How to Track your Time (Easily) and Why it’s Important
The ideal vs. actual schedule page is one that many people struggle with at first. It’s also their most powerful tool later on. Here are a few pointers to help make things easier.
1st – The ideal schedule page is NOT a fixed plan for tomorrow. It’s an IDEAL. I.e., “If you could wave a magic wand and have tomorrow be a perfect day, what would it look like?”
Don’t worry if your ideal schedule feels unrealistic compared to the chaos of an actual day. By creating an ideal image you can keep coming back to (and use as a tool for reflection) you are doing incredibly valuable work.
You’ll unlock priceless insights as you work through the challenges, bottlenecks and opportunities that await. You’ll spot ways to create time for deep work, delegate early or batch similar types of tasks together. You’ll think creatively about how to fit everything in and still work on the ONE area that’s most holding you back.
What’s more, comparing ideal and actual schedules is an immensely powerful tool to aid reflection. Compare what you wanted to do with what actually happened to uncover common obstacles, patterns and warning signs that you’ll fast learn to solve in advance. The clear, objective feedback you’ll create will also greatly improve your ability to plan, visualise and set expectations for your day.
2nd – You don’t need to record your actual schedule in minute-by-minute detail. 15-minute blocks are the smallest units you should use. Not only is this plenty of detail, but it will also encourage you to work on one task, or one type of task, for at least 15-minutes at a time.
One last tip – Don’t be afraid to use colour to help you draw insights from your day. For example, one great hack is to highlight all the blocks in your actual schedule that involve deep, focused work on your most important (or weekly) goals. Or use a different pen colour depending on which of the four quadrants of the Wheel of Life you were working on.
This kind of markup will help you rapidly spot how and where you’re investing your time. By using colour in this way, you can even flick through the pages of your planner like a flip book to get an idea of how much that’s changing over time.
The overall message is this, the harder you find it to plan your ideal and record your actual schedules the more pressingly you need to be doing it. Yes, it will feel tough to start with. But over time it will also get MUCH easier. And once you’ve broken the back of it, you’ll realise what an incredible source of insights and improvements the exercise is.