Time tracking is exactly what it sounds like.
Whenever you start a new task you whip out the stopwatch app on your phone and hit the “start” button. When you’re done you hit “stop” and see how long it took you to do that task. You can use time tracking for homework assignments, study sessions with friends, chores, and more. It’s powerful because it helps you stay on track without getting distracted.
I use time tracking because it minimizes the time it takes me to get things done. Just knowing that time is ticking keeps me on track, focused, and efficient.
A few things I do to make sure I get the most out of time tracking are:
Placing the clock right in front of me – I make sure I can literally see the clock ticking as I work. This is amazing because if 15 seconds go by and I haven’t done something productive, I know I need to snap back into work mode. You become aware that even pulling out your phone to answer a text is sucking away valuable time.
Tracking as much as possible – When you first start time tracking your activities your biggest enemy will be that you forget to do it. Then you’ll fall back into old time-wasting habits. When I started time tracking, I timed my homework assignments, drive to school, and even walks with my dog. This not only gave me an accurate picture of my day, but it also built up the habit so that I remembered to do it when it was important to work efficiently. (Like when I had a big assignment due the next day.)
Planning the entire activity before I begin – Planning is a time-saving activity. Some studies show that every minute spent planning saves 10 minutes in execution. Use this to your advantage and don’t start your “real” work, whether it’s a set of math problems or an English essay, without first planning out exactly how you’re going to do every step.
For the math homework, this could be as simple as looking at which problems you need to do and estimating how long you think it will take you to do them. For the English essay, write out a full outline of the essay before diving in and set deadlines for when you should be finished with individual sections.
What are the biggest benefits of time tracking? Is it really worth it for you to take the time to pull out the stopwatch app before every homework assignment?
Here are some of the benefits I’ve seen in my own work.
1. I cut my work time in half.
This blew me away when I saw the results. By tracking my time I learned where I was wasting time, and looking directly at the clock seeing the seconds tick by kept me very focused.
You might estimate an assignment will take 10 hours. But track the time, and you’ll likely see that it actually took three hours with seven hours devoted to social media, YouTube, and other diversions. Just being aware will help you change your behavior.
2. I learned how much time I really needed.
Are you spending far too much time doing work that isn’t important? For example, are you spending hours reading your biology textbook and doing a bad job on a highly weighted English essay? Unless you start tracking your time, you won’t realize you’re spending your evening doing the fun and easy stuff rather than the difficult work that counts big time.
Here’s something important to know: Time tracking skills are extremely important in any career path you want to take after you graduate college. Adults who don’t know how to keep track of their time often struggle at their jobs because they spend all their day focusing on tasks that aren’t important. They don’t know where their time is going because they rarely, if ever, keep track.
3. I got a motivational boost.
Do you ever feel like homework takes all evening? Sometimes it does, but guess what, it probably took five hours because you spent your time shifting your eyeballs between your textbook, cell phone and iPod. It could have taken one hour if you were focused.
When you know you can bust out a homework assignment in a short amount of time you’ll be much more motivated to do it. Yes, it’s still homework, but it won’t be the evening-dominating monster you imagined! It’s nearly impossible to get motivated about a full evening of drudgery. If you’ve been tracking other assignments, you can estimate how long until you’ll be done today, and you’ll be excited to finish early because then you’ll have the rest of the evening to do what you want.