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Hackernoon logoYou Don't Know What You're Spending Your Time On Unless You Start Tracking It by@cotealexandra11

You Don't Know What You're Spending Your Time On Unless You Start Tracking It

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@cotealexandra11Alexandra Cote

SaaS Content Writer & Strategist 🚀 Remote Work & Mental Health Advocate

Think you know how you’re spending time? I’m not sure.
Do you often panic if you haven’t finished a task on time or just don’t have enough energy left?

This issue often goes unaddressed as many prefer to just hide the dirt under the rug and show their wins instead. We often brag about what we’ve achieved, but how many of us have the courage to talk about our work efficiency problems?

The first step to find a solution, though, is admitting you’ve got a problem.

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Ask yourself: 

Do I know how I’m spending my time?

This Salary.com study reveals that the majority of surveyed people spent time checking their personal email inboxes, browsing the Internet, and shopping online as well. 

A whopping 25% of respondents visit Amazon.com regularly. And employers don’t even know it. 

If you thought that younger employees were more likely to slack off, you’ll be surprised to find that 67% of employees with doctorate degrees do it too. For this reason, more companies are creating stricter social media policies to help workers increase their productivity levels.

The problem is not just for the workplace though.

Just think about how much time you’re actually wasting checking your phone, Facebook wall, Twitter feed, or email inbox hundreds of times a day outside of the office.

Every day.

But all these rules won’t make you stop doing it. 

So how do you make this fun? 

There is this one method that can help you stop wasting time and keep your productivity level top notch: time tracking. 

I know... it might sound complicated and you’re dead serious about not using yet another productivity tool. But, to be honest, you’ve probably done it before.

When was that?

This morning when you checked your alarm clock to get to work on time or during your commute when you calculated if you still had enough time to grab your favorite latte.

Doesn’t feel like a chore, right? That’s because time tracking is just a way to keep your daily activities in check. 

Fortunately, there are a few time-saving shortcuts that will make you WANT to see where your time is going.

How do I choose a productivity tool that suits my needs? 

The first step is to always think of your main requirements. Knowing why and how you’re going to use a tool can also show whether you really need to get one or not.

Are you a freelancer who’s looking to create estimates and get paid fairly, a remote worker who has to provide proof of their work, or maybe you just want to get more done?

One productivity tool might suit your personal needs but it could not be advanced enough to handle employee monitoring in a work environment. 

Similarly, employees could feel hesitant to use a time tracking tool that takes occasional screenshots of their desktops or photos of them. Such software has no purpose if you’d just like to improve your daily efficiency because no one else will evaluate your progress.

Then, you need to assess the main functionalities you’ll be using. 

Here are 5 of the ones you should really consider:

Reporting and analysis

Do you have any proof of your wasted time?

Productivity and time tracking tools can offer real stats on how much you’re working (or slacking) and where your time is going.

These can even be used to create future time estimates. Just go back to check your activity reports, see how much time it took you to finish a task, and you’ll be able to create an accurate estimate of how long it’ll take to complete a similar duty.

An all-in-one solution

As mentioned before, a solid advantage of using a complete productivity tool is that you no longer have to switch between apps to track time individually for each website or software you use.

As a bonus, these tools often include other useful features such as task management, calendars, accounting modules, collaboration boards, and more. You’re pretty much getting your satisfied on one single platform, eliminating the necessity of switching between apps to find your required information.

Integration with other tools

One of the most important things you should look for is making sure that your choice suits the devices and tools you’re already working with. Migrating data from one tool to another can be burdensome and costly.

Check which devices work with the tool (e.g. PC, Android, iOS, etc.) and look for any other integrations. For instance, you might want to connect it to one of your cloud storage providers (Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive). 

If you’re looking to pair it with other tools, you can either check out customized integrations or use a connector tool like Zapier or IFTTT. These usually have quick built-in integrations for most tools out there. You can even get them to turn your lights on once you get home or light the way for when the pizza delivery guy arrives.

File management 

The good news is that there are productivity tools that allow you to store your documents within them. Generally, these also have task and project management features to help you organize all your activities.

You’ll no longer get lost if one teammate sends you a photo via Skype, another one in Slack, and the rest to your email inbox. Everything will now be in one place.

Reduced usage time

Nobody wants to get a tool just to find out that using it is taking up even more time.

Make sure you’re not wasting any time while actually using a tool that’s supposed to help you get your day back.

Your tool choice should be easy to use and take you just a few seconds to make an action. This equals in more results, higher-quality outcomes, and less time spent on non-productive activities.

Note: Don’t forget about the tool’s cost. Paying for a productivity tool just to check how much time you spent in an app once a year might not be the best deal. Don’t worry. Most tools offer a free trial so you can take them for a spin without committing financially. 

What tools and methods can I use?

Frankly, the tools you’re already using to boost your productivity might be draining too much of your time instead of saving it.

Whether it’s a lengthy Slack conversation over your colleague’s new car or a few hours you spend each day checking your email, these are still time-consuming activities.

Here’s where time tracking comes in. Most productivity tools are useless without it. 

Having a look into what software you’re using the most is not enough if you’re not aware of how much time you’re allocating for them.

AntiSocial, for instance, is an app that helps people cure their smartphone addiction by tracking how much time they spend in an app and blocking the time-wasting ones. Just leave it to run in the background for 2 weeks and you’ll get a fairly accurate report of your stats.

Moving on to your desktop, the YouTube Watch Time Counter Chrome extension adds up the minutes, hours, and days (yes, days) you’ve spent watching funny videos or music videos on YouTube. In this way, you’ll get a better look at your viewing habits.

Want to finally find out how much of your day you’ve wasted aimlessly scrolling Facebook? They recently introduced a mobile app feature that allows you to see the amount of time you spend on Facebook (Instagram too) each day. You can also set reminders to notify you when you reach your daily limit.

Now, you might already be using one or more productivity tools. 

But there’s also a way that can help you avoid losing time while switching between these apps: using only one tool to rule (track) them all.

Tools like PaymoPlus allow you to check how much time you’ve spent in a day, week, month or year according to each one of your projects, tasks, or clients. It records everything you do on your computer including desktop programs, file management, Internet browser activity, and idle time. 

Key Takeaways

Now the lack of productivity problem has been around for a while. You might remember the Microsoft Solitaire era. 

Still, there’s no miraculous solution that works for everyone.

Whether you want to become a better worker or you’ve set a New Year’s goal for yourself, avoid obsessing over maintaining control over your time. 

Having a break every once in a while can actually be more beneficial. Take a moment to sit back and relax. This will help you focus better on your work and give your best.

As one final piece of advice, don’t expect your peak performance levels to stay the same forever. You’re sometimes going to find yourself working slower or being less creative than the previous day. 

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This doesn’t mean you have to waste time on social media or funny cat videos. Instead, try productive procrastination such as cleaning your workspace or making yourself a cup of coffee to help you unwind and get back to your duties.

Now, do you really know how you’re spending your time? Let us know and share your own tips for becoming more aware of how you’re distributing time daily, what has worked for you, and what hasn’t.

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