In the work and business arena, for maximum productivity one needs to address goal setting and time management on a routine basis, at a personal level as an employee or at a team level as an employer. But where do we begin with goal setting and time management? The first and most basic step towards these is activity tracking. Activity tracking is nothing but assimilating your activities of the day, yours as well as your employees’ and working on a goal setting plan that is structured around your everyday work patterns. Now, this might sound complicated initially, but it doesn’t need to be if understood and implemented properly. What activity tracking aims to achieve is a bird’s eye view of what goes on at your work place everyday, where the time is utilized, what adds to productivity and what doesn’t. Productivity can be improved when you can manage time better, and change your work habits to achieve maximum results on time. We bring you a simple 3-way breakdown of activity tracking:
The first step in activity tracking is to form a mental map of your day, beginning from the moment you wake to finally when you sleep at night. Your day will comprise of personal activities and business activities which can be clubbed together for easier assimilation, eg. you can club your morning personal chores such as bathing, dressing etc. into ‘Morning Chores.’ Once you’re conscious of what you roughly do in the entire 24 hours, make a list of those activities in order of occurrence in the day and keep it with you. For someone who is trying out activity tracking for the first time, we recommend not distinguishing between business and personal activities that you do in one day, and track all of them together. You will be able to distinguish and monitor them in separate categories once you get a better hang of the idea. It’s always a good idea to make this list a night before you start tracking your activities for the next day.
The most important component of activity tracking is recording. You can record your daily activities in a variety of ways, but some of the most commonly used tools for this purpose are a desk calendar, desktop applications for computers, a notebook organizer, a digital recorder among others which will allow you to record what and when to exactly suit your needs. When recording your activity, all you need to enter is the name of the activity and the time spent in form of time started and time ended. You may find yourself compulsively entering unnecessary information about the activity into the tracker too such as a description of the activity, things you need to finish it etc. which only clutter your tracking methods. Activity tracking is more about managing the time spent on activities as opposed to altering and changing the content and method of doing those activities, which are important but come at a later stage. They do not fall under the area of recording, because recording being the most important component needs to be simple and easily reviewable by you as well as others.
Remember, this recording is independent of the list you make during planning. When recording, forget about the list you made according to your mental map and record activities as and when you start doing them.
The third and final step in activity tracking is reviewing your daily tracking entries and making changes for the next 24 hours based on how you worked in the previous 24 hours. You need to have a careful look at how much time you spent on each activity done in the day, how much you should be ideally spending on it and then creating a goal for yourself for the next one week. If the activity of writing a daily report that should ideally take 30 minutes to finish, took a full 60 minutes, then for the next one week, assign yourself the task of bringing the time spent down to 30 minutes. Don’t keep any specific time limits for yourself, but make sure your time spent keeps decreasing over consecutive days.
Another element of reviewing is matching the activities recorded to the list of activities you made the night before. If they coincide to a large extent, it means you’ve got a good idea of what you do in your day. If they don’t coincide, or if there are too many activities you end up doing as interruptions without being conscious of them at the start of your day, you need to work on reducing those interruptions. If however, you find an activity that is worth doing and is important, however you missed it out while planning your day, add it to your list of activities to be done for the next day. The idea is to keep a constant congruence between what you plan and what you do.
The method of reviewing with activity tracking can be applied to your employees as well. If you’d like to increase team productivity and help employees manage time better, introduce activity tracking in your entire work place, and ask employees to submit their weekly reviews to you. This way a personal set of reviews employees make for themselves can be viewed by you at the end of the week to know how things are going.
Try out activity tracking and see if you can work with the methodology to achieve small sets of goals over time. For the next one week, track all your daily activities, making a single tracking chart for both business and personal activities and record your time. Review it daily and account for interruptions and emergencies as well. If you do a total of ten major activities in a day that take up majority of your time, see if you can manage the same work in lesser amount of time.
You can use a host of different softwares available online for activity tracking such as Dovico Timesheet, Project Clock Pro, TraxTime or TimeWriter.