How to Use Activity Logs as Your Time Management Secret Weapon
We often think that we don’t have enough time to do other things when it’s actually not as it seems.
Sometimes we’re often distracted by things that hold little or no value to our overall productivity, like web browsing or playing mobile games, which is why we fail to deliver on those crucial milestones we set for ourselves.
It’s only when you learn how to properly manage your time more efficiently that you can increase the productivity of your work at the office or any other workplace.
This means you’ll learn how to reduce or get rid of low-value tasks or activities that bear no significance at all.
Therefore, we recommend keeping a time or an activity log, which is what we’ve covered in this entire article from its meaning to its benefits and how you can use it as a tool for your time-management needs.
WHAT IS AN ACTIVITY LOG?
A time or an activity log is a record of how you allocate the time you spend for the day/week.
By keeping this log, you’ll have a better understanding of what you do during the day, and how you should invest your time for it.
You will later realize how poorly you can rely on your own memory compared to using a log.
The activity log will even let you know whether you’re doing your most important task(s) during the right time of the day.
For example, if you’re feeling energetic and creative in the morning, you should be doing your most important tasks during that time.
After that, you can then focus on less-energetic tasks such as answering phone calls or replying to emails in the afternoon.
Activity logs are especially helpful in identifying non-essential activities that don’t help you accomplish important objectives.
For instance, as we mentioned earlier, you may find that you spend more time surfing the internet or doing other stuff that has nothing to do with your project milestones.
Once you realize how much time is being wasted on such things, you can alter the way you work so that you can eliminate them.
BENEFITS OF KEEPING AN ACTIVITY LOG
Here are some of the amazing benefits that come with maintaining an activity log:
1. Increase in Productivity
Lack of proper communication is often the most cited cause of modern productivity issues.
But when each of those tasks or activities are recorded in your log, you’ll be able to better understand where your time and that of your employees’ is being spent.
Activity logs can also be perceived as a form of communication tool.
When everyone in your company is collaborating in maintaining the log, the results can easily be analyzed to make corrections.
2. Address Weaknesses
When using activity logs, it will be easier for you to spot areas where your business could be underperforming.
For instance, sales could be lower than they’re supposed to be during a certain time of the year, and you have to fix this problem by raising the advertising budget.
Keeping an activity log with you can help you see problems such as this and correct them before they have a negative impact on your business.
3. Details of Activities
The most pivotal aspect of having an activity log is that you can detail as well as record day-to-day activities to obtain better insight into how your business operates.
You can also determine which employees are performing at their best and also keep track of their progress throughout the entire year.
This can also be used as an employee incentive.
4. Reduce Low-Value Tasks
By recording everything in your activity log, you and your employees can prevent yourselves from wasting valuable time.
With employees spending too much time checking their social media updates, emails or doing pointless browsing, productivity takes a huge blow.
As a result, it keeps them from contributing time to more important tasks.
5. Improve Time Management
You’ll be able to have time for more important tasks when you have the ability to chart every hour each day using an activity log.
Time management is especially crucial to a business’s success and arming yourself with an activity log is an effective way of doing so.
HOW TO ACCURATELY AND EFFICIENTLY TRACK YOUR TIME
Now that we’ve covered the pros of keeping an activity log, it’s time to get into the meat of the article and how you can actually make use of your log just to get the most out of it.
We’ll begin by sharing the most significant principles and also the tools that you can use to your advantage.
These are the three most imperative keys of getting the most out of time-tracking:
- Honesty: If you’re not being completely honest about how you spend your time, then there is no point in getting work done at the office. You’re the one keeping a track of your activity log, and therefore, you’re only doing damage to yourself by lying.
- Consistency: In a study about food journalers, it was reported that those who failed at losing weight came to such a result because they gave up journaling after only a couple of days. To get a clear picture of how you spend your hours in a consistent manner, you have to have at least two weeks of time-tracking. And when you do this, ensure that it is under “normal” weeks – as in not during holidays or before vacations. Also, ensure the timespan is kept as typical as possible.
- Meticulousness: This is another factor that prevented food journalers from reaching their goals. In order to ensure your time-tracking is effective, you have to be very detailed about it. Instead of hours, go for minutes. For the first few days, keep a detailed log of the minute you got out of bed to when you get back to bed again. Then for the next few days, work in five-minute increments. And then for the next two weeks, work in fifteen-minute increments. It may take time, but you can get the right results in the end.
Apart from these keys, there are two basic frameworks for tracking time:
- By the time of day: When keeping track of your activities by the time of day, you can write down your activity for a set amount of time, like 9-9:15 am. Keep a timer set for every 15 minutes and then take a break to write down what you have been doing during that time.
- By task: With this, you can go about your day and activities, as usual, followed by writing down what time you changed your tasks and started something new.
Try both and see which one is most suitable for you.
And even if you stop tracking after your two-week experiment is over with, you should conduct a time audit once a year or so.
This will help you understand how things have changed and how you can keep yourself on track.
You can also take inventory if you feel like as you could take a little bit more time out of your days (or conversely if you feel you don’t have enough time).
DIGITAL TOOLS FOR TIME TRACKING
If you feel as if it is a lot of work tracking time manually, minute by minute, then you’ll be more than happy to know that there are plenty of tools available on the market that can help you accurately keep track of time.
