Goal setting and time management go hand in hand, so how can you make sure your goal setting is effective, and your time management is successful?

How do you set goals? Are you a Grant Cardone goal setter — setting big goals and taking massive action, or do you set S.M.A.R.T goals, making them all manageable and realistic? With so many different theories out there about which goals you should be setting, and how you should be going about it, it’s easy to lose track of why we set goals in the first place. We set goals to get more done, in less time. Essentially, goals are the foundation for time management — whether it’s managing a busy week, or achieving a five year plan.

Today, we’re going back to basics and talking about how to set goals for your work day, that you can track in a specific, measurable way. This is the first part of a comprehensive set of articles about time management. By the end of the month, you’ll be tracking your time like a pro.

Why Should I Track My Time?

The first step in goal setting is working out how you’re currently spending your days, and then how you want to spend your days. Tracking time for client work is a no-brainer, but what about the time you don’t spend working? Are you paying attention to those hours, or are you losing time that could be used to achieve your goals? For instance, let’s look at the reasons for tracking your work:

  • The most obvious reason is to track billable hours. If you invoice your time per hour, it’s obvious that you need to know how many hours to invoice!
  • When billing hourly, you need to track your time as accurately as possible, probably down to the minute.
  • Time tracking helps you stay close to an hourly rate goal and avoids your projects’ workloads getting out of whack.
  • This also helps with accountability: If your client wants a proof of your effort, you have a timesheet to present.
  • To improve your productivity. You can’t improve what you don’t measure, after all!
  • Knowing where you spent your time is crucial to finding and eliminating time sinks.

What if you don’t work by billable hours? If you manage a team, you can use time tracking to work out which tasks you should be delegating, or what you should be making a priority. Are you working on low value activities too much? Or spending too much time working, and not enough time on personal development? Let’s take a look at how to find out.

Escape the Time Scarcity Mindset

We now know why we’re tracking time, but what should we be tracking? If you’re reading this, you probably don’t have a 9-5 desk job, meaning your time is more fluid. You might find that you’re overworking, or underworking. More than likely, you’re in a time scarcity mindset. Have you found yourself saying “I don’t have time” when in reality, you’re struggling to clock five hours of work a day?

When you start tracking, don’t just track work hours, track from when you wake to when you sleep, seven days a week. It’s worth being honest about it, too, which is where an app like Timing can help. You may have said that that hour was for researching a project, but how much time was really spent reading news articles and browsing social media? Automated time tracking can be a saviour for effective time management, as it shows you what you were really doing. It may seem like you don’t have time to devote so much time to time tracking, but you’ll soon find it frees up more time that it takes.

Taylor Pearson went to extreme levels to track his time, as outlined in this article. He found that it brought him much more happiness, as he was finding out what he was spending time on that he didn’t enjoy, that wasn’t profitable for him, and that ultimately could be delegated. If you’re tracking everything so that you have knowledge of your “quantified self”, then it’s important to know how you’re spending every waking moment.

So… How Do I Turn This Knowledge Into Effective Goals?

Once you have a clear idea about how you’re spending your time, use it to your advantage to set effective goals, rather than goals for goal setting’s sake. The best practice for tracking time is to write down what you were doing the moment you finish doing it, that way there’s no searching in your mind for details when you’re trying to fill in your day later. An app like Timing will remind you to log time when you’ve been away from your laptop, so you have less chance of forgetting.

Once you have a clear idea of how you’ve been spending your days, you can set goals and structure your days. Less time doing something? More time? Getting up earlier or later? The beauty of setting your goals after tracking your days is that they’ll be formed from things you’re already doing, which means you’re more likely to be able to achieve them.

Time to Take Action

You should now have a good idea of how to track your time, and why. But let’s break it down one stage further. We’ve forgotten that tracking your time isn’t just a way to create goals: it’s your first goal. You keep goals when you have a clear motive for doing so, so take a moment now to think about:

  • Why do I want to track time?
  • What kind of events do I need to track? What information will I record?
  • When will I track them?

Then, grab a piece of paper and write down a short paragraph like this:

‘I want to improve my time tracking in order to … . To accomplish this, I will track … (the events and details you want to track) as they occur and review them daily.’

Don’t underestimate this step, as people who write down their goals are far likelier to follow through with them than those who don’t. It creates both clarity in your mind, and a sense of commitment. As was mentioned earlier, this is the first in a series of articles about time management and time tracking skills, so next week we’ll be looking at achieving structure in your day. By then, you’ll hopefully have a better idea of your current time management skills, and where they need improvement.

Can’t wait to get started organizing your day? You can learn more about Timing here.