Mapping Where Time Goes

I wanted to know what was chewing up all my time, so I decided to create a map to better visualize where my time goes. Not only was I shocked at where my time was going, but also how little spare time remained.

Here are the steps I used to create a Where Does My Time Go Map:

  1. List everything you want and need to do in a week.
  2. For each entry, assign the number of days a week you want or need to do it, and put down how long it takes. Note: I prefer to use decimals for partial hours (versus minutes) because it makes it easier to complete the map.
  3. Reorder your list so that the tasks you do every day are listed first. Next put those that occur 6 day, then those for 5 days, 4 days, 3 days, 2 days, and 1 day.
  4. Grab a blank sheet of paper. Write the numbers 1 through 7, spaced approximately equally, across the top of the paper to represent the days of the week. Note: I chose not to use the names of the days because which days I did something was not as important as how much of my time was being used up.
  5. Subtract the average number of hours you sleep each night from 24 to get the number of hours available to you to do everything. I used 8, so I have 16 hours available. Write the numbers 1 through how ever many hours you have available spaced approximately equally down the left side of the paper.
  6. Start with the first 7-day item on your list. Draw a rectangle to block off the days and the hours for the task. Repeat this step for all the 7-day entries. Do the 6-day items next.
  7. Map the remaining entries from your list. Note: Once the 6-day tasks are mapped out, you can fill the leftover 1-day space with 1-day tasks; 5-day items can match with 1 or 2-day things; 4-day with 1, 2, or 3-day items; etc.

Example of a partial Where Does My Time Go Map:

where_does_my_time_go_map

Once I completed my Where Does My Time Go Map, I realized I had little or no time remaining for unexpected things, like taking an animal to the vet, visiting a sick friend, or fixing a leaky faucet. I also forgot to list some of the more mundane things, like dusting, vacuuming, or grocery shopping. So, I used my Where Does My Time Go list to prioritize my time. I started by adding things I hadn’t thought of the first time through, such as spend time with friends, watch a favorite tv show, and laundry. Then, after assigning days and how long, I reordered my list again to put the 7-day items first and the 1-day items last. Next, I took a hard look at the list to remove items or reduce their allotted time in order to fit it all in.

I did not create the Where Does My Time Go Map to schedule my every waking moment—I hate being scheduled. Instead, I use the map to raise my awareness of how I spend my time so I can make better choices about the demands placed on that precious resource.

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