How to Keep Track of Your Daily Tasks and Improve Your Time Management

You’ll hear it over and over again in business school: What gets measured gets managed. This dictum, which is often credited to Peter Drucker, also relates to time management.[1]

How are you supposed to manage your time if you don’t know how you spend it throughout the day?

There are a variety of ways to improve your time management skills. A daily activity record is one such option. Simply observing how you spend your time will enable you to be more effective in a variety of ways. 

What Is a Daily Activity Log?

It is exactly how it sounds. It is a written record of how you spend your time of the day. This shouldn’t be confused with timesheets – which are used for how you use that time or tracking time on important work or tasks.

Though it’s simple in nature, leveraging a daily activity log can provide tremendous benefits:

  • It helps you to understand whether or not you are devoting time to important work or not.
  • It can help you detect your energy levels by letting you pinpoint where in the day you’re the most focused and energized.
  • It identifies non-core activities that don’t help you reach your goals.

Examples Of A Daily Activity Log

To give you an idea of what some daily activity log looks like, below are three examples that can give you an idea of what they can look like.

Example 1

This daily activity log is helpful from a productivity standpoint as you get a better understanding of how much time you should be spending on certain tasks.

This example is a lax one as it only focuses on one aspect of Jonathan’s life: his work. Even so, a daily activity log followed by a weekly review can help in improving your energy level and tell you what important work is ahead.

Example 2

On top of breaking everything down into hour-long chunks, you can keep up with your energy levels and see where you have the most energy to perform.

A daily activity log doesn’t need your activities exclusively. It can have small reminders as well. Upcoming meetings, a few general notes, reminders to be checking emails of particular note.

Example 3

Noting how much time is used for certain activities can help you categorize your time into chunks. From there, you can see how you can be more efficient and how much time you have left from the time of the day.

The final example of a daily activity log is more of a timeline. It’s broader but it still is functional with some general details.

Where to Log Your Daily Activities

You have two options for logging your daily activities: physically or digitally. Based on the examples posted above, there is no “right way” to create a daily activity log.

All the same, there is no right way to how you want your daily activity log presented. It comes down to personal preference.

Digital Logging

For a few reasons, many people prefer to log their tasks in a calendar or productivity software. Those reasons are:

1. Accessibility

Who wants to carry a planner about with them all the time? Digital tracking is available in a number of daily tracker apps. This implies they can help you automate a lot of the tracking process.

The accessibility is excellent when combined with the fact that you always have your phone with you. You can also access them on your computer, where you can examine the information.

2. Customizability

Do you like to see your tasks in the form of a calendar or a list? Do you prefer to sort them by kind, participant, chronology, or another criterion? Do you organize them by color? Digital activity logging software puts you in control. You can always alter your mind about a layout or color choice later if you change your mind.

3. Cost

With so many planners available to consumers, the daily activity log industry is huge. Some are inexpensive, but if you start looking into hardback calendars or ones that are more unusual, you’ll find yourself spending more.

It’s understandable that you’d spend extra to encourage yourself to keep the habit. However, it is not the most efficient way.

“One of the finest things you can do is go to a store and touch, feel, and really look at the planner,” says Jackie Reeve of The New York Times’ Wirecutter project.

Because most digital tracking tools are free, going digital is a better option. Paid versions with more features are available, although even these are competitive with bound paper planners.

Even yet, not everyone uses software to keep track of their day-to-day activities. So, what do people who use paper planners appreciate about them?

Physical Logging

Just as some people prefer print books to e-books, some would rather log their daily activities on paper. This option has some advantages that are worth considering.

1. Memorization

Research suggests that writing things down helps us commit them to memory. If you’re trying to memorize a new routine, a paper activity planner might be your best bet.

Comparatively, if you’re someone who gets a lot of notifications on their phone, you may become numb to them. As a result, you could dismiss reminders from your daily activity log app.

2. Privacy

Despite the fact that software businesses spend a lot of money on data protection, data breaches still occur. If you’re concerned about your schedule or activities being shared with the wrong people, a paper planner might be the best option. 

Keep in mind that paper tracking places a greater burden on your shoulders. If you keep your activity log in a safe deposit box, no one will be able to read it. 

3. Visibility

You must think about it, open the app on your phone or computer, and log in to access your digital activity tracker. All you have to do is a glance at a paper log if it’s posted in the proper location.

