30 апреля 2015 г.

7 Days Track Time Challenge

Русская версия здесь.

Many people track their money expenses and very few track their time. However, time is a resource that is much more valuable!

You can read about time management but why not to try it yourself.

The idea of this plan is to challenge you: will you be able to track your time every day during one week?

These 7 Days will help you to know better yourself, especially:

  • How much time do you spend productively?
  • Time that you spend for work/study compared to time that you spend for your personal life and sleep
  • What is your commuting time?
  • What part of your time do you spend unproductively?
  • How your “Wheel of Life” looks like?
This new knowledge is a great base for thinking about how to make better use of your time, and where there are hidden reserves to live full, rich life.

Short instructions

  1. Verify that next week will be your regular week. When you take track time challenge, you want to know better yourself. Today yourself. So, try to live your normal life without new habits or additional goals. If next week will be exceptional, extra job, exams, or, on the contrarily, vacations, it is better to postpone track time challenge.
  2. Decide when you will fill in your track time dairy (file) and what will be your “trigger”. Define at least two 15-minutes time intervals per day. For example, one in the morning on the way to work (if you use public transport) or just before work starts and second on the way home or just after finishing your workday. Determine what will be your “trigger” – notification about dairy filling in. It is important because during the day there are so many duties that you can forget about time tracking.
  3. Drop mathematical precision! If you restore your day (time spent) from your memory, rough figures will be enough, because the main goal is to see the big picture! Differences in several tens of minutes on a weekly time interval are not crucial at all.
  4. Commit to a friend that you will track time and ask for his support. For success in a new beginning, it is very important to have support and to be committed and accountable. Share your intention to track time during 7 days with a friend or family member able to support you.  If they check your progress daily, it will be even better.
  5. Make some small preparations. One day before the start, you should be ready for productive work, prepare your diary (file where you will record your time spends) and decide about expected depth of your analysis.

Day Zero (Saturday / [today]). Preparation

Plan is done with assumption that you have 5-days working week and weekend (day off) on Saturday and Sunday. If it is not the case, you will need to adapt the plan to your requirements.

Today we have four important tasks:

1) Define the level of depth for analysis of your time tracking results


2) Prepare time diary (file where you will record your time spends)

Decide how your will track your time and how you will analyze the results. Excel, Google Docs, special app…
For 7-Days Challenge, for simplicity, I propose you to use Excel with some mobile app on the go, like Polaris Office, for example.
By clicking here you can download simple Excel template ready for usage.

This template includes:

  1. List of standard categories and subcategories (for your reference)
  2. Simple table for daily time tracking
  3. Pivot table for automatic consolidation of week results
  4. “Wheel of Life” Chart
Check standard categories / subcategories from template: if they suit you or no. If no, make adjustments.

3) Schedule when you will track your time and decide what will be the trigger.

Clearly define when you will track your time tomorrow and what will remind you about it!

4) Remember or record your go to bed time.

As sleep is our main rest and “recharge of our batteries”, we will start our time tracking from our sleep time.

Day 1 (Sunday). Fast start

MORNING: For fast start, record your night sleep time and time for your morning routine tasks. Write all other activities that you accomplished in the morning until the moment of diary filling. Finish with recording of the time you spent for time tracking and current time (it will help during the next diary session). If you have any difficulties to assign a task to category / subcategory, look at the list of categories / subcategories. It helps!

DAYTIME: If you have any possibility to make records in you diary during the day, do it without waiting for the evening.

EVENING: Record all things that you made during the day. If you forgot something or do not remember well, don’t worry! Just write everything that you could remember. Look at your list of categories; it can help you to remember. Finish with recording of time tracking duration and current time fixing. Think about what you are going to do before going to sleep and when you will go to sleep. It will help you tomorrow morning during dairy filling!

Day 2 (Monday). Succeed at work

MORNING: Monday is usually a busy day. Try to find time for dairy filling before daily tasks overwhelm you. Record your yesterday evening items, sleep time, morning routine tasks, commuting time. What have you been doing on the way to work. At the end, record time for time tracking and current time.

