To Get More Done, Track Your Time

By Katie Corbett

If you don’t already have a job when you are looking for your next one, job hunting can involve huge swaths of time that will get away from you. You might intend to apply for jobs, only to discover you spend your whole day watching videos on YouTube or going down the rabbit hole that is Thought Catalog. How can you know when is the best time to apply for jobs or when to schedule interviews so you will be at your best mentally? And if you do have a job when you are looking for your next one, how can you keep yourself from wasting the limited time you do have to fill out applications so you can find work that is a better fit? For me, the answer came when I decided to track how I spent my time.

In her book, “Coach Yourself to Success,” Talane Miedaner says that the best way to determine what you do that wastes time, as well as to find your most productive hours of the day, can be deduced by writing out how you spend your time during a typical week. I did this by creating a spreadsheet with the hours of the day running across the top, and the days of the week running down the side. I kept track of what I did during each hour of the day. (You can create a template and print it out, or find a time-tracker app for your phone, or order a journal with the time blocks already mapped out. Do what will work well for you.)

If you are thinking, “But, Katie, that sounds super tedious and boring,” you are right, it kind of was. But what I learned from this exercise has made any frustration I felt totally worth the effort. As a result, I learned:

• How Much Sleep I Needed: I discovered that I usually slept for seven hours within a 24-hour period.
• I Can’t Take Short Naps: When I conk out, I’m asleep for at least 90 minutes–if not three hours.
• I prefer to Problem-Solve in the Morning: I made it a point to schedule job interviews in the morning, because my brain was most fresh and ready to meet challenges at that time.
• I Slow Down in the Afternoon: This time was great for taking a break, either to relax with friends or to bake or read alone.
• My Best Creative Solutions Come at Night: I would sometimes lie awake at night and get a great business idea, think of a contact I should reconnect with to help with my job search, or get some inspiration to write a fiction piece or start a new hobby.

After I learned these insights, I did my best to act according to them. I stopped calling myself lazy when I laid down to sleep, since I knew I would be up in about seven hours. I scheduled interviews, cold calls, and cover letter writing in the mornings, made plans for relaxation in the afternoons, and kept a notebook or my phone handy late at night so I could jot down my ideas.

What could you discover if you tracked your time for a week? You never know until you try it. Be sure and pick a typical week, free from vacations or business trips. Jot down what you are doing during each hour and note how much energy you have. What are you waiting for? Grab your spreadsheet or journal and get to tracking.

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