This is why, despite having a digital calendar, many business professionals still keep a paper calendar on their desks. A visual reminder is the most effective way to jog the memory.

 You’ll need to log and evaluate your activity data once you’ve determined where to store it. Time how long it takes you to review my six tips for doing so as to practice. 

The Best Apps for Daily Activity Log Tracking

Because businesses want to be tracking employee time for years now, the daily activity log apps have flooded the market. There are several options that are useful for businesses but can also be good for individuals personal time too,

Some of the key apps in the market to look for are:

  • Toggl Track
  • RescueTime
  • ClickUp
  • Monday
  • Smartsheet
  • Hive

5 Tips on How to Track Your Daily Activities

Some activities are easier to log than others. Digital ones, like videoconferences, might already be on your calendar by virtue of the invite you sent out. Others, like that wilderness hike you took on a whim, may require some planning and estimation.

Here’s where to start:

1. Get Time Bounds Down to the Minute

When using the paper approach to log your time, it’s simple to round up. You begin a task at 3:23 p.m. and select whether to report it as 3:20 p.m. or 3:25 p.m. When it comes to digital, you can forget to tell the app to stop or start tracking something.

While this may not appear to be a major issue, inconsistencies will skew your activity log and data.

When you need to assess how you spend your time, sloppy logging becomes even more of an issue. If you’re off by two minutes on every five-minute “review and checking emails” activity, you’ll think you’re spending a lot of time checking emails.

The reality is that you aren’t, and you began working on the following assignment ahead of schedule and failed to record it.

2. Take Notes For Irregularities

Life is full of surprises, and you must plan for them regardless of the strategy you use. Was your child or pet distracting you as you finished writing your proposal email? Make a note of it so you won’t be surprised later in the week if you spend more time on particular duties than you anticipated.

If you’re going to record on paper, avoid using a pen. I rarely spend a day without making some sort of change to my planner or adding extra notes. Digital trackers don’t have this problem because you can alter and update them whenever you want.

When it comes to timekeeping, the “why” is equally as important as the “when” and “how long.” If you want to be successful, you must understand why certain jobs took longer or shorter than intended.

3. Ask for Corrections

Everyone makes mistakes, no matter how careful they are. If you’re tracking a collective activity, such as a company marketing campaign or a family supper, have others in the group record the start and end times. 

You can tell if you were right or wrong about how long anything took based on what they say. The greater the number of people engaged, the more precise your timings can be. 

It’s likely that your timesheet will differ slightly from your partners’. It’s not so much about determining who has the correct time as it is about recognizing the types of tasks where time differences are widespread. Tasks that aren’t properly logged can’t be confidently examined or acted on.

4. Back It Up

How well do you remember things? If your activity log was lost or stolen, could you repeat the last month? Most likely not. Take a photo of your paper activity tracker once a week if you use one. Upload the photos to Google Drive or another cloud storage service. 

Back up your activity log on a local storage device if you use a digital one. You never know when the firm that owns your tracker will go bankrupt. 

All of this is important because you can go back and look at prior data to see how you’ve changed over time. It’s also useful to indicate if there aren’t any changes at all, so you can explain why. 

5. Dig Into the Data

The fun begins once you’ve collected a month’s worth of activity data and are satisfied it’s been appropriately logged. Analyzing how you’ve been spending your time can help you make better use of it.

What you want to extract out of the data determines how you slice it.

Maybe all you need at the end of each month is a figure for billable hours. It’s simple: count up all the things you’ve done for your clients in the last four weeks.

Find the times you went for a walk or bike ride, went to the gym, or stretched if you want to know how much time you spent exercising.

You must consider your hobbies and ideals when using your activity log to better your daily life. Is your daily routine always leaving you with enough time to eat breakfast? If this is not the case, you may need to begin waking up earlier.

Is your salaried job forcing you to work well beyond 40 hours per week? Then, it might be time to start looking for a new one.

Downloadable Daily Activity Log

For those who prefer the feel of paper or want to be using spreadsheets, there are several downloadable activity log templates. Some sample activity logs are available on Word Templates Online.

Do More, Do Better

Your routine might not seem like anything special. But if you log your daily activities, you’ll see that you do a lot each day.

To better manage your time—either by cutting out unnecessary tasks or completing your existing ones more efficiently—you need to track your time. Opportunities for optimization are there—you just have to get started in identifying them.

Reference:

  1. Harvard Business Review: What Can’t Be Measured

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