DAYTIME: If possible, keep Excel file with time diary open in order to make records as is, without waiting till the evening.

EVENING: Record all actions related to work. If you cannot remember everything, one record is enough: Work and # of hours. Record other activities for which you spent time during the day. For easy remembering you can check your sent mails/messages and outgoing calls in your phone. Record your commuting time and what did you do on the way. At the end record time for tracking and actual time. Think about what will you do before going to sleep and when will you go to sleep (it will help in the morning).

Day 3 (Tuesday). 3-Days Strike

Today is a 3rd day of your time tracking. So, it should be easier. Follow recommendations from Day 2. If possible, use “Copy”-“Paste” function for reoccurring activities from yesterday.

Day 4 (Wednesday): Middle of the week

Follow recommendations from Day 2. If possible, use “Copy”-“Paste” function for reoccurring activities.

Day 5 (Thursday). Keep the rhythm

Yesterday was the middle. So, only three days remaining: today and two more days. Use your experience from previous days. Follow Day 2 recommendations.

Day 6 (Friday). Taking into account risks

Friday is probably the most difficult day. You are already tired after working week. Just try to find energy and make several records in the diary in the morning and in the evening. Preciseness doesn’t really matter. The most important is not to break time tracking.

For many people Friday evening is a rest time. So, it represents some risks for time tracking, as next day it could be difficult to remember all evening activities and exact time of going to bed. Take this risk into account and try to imagine your evening activities in advance. It will help you on Saturday morning!

Day 7 (Saturday). Joyful anticipation

Congratulations! You are on Day 7 of 7-Days Track Time Challenge! Home stretch!

MORNING: Record Friday evening doings (all that you can remember!), time of night sleep (at least roughly), morning routine, tracking time, current time.

EVENING: Record day’s activities. As today is a day off (normally), your activities differ from previous days. So, it will be good to look at the list of categories, not to forget anything. Also, you can have a look on Day 1 (Sunday) and “Copy”-“Paste” some activities from there. Think about what will you do before going to sleep and when will you go to sleep.

The moment of truth is near!

Day 8 (Sunday). Revelation: weekly report

Very small part is remaining: record your yesterday evening activities and refresh pivot table on respective sheet of the template! No need to record sleep time from Saturday to Sunday, it’s already next week!

If you had any typing mistakes during categories filling, they will be disclosed during pivot table refreshing. You should find these mistakes and correct them (use filters on track time sheet), and then refresh pivot table again.

How to refresh Excel Pivot Table
Open sheet with pivot table -> Right click on the table -> Refresh

How to calculate your productive time
Deduct from Total time amount following time spends: Sleep, unproductive, Body, Commuting time. At the beginning, in 2009, I considered 60 hours per week as a good productive time level.

How to calculate unproductive time share (percent)
Divide unproductive time by the sum of productive + unproductive.  The result has no good or bad meaning. Now you just know what the share of your unproductive time is. Awareness of this fact will contribute to gradual decrease of unproductive time and to increase of your productive time.

How to determine you work-life balance

  1. Decide what you will take as 100%. In my case, it is the sum of three categories: Work + Family + Personal
  2. Calculate the weight of each category. If one of the categories weights less than 20%, think that maybe it's worth to increase the time dedicated for this category.  If Work weights more than 50%, think about it as well!

How to analyze your “Wheel of Life”
Wheel of life helps to illustrate real situation in someone’s life and is composed from sectors – categories of your life. You should estimate your satisfaction level by each of the categories from 1 to 10. Center of the wheel – zero, perimeter – 10.

Use “Wheel of Life” sheet in Excel template. There you will also find detailed instructions.
Wheel of Life helps you to visualize areas where improvement is required and how you can increase your joy of life.


During last several days, you made a serious step to better self-knowledge and now have a good food for thoughts.
Some more questions that you can ask yourself:

  • Do I spend enough time for spiritual development? With my family? With friends?
  • How can I improve quality of my sleep?
  • Do I use productively my commuting time?
In addition, you can extend this experiment for one more week and compare second week with first one. Pivot table is ready for it. Good luck with your time-management practice!