Any one of: self employment, working from home, social media involvement and a curious mind can challenge effective use of time, thrown together they can be a productivity nightmare.
By comparison, I found it easier to stay on track with fewer distractions back in the days when I owned regular businesses with all the challenges of being an employer as well as the mainstream business activities.
From a time management angle, farming was relatively simple despite the large labour force and coping with the weather, intermittent electricity supplies, political and security problems we experienced in Africa.
Both those periods of my life were before Social Media and with very limited (and expensive) access to the Internet and email. Perhaps that is why we always seemed to have more time.
In most forms of conventional businesses with employees the basic structure of the working day is influenced by external factors. Employees arrive at the same time every day and except in unusual circumstances, leave at the same time. Most farming activities are scheduled according to the calendar. There are (or should be) systems in place so that most of the business activities proceed without direct involvement of the owner or manager.
A self-employed solopreneur or consultant marches to a different drumbeat. Yes we have routines, schedules and tools to keep us on track, journals, spreadsheets, timers, to -do lists and more.
But without the external discipline of bosses to be accountable to, employees to set an example for, and daily contact with colleagues, customers or other people, it is very easy to spend too many hours working on things that are not the most important. Spending too much time on the wrong side of the 80:20 equation. It is also just as easy to spend too much time working and not enough playing, relaxing, learning or recharging.
I thought I was being very smart with my system of journals, action lists and recording time spent on various activities. I was fooling myself, I have actually been spending twice as much time as I though on twitter, Facebook, Google+ and other Social Media, not all of it productive. Some of those You Tube videos that people put up on Facebook and Google + should be banned. Pinterest is another time sink, just too many interesting photos.
In a short period of mild distraction myself the other day, I was scanning the rss feeds of blogs I subscribe to with Google reader. This can fritter away a whole afternoon, so I set my timer for 30 minutes maximum when opening Google Reader. I read about “Rescue Time”. I cannot remember which brilliant blogger suggested this tool, I wish I could because it is magic and I would like to thank him. (I do remember it was an him)
I have been using it for a week and I am already getting a clear (and horrifying) picture of where my time is not being spent productively.
Here is a screen shot of one of the charts.
This shows that so far this week, I have only spent 57% of my time on productive tasks and that I am more productive in the afternoons and evenings than in the mornings,
Another chart shows time spent on each colour coded category.
The dashboard has many other charts showing time spent on individual sites, sites within categories, daily productivity and much more. Categories can be customised from a list of suggestions and the positive – neutral-negative weighting for categories and individual sites can be modified to suit each business. While time spent on emails could be considered a negative distraction for some, it could be a positive marketing activity for others.
When it is downloaded, Rescue Time sits in the background and automatically records the time spent on each site. A weekly summary is emailed and all stats are updated to the users dashboard which is accessible online. Don’t worry, if other people use your computer, you can exclude sites you don’t want recorded.
I have only been using the system for a week, but it has very clearly shown me where my time is being spent, and more importantly where I need to work smarter. I am using the free system, there is a pro system which provides offline tracking for meetings, more alerts and more charts and also a team version.
Check it out here Rescue Time. It is an affiliate link, so I will get a commission if you buy but try the free version first you will be amazed at what it tells you.
Wishing you success in all your endeavours.