As a matter of fact, these tools are so advanced and effective, that they can also keep track of keystrokes and open apps/tabs to see whatever you’ve been up to.
However, even if you’re on the computer all day, an activity log of all the websites that you’ve visited as well as the apps that you’ve used might not be all that helpful.
You may have been on Facebook for an hour, but if you’re into marketing, a good chunk of that (or perhaps all of it) could have been for work purposes.
In the end, only you know what you’re doing on a particular app or website and digital apps can’t do that for you.
Still, there are several tools listed here that come with a plethora of unique features that aid in managing time and making the most out of it, be it for personal or business purposes.
1. Week Plan
As week plan name suggests, you can easily see what you have in store for an entire week.
The application has sections for Goals, Roles as well as a Parking Lot for items that you can come back later for.
You can click any time of the day to add a new task and assign their priority to be important or urgent.
Now the application does provide you with a good glimpse of what you have for the week, it also provides a monthly plan, which is useful for longer term items.
You can download the app for free and then look into paid plans that provide additional features including analytics, subtasks, and Google Calendar integration.
It’s available for download on Windows and iOS.
If you’re into basic, simple weekly planners, then Weekis has you covered on that.
It is a no-frills web-based application where all you have to do is enter the tasks for each day of the week. The app also makes it easy for users to plan their days, one day at a time.
Weekis allows you to see the whole week at a glance and can also you re-arrange the tasks using its drag-and-drop feature.
And by creating a free account, all of your important items, tasks or activities will be saved.
Keeping Track of Time
Toggl is an excellent tracking tool that includes client and team management, project creation, reporting tools, and multiple workspaces.
In order to start tracking an activity, tap the Timer function, give the task a name and then press the Play button. You can even add tags for easy organization.
Toggle provides integration with other apps such as Asana, Basecamp and GitHub. With both online access and mobile apps, you can track your time and access items from anywhere.
Sign up to use Toggle and many of its other features for free.
Additional options in paid plans include time audits, scheduled reports, and adding team members.
RescueTime is a good time-tracking option for desktop users. It is downloadable on Windows, Mac, or Linux platforms, as well as Android.
When installed, choose the most productive and the most distracting activities and then pick the days and the times you would like to track.
The app starts tracking your time.
Thanks to its auto time-tracking capability, you no longer have to worry about forgetting to start the clock for an activity.
RescueTime provides options for setting up goals and a pop-up daily activity log. You can even check reports on goals, productivity and application usage.
RescueTime is free to download with limited features and a premium paid plan that comes with additional features like unlimited report history, daily goal alerts and website blocking to get rid of distractions.
Using a Calendar and an Organizer
Trello is a fully-featured tool that is suitable for managing virtually any project of any size.
By using the Kanban method, the app provides you with lists, boards, and cards to organize projects. You can create checklists, collaborate with coworkers, and set due dates for tasks.
Aside from giving you a great way to organize tasks and projects for you and your team, Trello provides a nifty calendar power up.
To include this option to one of your boards, click Show Menu from the top right corner, choose Power-Ups and then right next to Calendar select Enable.
You will then get a link to the Calendar option that will show up next to the board menu at the top.
The app is available for free along with Trello Gold as a paid option that provides features such as saved searches, large attachment upload, and premium customization options. I
t even has mobile versions available for Android and iOS users.
Another neat tool for organization and calendar integration is GQueues.
From afar, it has the same design and feels as Gmail and features tasks, subtasks, assignments, and comments, sharing and collaboration, prioritization and tags.
The app’s basic features are available for free along with personal and business paid plan options.
It’s worth noting that Google Calendar Integration is part of the personal paid plan, however, GQueues Lite (free) comes with a Calendar Gadget. The app is also available on mobile devices.
Doris is your new best friend at prioritizing your task list.
The app allows you to add numerous to-dos to your list, get them edited and include notes. In order to prioritize the tasks, just pick one and then drag it to the new position on the list.
The app also lets you view your task history for the current day, previous week or month as well as current week or month.
You can see when each of your to-dos is completed and use the app’s options to delete or restore them. Doris is not only a basic app, but it’s also free.
If you’re looking for a notable app that helps you prioritize and keep up with your to-dos, Todoist is the one for you.
The app provides color-coded priority levels – that way you know which tasks are the most important. You can set up sub-projects and tasks, recurring dates, and handy notifications.
Another great aspect of this app is the delegation of tasks.
This includes features for assignment of tasks, collaboration and discussion options with which you can share the workload with an easy-to-use tool.
Todoist is a free app that is accessible online and available for download on mobile devices. Other options include browser integrations and extensions with Gmail and Outlook.
And the paid plans offer additional features like automatic backups, location-based notifications, team member management, and project templates.
Wishing to look for an easier alternative of managing projects, tasks, and a team, then try MeisterTask.
It is a visual tool that allows you to set up different sections for a range of projects or sub-projects as well as include assignable tasks within each of them.
The app provides comments, due dates, notifications, tags, checklists, and attachments that make delegations relatively easier.
MeisterTask lets you print or export data for the sake of team time-tracking.
The main screen gives you a great overview of your daily tasks. Integrations with the app are also available and include Zendesk, Slack, GitHub, Dropbox, Zapier, and others.
MeisterTask’s free version comes with limited features and a paid plan that offers unlimited integrations, custom backgrounds, and workflow automation.
The app is available for both desktop and mobile devices.