Visualising Your Time Helps Managing It Better
Time management charts are overrated. They won’t fix your time control problem just by being created. If you were said they were the magic tool that would solve your problems, you have been deceived.
And still they can be very useful.
Time management charts can visualize how you spend your time, where are the major time leaks and which parts of the day are most efficient. This article is a short introduction to them and will help you understand how to use and produce such charts.
There are some tutorials online which go into much details what software to use for creating them, what rectangles to draw, in what colors and so on. I suggest you not to lose too much time for this – these charts can be pretty simple and easy to create and shouldn’t take more time than they save.
Types of time management charts
There is no type of charts that you should definitely use, but most popular seems to be these 3 types:
- Pie charts. These charts usually display the activities in average workday in circle. For example such a chart can show 35% work, 30% sleep, 8% commuting, 6% eating, 11% watching TV and 10% other activities. They don’t give too much information but visualizing your day in such way can help you understand it better. Eventually it can lead to dropping some activity so you can free up time for more important ones. You can produce such chart fairly easy with any vector drawing software or specific charting software. You can even draw such chart on paper. Just remember that the circle is 360° so each percentage equals 3.6°
- Table charts These charts have columns and rows. You may choose to have columns for activities and time spent on them for each week day, or you may decide to put the activity in the hour cells for the day – so on the top you have week days, at left you have hours and activities in the cells. Perhaps this is a good example of a table time management chart. You can create such ones in Excel-like software or even a text editor like Word.
- Summary of activities. Essentially this is also a table chart but it has a bit different look and purpose. At left you have groups of activities, then the activities in the next column, then hours for every week day and at the end total percentage. Here is a great example of such time management chart. If you keep it for few weeks you will be able to evaluate the tendencies and hopefully take important actions to improve the way you spend your time.
In more complex cases you may want to use Gantt charts which are quite popular in software project management.
What to do after charts
As I said in the beginning, just using the charts isn’t going to make wonders. You have to do something with the information you get from them. Here is what:
- Identify the problems. Are you spending too much time on meaningless tasks? Do you spend too much time thinking and preparing to do things rather than really doing them? Accepting the problem is the first necessary step to solving it.
- Work out the problems. Remove activities which eat too much time if possible, or at least designate a fixed time for them and stick to it. If an activity is important but takes too much time and it is never enough, see what other activity can be reduced to free up time. Don’t reduce time for sleep to do this.
At the end stop looking at the chart and focus on real activities. The point is not to feel like doing something and being busy but to actually achieve results. And if you find out that having more fun results in less time spent for other activities, but with the same results, so be it!