How to Create a Time Audit

Once I graduated from my graduate program, I found myself with a lot of time. If I wasn’t waiting for a response from jobs, I was applying to jobs. In between those two activities, I scrolled endlessly on Twitter and Instagram. As I scrolled, I often lost track of time and 30 minutes would turn to two hours.

As the days passed, I noticed large chunks of my days went missing. I wasn’t reading or working because I was burnt out from my program. I could only spend so many hours applying to jobs and interviewing. So, the only thing I could think to do was mindlessly scroll on social media and consume the good, bad, ugly, and hilariously funny.

Once I accepted my position, I found it extremely hard to break this habit. I picked up my phone multiple times. I convinced myself that I could look at social media for five minutes, and five minutes turned into 30 minutes and eventually an hour. Each day my time flew by and I had nothing to account for it. So, I decided to do a time audit to show me how I was spending my time and boy was I shocked!

A time audit tracks your activities throughout the day for three to seven days. To create a time audit, take out a sheet of paper, or create an excel document. On the left side of the page label each row in 30-minute increments and each column the day. Each day jot down what you are doing every 30- minutes. It does not have to be descriptive. It can be as simple as “watching Netflix”. See the example below.

After you completed your audit, review how your time was spent. Write out the top three activities that occur the most each day. Then, group each activity into two categories: Time-wasters and Priority activities. Time-wasters are activities like social media, checking your email, watching YouTube videos. Priority activities are activities that contribute to your work, side-hustle, or volunteer opportunity.

Once you’ve categorized your activities, use this information to create a plan that condenses all of your activity. For example, instead of being on social media 30 minutes a day several times a day, allocate a designated time for social media scrolling. You can allocate 2 hours in the morning or the evening or allocate Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for using your time freely. However, Tuesday and Thursday have a hard schedule. Or allocate emails for early morning and late evening only.

The key is to create a plan that incorporates the way you use time but to do so in a way that helps you become a bit more productive.

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