When you reflect on last week, did you accomplish everything you wanted? Or is your Monday to-do list filled with items that were on last week’s list? If you find yourself in this situation repeatedly, you may want to consider focusing on time management. You’ll want to leverage your Calendar analytics to track your time usage.
Time management is exactly what it sounds like: using your time more effectively and efficiently. Whether you’re a CEO, an hourly worker, a student, or a stay-at-home mom, using your time better can allow you to focus on what really matters. For a CEO, that may mean focusing on workplace culture, while a mom may be able to give some precious moments back to herself. Time management is essential because it allows you to be more productive, reaching your goals by prioritizing what really matters.
How you spend your time is entirely up to you. If you have a term paper due at the end of the month, you can write a bit each day or pull an all-nighter before the deadline. A CEO can spend all her working hours in Zoom meetings without interacting with her employees firsthand. While both of these scenarios may have some faults, inevitably, your time is your time.
But to be more productive and thoughtful with your time, you must know how you spend it. Time usage includes all how you spend your days — from commuting to business meetings to exercise routines and meal times. Through digital calendar analysis, you can get a grasp on where your precious minutes are going. You may be surprised, for instance, that you spend so much of your productive waking hours in your inbox. So if you’re ready to get a handle on your time usage, see below for the three best ways to track and analyze it using your digital calendar.
1. Have Your Calendar Track Your Time
If you already feel like you don’t have enough hours in the day, chances are you don’t want to make time to track your hours, either. If that’s the case for you, then leaning into digital calendar software may be the best option. Fortunately, because many executives and business leaders focus on time management, the software is quite sophisticated.
Google Calendar has a built-in setting called “Time Insights,” so you can see how many hours you spend in meetings. If you are a personal assistant, you can also access this setting for other calendars you manage. To access it, you must be on the desktop version of Google Calendar. On the left-hand side, click “More Insights” and then select “Time Insights.” You can view based on a specific time period or even how long you’re meeting with others.
Microsoft Outlook’s time tracking system is a bit more advanced, but users must buy into another app. Microsoft’s Power App software provides users with a visual analysis of time spent. You’ll get a sense of exactly where your minutes are going through different charts and graphics. The data automatically syncs into a Data erse database and utilizes Microsoft’s Power BI to transform the hard data into visually appealing metrics.
2. Lean Into Color Coding and Time Blocking
If you want to analyze more than just your work meetings, you’ll need to do a bit of legwork yourself. However, once you have the systems that work best for you, you’ll be able to analyze the data quickly. Color coding is a simple solution to gain a similar visual representation of time usage.
Any digital calendar allows you to assign different colors for different meetings or appointments. Once a color is assigned, you can get a sense of how your day looks with a quick glance. You may notice that your mornings are filled with internal meetings, but your afternoons are free for heads-down work. If you’re a morning person, you may want to flip your day so you can concentrate more during your heads-down work and be more passive during meetings.
Along with color coding your calendar, you can also try time blocking. This method divides your entire day into sections so every hour is documented. It’s a visual technique so you can quickly look at your calendar and know-how that chunk of time will be spent. When the time is up, you move on to the next task, whether you’re finished with the prior one or not.
Time blocking works well for those who find themselves switching from task to task without actually getting anything done. Students may find it helpful if they feel overwhelmed by juggling sports practice with homework and social time. CEOs who find themselves in back-to-back meetings can benefit from setting aside time to work on their business goals. Try time blocking for a week and note when you’re running out of time for specific tasks. Use this data to analyze how you can cut back on time for something else and regain it later for this particular task.
3. Conduct a Calendar Audit
To be more productive, you need to see where your time is currently going. A calendar audit is a way to analyze where your hours are being spent so you can plan ahead accordingly. Some people will conduct a yearly calendar audit for their entire life, writing down everything from their booked yoga classes to their client meetings. Others may find it more beneficial to do mini-calendar audits throughout the year, such as at the end of each quarter.
A benefit of Google Calendar is that it will save appointments and meetings indefinitely. Through the search feature, you can quickly find all your meetings with a specific individual, place, or project. This can be helpful if you’re justifying to a manager just how long a particular assignment is taking you.
Microsoft Outlook users can recover old meeting data through the archive system. First, click the “Folder” tab and navigate to “Open Outlook Data File.” You should see an archives folder from there, which you can open and select to move to a new folder. Apple users should also be able to see their old meetings via iCloud. The information should sync to your new device even if you’ve updated your phone or tablet.
Once you’ve accumulated the data, you can ask yourself some pertinent questions. What are some things that you want to stop doing? Would your time be better spent ordering groceries online than spending 90 minutes weekly at the store? Are there things that you want to prioritize going forward, such as exercising or attending your kid’s soccer games? Knowing where you can cut back on tasks and reallocate your time will help you move forward more productively.
There’s No Better Time to Start Than Now
The idea of tracking your time can be daunting. While you may be putting off this task in favor of other, more immediate needs, remember there are positive benefits to time management. You’ll likely feel less stressed and energized and produce better outcomes. These are all reasons to look at your calendar today and analyze it based on time usage.
Featured Image Credit: Photo by Photo by Acharaporn Kamornboonyarush; Pexels; Thank you!