Time poor at work? Do a quick time audit.

Time poor at work? Here is a suggestion that may help – do a time audit on your working day.

As a busy working carer, you know that more than most people, you need to be focused and organised to get your paid work done on time.

 The last thing you want to have to do is work overtime or bring work home.

If you find yourself constantly stressed because you can’t seem to get through all your tasks, or if you must regularly work extra hours to get your job done, then it is time to assess why this is happening. One good place to start is undertaking a time audit of your day.

You may find that you have simply been give far too much for one person to do. If that is the case, you need to address this issue with your supervisor and, if that doesn’t resolve the issue, with your human resources manager, or your supervisor’s manager.

But it is also possible that you are just not using your time effectively. Awareness of exactly how you spend your time is the first and most critical stage of improvement.

There is often a great discrepancy between the way you spend your time and the way you think you spend your time. A time audit helps you look at exactly how your time is being used so you can better understand where your time is going. For a time audit to be effective, it needs to reflect your actual work history.

Set a timer or calendar reminder for every 15 minutes. When it alerts you, in just a few seconds, write down what you are doing.

Your time diary could be an Excel spreadsheet that you update on your computer, it could be a standard desk diary, it could be an A4 exercise book, or even a piece of paper. Don’t get hung up on creating a perfect time dairy, just start by quickly noticing and noting (in whatever way works for you) the tasks you are doing every 15 minutes.

Maybe do your time audit on a Monday for week one; a Tuesday for week two; a Wednesday for week three and so on, so it doesn’t become too much of an interruption or annoyance. The data gleaned will be well worth the effort spent.


Your diary may look something like this (or nothing at all like this):

8.45am – go to coffee cart on way to work.

9am – find a carpark.

9.15am – arrive in office/workplace and catch up with colleagues; check email

9.30am – call clients A and B

9.45am – pick up where I left off on XYZ project; check email

10am – call husband/wife/friend to ask about dinner

10.15 – meet with my manager

10.45 – make a cup of tea; chat with colleagues

11am – speak with colleague who has a problem and offer advice; check email

11.15am – return to work on XYZ project; go online to check Facebook feed

11.45am – help colleague who is running late on a task

12pm – contribute to office discussion of air conditioner temperature

12.15 – return to XYZ project; check email

12.30pm – go online check weather and surf report.


You get the idea, right? Do this for at least five working days before you come back to review your data.


When you review your data, number the activities according to the following list:

1 = targeted accomplishment i.e. the ‘to do’ activity or important job requirement

2 = ‘firefighting’ – responding to ad-hoc issues

3 = other people’s priorities and crisis

4 = time wasters (no real contribution to your work)


Record the number of blocks of time you have devoted to each category of activity (e.g. 25 x 1s; 32 x 2s; 18 x 3s; 50 x 4s). Now, also calculate the percentage of time devoted to each category of activity.

If 75 per cent of your time audit shows you working on “number1” activities, you are doing extremely well. Many people will find that they are spending a lot of time on numbers 2, 3 and 4.

Don’t be too discouraged by this. It is typical and partly a by-product of the fact that work days aren’t designed around being productive


Questions to ask yourself:

  1. How can I best use the insights gained from my data?
  2. How much of my time is being spent unproductively?
  3. How, why and where is my time being wasted?
  4. Which activity categories lead to long-term results and personal development? 
  5. What can I do differently to increase time for the important ‘to do’ activities?
  6. How can I stop or minimise low-value activities?
  7. What happens if I just don’t do this at all? Sometimes the consequences are trivial once we look at what will happen.
  8. Are there common distractions I can avoid?
  9. Can I shut my office door at certain times of day to focus a block of time on a set task?
  10. Can I not answer the phone for a set period and let it go to message bank?
  11. Can I not take social calls from friends and family during the work day?
  12. Can I change my schedule to make better use of my time?