Why I track every minute I spend at my laptopThis post is Part One in my quest to defeat The Bossy Inbox and to take control of my days, which you can read here.

In my overview post, I mentioned that I felt as though I was a failure in achieving Inbox Zero. I was striving so hard for that elusive unicorn that I allowed myself to work on what was in my inbox, no matter what it was. Sure, most of it was indeed important, but it wasn’t what was most important right now.

We’ve probably all experienced the phenomena of saying, “This will just take 15 minutes!” which somehow turns into “OMG where did the last two hours go?” Right? Many of us also tend to base planning on “ideal” which (admittedly) we all know rarely matches “reality”.

The only way for me to combat these known issues and to get a true sense of reality was to make the decision to track every minute spent at my laptop. I’ve always tracked time to the minute for clients, so adding myself to the mix as a “client” was seamless–once I got over the weirdness of thinking of myself as a client, anyway!

What I needed to know:

  • Were my days as long as they sometimes felt?
  • Did that Facebook break really last 10 minutes…or was it more like 45?
  • How many hours was I at my desk this week?
  • How much time was I really spending on email, admin, social media, or delegation or the variety of life (aka Amazon orders, researching campgrounds, etc.)
  • How much of my day was billable time vs. non-billable time?

The saying goes: You can only measure what you track. Baby, I needed to track.

Some lessons I learned:

  • I thought I was only spending about an hour a day on email. It was closer to two. Damn.
  • An average month finds me spending approximately 200 hours at my desk and working nearly every day, including most weekends. That feels like way too much. It is too much.
  • My billable time percentage was, on average, more than I thought.
  • Sometimes the Variety of Life was eating up my days. i.e. I’d spend way too long doing price comparisons on Amazon. (WTF?!)
  • Having an assistant managing my inbox didn’t actually decrease my time spent in my inbox (and strangely, my stress levels actually increased during this time, too!).
  • There was shit I was doing that was not getting me any closer to my goals (um, hello social media). Eliminating those things became an easier decision.
  • Although having ~35% of my day as billable sounds great (for earnings), it’s really not what I need. I need to invest time into developing passive income streams. Therefore, the unbillable time should likely be more around 45-45%. That presents a different set of challenges because of my revenue goals.

You can’t change what you’re not aware of, right? Now, consider me aware!

One of the most powerful and useful insights obtained from this data was distinguishing how much of my time was billable vs. non-billable.

Eventually, those numbers would become the cornerstones of the “weekly tracking” tab on the Planner document and for planning out my month.

Bottom line: Having data allowed me to start making smarter decisions.

Want to track all of your time?

  • Implement cloud based time-tracking software. I use FreshBooks Classic, but there are many other options out there. Whatever you select, just be sure it has reporting options.
  • Determine which “time buckets” are most meaningful when you’re reviewing the data.
  • What data really matters?
  • Maintain the historical data (my example)
  • Want to know how many emails you receive? Try out Gmail Meter. (free)

Step One: Complete! Join me next week for Part Two: Figuring out how much time I need for client work.

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