Building Time Maps

Do you have enough time? Do you stress out over the hours that you’ve left out to finish your projects?

If you want to have "more time" or to manage it more effectively I have couple of tips for you. 

Where is my time?

Nothing comes from nowhere and in order to have more time you need to know where it goes. Your first task is to think what are the ways you spend your time. It would be the best if you could track it for a week or so. For starters simply jot down all the regular and irregular activities that form part of your life.

Think of as many as possible.  Then look at your list and check how many hours per day or per week are you spending on each activity.

If you really want to know where your time goes consider tracking it for a week or more if possible. There are countless software packages for doing that, some even allow to monitor your computer usage, used applications and visited internet sites. But remember, it’s not only about tracking your computer  activities, look at your life as whole.

Daily/Weekly chart

Once you have your list of activities ready it’s time to put a map in place. It works best if you use daily or weekly perspective of your week.

Lets start with a simple and easy method that will give you results very quickly:

  1. Take a ruled sheet of paper and some colour pens or alternatively use spreadsheet on your computer.
  2. List all the hours in the day starting from 0:00 to 23:00. Each of the line represent a single hour of your day.
  3. If you need more granular approach, say 30min slots just divide the lines appropriately or find bigger piece of paper. 
  4. Now start on the top and go down drawing a line between each activity. Once you’ve done fill the blocks  with colours you want. 

 

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[sample day schedule]

What you can see now is the map of day’s activities. By sketching this quick map you can identify any time sinks or simply realise that you have a lot on your plate and there is not much room.

 

If you have listed the number of hours you spend on each activity per day or per week then you can create pie chart. This method approaches your time map from slightly different angle and lets you see all the areas where you spend your time in proportion to the total time available. You can also see how they stack up against each other and what are the areas that dominate your schedule.

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[sample weekly activities]

It’s worth considering this approach if want to look at things from monthly or even annual perspective.

Analyse

Once you’re done with your map it’s time to look at it and analyse it. There is no point in creating something if you’re not going to use it. Time maps give you an overview of your situation so now you need to look at it and start asking questions.

  • What is important?
  • Is there anything that can be eliminated?
  • Is there any free time?
  • Am I spending time in the right way? etc

 

Next week I will look at time budgeting which aims at re-shaping your current schedule and making space for activities that are important and move you towards your goals and desires.