Whether you’re leading a big team or just managing yourself, success starts with good time management. It allows you to approach your work with clarity and efficiency. For those leading a team, it becomes a tool that allows you to delegate with confidence and follow your project timelines. So, no matter what the size of your project or task, managing your time allows you to use your working hours more efficiently.
There are many strategies for time management, and each has its merits. But the foundation behind them is to set priorities, minimise distractions, and find the best time to complete your tasks. The planning behind time management is just as important as actually doing the tasks. And a time audit helps you with exactly this.
What is a time audit?
A time audit is a valuable tool for assessing how much time you spend on tasks. It involves tracking each task or activity over a short period of time, usually 1-2 weeks. An audit measures how long each task takes and tracks your workload, breaks, distractions, meeting times, and more.
A time audit can help you gain insights into how you spend time at work. You can find out how productive you are at different times of the day and where you get distracted. The information gathered in this audit can then be used to create a priority-based schedule and create action steps for reaching goals.
How does it work?
Any audit starts with setting a few goals. Every individual or organisation will have different objectives. For some, a time audit may just be an exercise to understand when they’re most efficient. Others may want to learn how to prioritise tasks and minimise distractions. Managers can use information gathered from this process to delegate. Take a bit of time to think about your goals and what you want from this audit.
To begin your audit, choose a few days where you’ll be following your regular work schedule with an average workload. So, your time audit won’t be accurate for a day when you’re attending a conference or travelling for work. If you’re old-school, pick up a pen and paper and simply note down what you do throughout the day and how long it takes you. Putting all this information in a spreadsheet might also be helpful for some.
Noting down the duration and length of your work will help you analyse your time accurately. Apart from how long your tasks take, you should also make a note of the time you spend on emails and other communication. Write down your breaks as well. Since this is a manual task, try to be error-free and avoid guesswork.
At the end of the second week, set aside an hour to review your data and focus on answering a few key questions — which tasks take up the most of your time? Why do they take longer than others? Are there any areas where you could streamline workflows? This data should give you enough information about your workload and how you get distracted.
Compare your analysis with your goals and see if they match up. From this, you can identify key action points and create a better daily schedule for yourself. The best part is that a time audit is comprehensive and takes breaks and distractions into account. Your next schedule can then make allowances for these.
Another great way of learning how to do a time audit is through time management courses. The time management course from Pathways can be done online or in person. It is suitable for people at all stages of their careers. Learning how to do a time audit will give you the resources to manage your work and your team’s tasks.
How long does a time audit take?
The amount of time it takes to complete a time audit will vary depending on the level of detail you want to capture and how comprehensive you are in tracking your activities. Generally speaking, if you limit yourself to capturing general categories of activity such as work, communication, breaks and so on, it shouldn’t be difficult at all — it may only take between 15-30 minutes per day. If you want to identify specific tasks or actions within those broader categories, the process can become more detailed and take much longer. In any case, performing a time audit is worthwhile for anyone looking to gain insight into their daily habits and create a clear plan to improve productivity.
What is the 80-20 rule? Can a time audit help me with this?
The 80-20 rule, otherwise known as the Pareto Principle, is one of the fundamental lessons of time management and states that your efforts and output are not balanced. When it comes to working, 20% of our inputs account for a whopping 80% of our outputs. It’s a simple yet powerful concept: by dedicating more of our time to important tasks while minimising distractions, we become much more productive with less effort.
When we have a clear understanding of our goals and objectives, it’s easy to identify which 20% accounts for most of our desired results. By focusing on those key tasks first, we can ensure time-efficient results. A time audit can help you identify when you’re most productive. These times can be the time of your 20% input, with most of your effort going in here. You can schedule the most urgent or high-priority tasks in these slots.
Can I use a time audit for a team?
Time audits for large teams can be tricky. While management may know the work that needs to be done, they may be unaware of the actual time and effort it takes for each person. A good manager would understand how to do a time audit on their staff without venturing into the realm of micromanagement.
A good idea would be to give your team general guidelines around categorising tasks. You can divide tasks as urgent or non-urgent and track how much time each takes. A time audit in a team can help managers analyse when their team members are most efficient and how to delegate with clarity.
Time management training comes with time and consistent effort. It is a learned skill that can identify often-overlooked disruptors in your workplace. Contact us to learn more about how Pathways can support you with time management courses.