Time Study

Have you ever done a time study?   If you have, do you like doing them?  

I have done many time studies.  I also like doing them.  Or at least I like the knowledge I gain from them. 

It’s been a while since I did my last time study, and this morning I decided that it was time to start a new time study.  Let me explain what a time study is, ways you can use them and why I’m starting one today.  

If you have never heard of a time study, you might be wondering what it is all about.  A time study is simply a process of observing and tracking the time it takes to complete a task.  There are many different applications of time studies.  For example, you could use the time study to track how long it takes to complete a specific job/task or use it to track where you spend your time.   A time study is simply a tool.  A tool to have in your tool kit.  You pull it out and apply it depending on your needs.   

The primary reason I use a time study tool is to track where my time is going or how I am using my time.  I was first introduced to a time study when I first became an entrepreneur.  I was struggling and thought my issues were productivity-related.  I had enrolled in a productivity course and one of the tasks was a time study. 

To complete a time study, you track what you are doing all day long.  I use fifteen-minute increments of time.  The key is to track while you are completing the tasks so that you don’t miss anything.  It is easy to forget the 5 games of candy crush you played or the internet search on a business idea that led you down a rabbit hole looking for that new mirror you wanted to buy.   As I write about tracking your time in such small increments, it can sound daunting.  I’ll be honest and tell you that it can be.  It’s also worth it. 

You can track using an excel spreadsheet or a paper tracker.  It’s totally dependent on how you work and the easiest way to capture the data.  I use excel.  I find it especially easy now that the majority of my day is at home in front of the computer.  Pre pandemic, I used my day planner when traveling and then transferred the data to the computer.  

The idea is that you track ALL of your time.  And then categorize it so you can determine where your time is going.  How you categorize your time study is dependent on the information you are trying to obtain.  For the productivity program, I was in, the purpose of the time study was to track how much time was spent in the business versus on the business.  It was trying to see how much of my day was spent leading the team versus putting out fires and dealing with emergencies.  

I’ve done time studies for various purposes.  For example, I’ve looked at how much time was spent in my zone of excellence, genius, competence, or incompetence.  I’ve also looked at the focus of my time.  Am I spending time on tactical or strategic activities?  I really enjoy looking at where my time is spent.  Because I own a few businesses, I’m always aware that unconsciously, I may spend time where I find it easy to work versus the tasks/activities that need my attention. 

I also regularly use the same time study to check one or more areas of concern.  I decided that I was going to do a “where is my time going” as well as a focus study (tactical, strategic, self-care, etc.).  I’ve had a hard time shaking the funk I’ve been in this year.  I know many of us are feeling like our motivation has been dulled and we have an overall state of blah.  I know I haven’t been my most productive self as a result.  I have been trying to pull myself out but I’m having trouble shaking the feelings.  Because I have done prior time studies, I have baselines for how long things should take me.  This morning, I decided to do the time study to see if overall everything is just taking me longer or if I’m just more distracted.  I also want to know if I’m doing more busy work vs. strategic work.  Also, the truth is, when I’m tracking my time, I’m more accountable to myself.  Lots of awareness can come from this time study.  

This is why I like them so much, why I do them regularly.  Why I encourage people to do them.  The awareness I gain is amazing.  It’s one thing to think I know where my time is going, but to actually track it and see it can be eye-opening!  

If you did a time study would you be proud of yourself or shocked? 

All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us

J.R.R. Tolkien