I’m one of those people who is otherwise capable but suffers with crippling problems with procrastination, time management, and motivation. I’ll tell that story another time (the irony!) , I just want to focus on sharing something that I found that has been helping me recently; perhaps it could help someone, so I’m posting it here.
It’s really simple, all I do is write down everything I do, timestamped. This isn’t something that is in incredible detail, just when I reach certain benchmarks, or get off track, or what have you, I write it down and how long each task or distracted lasted. For example, this was my morning :
11:00 - woke up, showered, ate, walked to coffee shop, got coffee
11:45 - played ztype
11:50 - Checked email wrote goal list for today, answered a Quora question
12:05 - 750 words
12:19 -Took Discrete Mathematics section 2.5 notes
Somewhere down the line is writing this blog post and the fifteen minutes where I allowed myself to get distracted with reddit. Typically, I write down when I begin something, then the time when I finish it with the next thing I am starting. You can see that I spent a little bit of time playing a video game- not something I planned on, and in fact it “wasted” about five minutes of my life.
This exercise does a couple of things- first, it tells me exactly how long it takes to do something, so if I have to do something similar I can go back and get an estimate of how long it will take. More importantly, it is something that holds me accountable to avoiding distractions- this list is shared with a couple of pro-productivity friends, and if I want to mess around I need to write it down and admit that I’m not getting anything done for that time period.
Not that I can’t do anything fun, but I don’t want to at the expense of doing things that are actually productive- learning coding is a big thing I’ve been working on recently. And it really puts in perspective where my time goes- if I spend 3 hours on reddit or wandering the internet in the morning, well that’s why I didn’t get through the math that I wanted to get through that day.
What is really important to making this exercise work is honest. It’s not so important that you share this, but what is important is that it is filled out honestly; if you’re not honest with yourself, it’s not going to work, and this exercise has forced me to be honest about productivity, and how I spend each hour of my finite time. I have no idea if this will work for you, but it’s been working for me; so I think I’ll keep with it.