good as we think at tracking time mentally. Thus, using a tracking system is more reliable.

Tracking your time will keep you accountable. When you track your time, you can no longer bluff and lie to others or to yourself. The data will be there, staring you in the face and speaking its truth.

3. It Gives You a Record of Your Activities

I bet you can’t tell me what you did two days ago at 10:30 am? Let’s try another question: How much time did you spend actually doing productive work last week? When you track your time, you can answer these questions fairly easily because you have a record of the all the activities you’ve performed.

This can be valuable information. For instance, if you want to know how much time you spent performing a particular activity, say in a week, you can add up all the times you worked on it during that week, and you’ll get your total.

4. It Helps You Make Gains

When I began tracking my time, it became clear that some weeks I wasn’t spending as much time as I want writing. When I dug a little deeper, I realized what was happening. In most cases, I was spending my time on activities surrounding writing (e.g. reading, researching, listening to podcasts and to YouTube clips), but not writing per se.

The truth is that I didn’t really need all the time for those activities. Because of my analysis, I was able to “transform” some of this time into “writing time”. This was a huge gain for me.

Track Your Time

If like me, you spend a lot of time working on the computer, I recommend trying RescueTime for at least one month. After a week of using it, I had already gathered a lot of valuable information, which helped me become more productive. Although I don’t review my RescueTime report in details all the time now, the application is still installed on my devices, and I get weekly emails, which give me a general sense of my productivity.

If you don’t want to use an application, you can track your time yourself. It’s not very complicated.

The simplest, I find, is the good-old sheet of paper. Every day, carry a sheet of paper that has three column:

  • one to write the activity you’re performing;
  • one to write the time at which you start the activity; and
  • one to write the time at which you end the activity.

Every time, you start a new activity log it on your sheet.

You’re using your time on activities, but do you know what those activities are? If you don’t know, there’s a good chance you’re squandering many hours of your week. And if you think you know, you may be shocked when you start tracking your time closely.