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Logging the Day's Events

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  • Logging the Day's Events

    I recently went into a partership small business operation ( - if you're into drumming) and I'm now responsible for how and when I spend my 40+ work hours a week. I can create my own schedule and work around my personal events at whim. I have found that structuring some routine time for processing, email and phone calls is beneficial to make sure I get to those things each day.

    What am wondering about is the other 4-6 hours in the day that are unstructured. I am flying through next actions and (lots of) errands right now as we get things rolling, but I'm not blocking out time - I'm just doing the action. I want to track how much time I am pouring into the business and which time is actually 'on the clock' vs. 'while I was out' time. I also want to track how much time is spent working on sales and marketing vs office management and the initial setup of the business vs meetings with my business partner and staff. So far I am good about separating work from personal and keeping nice boundaries to them, but when I look back at my day I think 'what did I DO all day' because the calendar is empty. I may have crossed of 30+ actions and added 30+ more that I collected but I don't "see" the results on my mostly empty schedule. I am tempted to track my day in say 15 minute increments and log what I have accomplished - just for records. I do need to track when I talked to various vendors and such so it has merit outside of my own psychological need to have a calendar packed with stuff Does anyone do this or am I just wasting my time trying to keep track of the details?

  • #2
    if you track every 15 minutes, you are doing something that goes contrary to the GTD philosophy of avoiding unnecessary overhead tracking of details. You should gauge success based on how many of your projects you complete, not on tracking time on actions.

    if, on the other hand, you need to track your time for some external reason (i.e. billing clients) that is an entirely different story. In that case, you should track time, but not treat it as part of GTD: It is just another detail to be stored in your "reference" files, to be ignored until the day you have to send your client their bill.


    • #3
      Feel the Force

      Properly implemented GTD allows you to "Feel the Force" and set your mind to do actions that are on the road to your Goals (intuition works). So there is no need to check how you are spending your time. On the other hand creating timesheet can be a good exercise if you are not sure if your intuition works properly.


      • #4
        I also have to keep time records.

        What I do sometimes is print out my NA list for the day, and record (in handwriting) the time taken against each NA.

        I have to submit formatted time sheets each fortnight, but the above is a good running account of what I did.


        • #5
          Just a thought, but could you use the Palm expense application? I haven't used it for anything, but maybe you could set up categories and enter time rather than dollars? I realize that Palm Desktop won't roll up 60 minutes to an hour, but you couls possibly export to a spreadsheet.

          If this works, once the categories are set up al you need to do is enter a number of minutes each time you want to make an entry.

          Just a thought.


          • #6

            I think this time tracking can be important for a lot of reasons and ideally should give you information that is readily usuable, either by eye-balling or automatically summarizing. I have two rather primitive methods. that only meet the eye-ball method. The first--using a piece of graph paper make four columns and as many rows as hours you want to record your activities. Each column will represent 15 minutes--if you do a lot of different things in 15 minute, use wide columns. Us a simple code to count activites and at same time to show duration (t=telephone, w=write). The second, is use planner to record what you did (like Day Timer's). I have a hunch that Palm-compatible software for attorneys might exist for this.


            • #7
              Spring sent me a time log he uses in Excel. You might want to private message him to see if he will send it to you (I don't have it anymore). Also, there are many timekeeping programs for the Palm (try You might want to download one and try it just to get an idea of how you are spending your time. Here is a freeware program for the Palm:


              • #8
                Using Timesheet

                I would recommend you give this program a try. I used it while working a graveyard shift job. Performs nicely, and is very easy to use. Can span midnight too if you need that feature.


                • #9
                  if you use journal entries in outlook you can use a start & stop timer which will keep track of your time - you just have to get into the habit of 1) opening new journal entry 2) writing in the subject 3) selecting an entry type [3.5 optional: selecting a category] 4) pressing the start timer and 5) pressing the stop timer. not really complicated - the hard part is remembering to take half a second to press the start timer before you move on!


                  • #10
                    I second the Outlook solution

                    I also recommend the outlook solution for time/general work tracking.

                    Keeping track of your tasks every 15 minutes is insane (unless you are a lawyer and can make $400/hr). You may be able to keep it up for a little while, but can you maintain it for any length? Track the general categories of things and don't do it more than once every few hours. If you have meetings or make phone calls, jot a few notes down and do a lengthier write up before lunch, or at the end of the day.

                    As long as you are honest with yourself, you'll get a decent estimate and idea of where you are spending your time.


                    • #11

                      (Whee. My first post.)

                      Background: Been GTDing for 6 months at about the 15% level. I'm just finishing a week of preparation to go full-hog. This post is mainly just forward-looking statements.

                      I've been grappling with my desire to do time-tracking recently too. I'm in the "track your time if it helps" camp. I've asked myself WAY too many times, "What did I DO all day?" (or week, or month)

                      Here's what I've decided to implement: Auditory Capture.

                      I've already decided I need to have a tape (or digital) recorder in my pocket at all times for the "Collect" aspect of the GTD. It fills two needs for me: 1) A way to collect every little thought using a 2) non-instrusive method that doesn't distract me. The two benefits support each other (when I stick to it) .

                      Since I'm already using the recorder as a "Collect" bucket, I'm just going to collect times and actions too.

                      Then later, as I "Process" my audio captures, I'll also process my raw audio clock announcements (interspersed throughout the audio log) into electronic form.

                      My rationale...

                      --) I'm willing to spend a 3% of my time to get more out of the other 97%.

                      --) Time is far more precious than money. I have Quicken for my money, but I wanna know how my time is being spent so that ...

                      --) ... I can use my time-log to make better choices about my Next Action.

                      The GTD book says Energy, Time, Context, Priority are 4 ways to decide what to do. I need more help than those four. I feel I MUST add "Pacing and Balance". It's basically "Amount of time I've already spent on this project/areas".

                      It's just way too easy for me to over-focus on one or two projects/areas at the expense of the rest of my life. (I've got the computer programmer gene.) I think using time-logs to help choose Next Actions is, for me, a critical success factor.

                      I'd sure appreciate any and all feedback. Am I on a fool's errand? Does this sound all too familiar to anybody?


                      • #12
                        I just jot down (approximately) how many minutes a task took when I tick it off from my NA list. If you really need to know how much time you spend on various types of activities, you can look back over the day and add it up. Keep the daily totals in your diary so you can add up weekly or monthly stats later.