Monday 13 February 2017

Trying Out Time Tracking - My Experience

After seeing my friend Julianne post about it a week or two ago, I tried time tracking last week. For more details read her post, but the general idea is that you note down in a spreadsheet (I used the one created by the amazing Laura Vanderkam) what you're doing every 15 minutes so you can see what you're spending time on.

I started on Monday and did it from Monday to Saturday. From Monday to Friday, when I was at work, I found it incredibly useful. It was interesting to see how much I slept - I'm really bad at staying up far too late and tiring myself out, and have made a conscious effort to adjust that in 2017. I'm glad to see that I've been doing reasonably well at that. 

Julianne also mentioned that tracking her time created a chicken and egg situation where she spent less time procrastinating because she didn't want to write down that as something she'd spent quarter of an hour doing. I definitely found the same thing; for a start it helped me focus on reading in the bus and train which meant I read lots more than usual - I spent at least an hour every day reading while commuting.

I actually found it most helpful at work, though. I have a super-short attention span and as a teacher this is both a positive and a negative. When teaching lessons it's surprisingly useful, mainly because all of mine this year are GCSE with nearly all students who are resitting, having previously mainly got Ds or Es. The advice we've been given from people who've done a lot of work with resitting students is that the most effective way to teach (as it's essentially a revision year) is to break the lesson up a lot, looking at a variety of different things, to keep things fast-paced and make sure you get to look at the most important topics frequently. This actually works really well for me and my students are responding brilliantly to it - as shown in the majority of recent mock results, yay!

Where this is much LESS useful is when it comes to admin work, and as a teacher there's a lot of that to do. I would be the first to admit that my general approach to this stuff is terrible because there's so much to do and I'm awful at prioritising - I usually manage to get things done before deadlines, but have wasted so much time on it! (A reasonably accurate account of my thoughts when faced with a free hour to spend on this is "Oh I need to get these papers marked... but it would be a good idea to put these other marks into a spreadsheet to help with planning... and I can get a quick starter done to help my colleagues for next week... so I should go and talk to my colleagues to see what would be most useful... oh look, there's a squirrel!... hey, I should phone some students to find out why they missed their lesson... whoa where did that hour go?!" Due to wanting to be able to note down what I was doing every 15 minutes, I forced myself to stay on ONE task for 15 minutes minimum - sometimes longer - and I definitely think I got much more done this way!

In addition, when blogging - which I've mainly been doing in my lunch breaks, due to my current lack of a laptop (more on that in a future post!) it's been getting me to spend chunks of time on one post, rather than flit around between several posts, doing admin stuff, and answering e-mails. Both in my work life and in blogging, I've been surprised by how quickly I can do things - at work, I'd put off filing e-mails for ages because I always think of it as super time-consuming, but actually powered through all of mine (I won't say how many there are, but it was a significant amount!) in half an hour. Similarly, it only took me half an hour or so to write Friday's blog post on the Library Pot.

Up until Saturday morning or so, I was a huge fan of time tracking and was keen to carry on for at least another week. Things started to get trickier on Saturday - I was doing a lot of things (meeting up with my parents, heading to Tales on Moon Lane, meeting up with them again, and going to a couple of different places with them) and I was getting super stressed about filling stuff in accurately. (This is probably mainly a 'me' thing about the need to be correct all the time!) When it came to Sunday, with lots of plans with them AND a basketball game with my friend Louise to go to, I didn't even try.

Does that mean I don't think it's working for me? Not at all! I don't think it's something I will continually do long term - I'm so impressed by people who can keep this up, but at the same time I think it's important to figure out what DOES work for you as an individual. I think I'm probably going to try doing it Mon - Fri for a week when I'm at work for each of the next couple of months, and see how I'm feeling about it after that. I may carry on doing that, I may get more frequent - it's something that I think might be useful to do quite often in working weeks - or I may just give up. And whichever of those options I choose, I'm fine with it. One of the things I'm proudest of this year is that I'm getting much better at trying things out, then making decisions, rather than committing to something and feeling trapped in it, or doing the opposite and not trying it at all.

Have you ever tried time tracking? Does it interest you? Leave me a comment, or tweet me at @yayeahyeah to tell me!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jim!
    Have you tried to do it with a time tracking app for your phone or computer?
    It's more simple than just adding entries to excel template :)
    I use TimeCamp ( and I'm pretty satisfied with the results :)