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:
- List everything you want and need to do in a week.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
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.