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Should Entrepreneurs Keep a Time Card?

The thought of keeping a time card seems so… employee. You're an entrepreneur so you can skip the 9 to 5… so you're free to do what you want, when you want… so you're not a slave to the man!

But bear with me for a minute. Let's be honest with each other. If you're an entrepreneur like me you probably put in way more than the 9 to 5. You may put in 80 hour weeks! Do you tell yourself all that time is time you're building a business — building your freedom?

Wasting Time

Be honest with yourself. How much of that time that you're grinding away at your life's dream and your keys to freedom are you actually working on, well… your life's dream and your keys to freedom? Are you constantly productive, or are you spinning your wheels?

If you decide to be honest with yourself, like I did, you'll probably figure out that you're wasting a lot of time.

I could go a few different ways from here, because I have a lot to say about productivity and systems. But right now I want to prove to you just how much time you're wasting, and why you need a time card (at least temporarily).

My Own Experiment

I decided to take and idea I'd heard about and actually run with it. I decided to write down what I did all day, for the entire day. Now, initially I balked at this idea. It seemed like tracking my own time was a real waste of time! But when I was honest with myself, I knew I had some inefficient habits and I wanted a clear picture of them.

I knew that honestly keeping my little “time card” would show me a better picture than just quickly scribbling down some points I needed to work on.

I was a little shocked (and a little ashamed) when I looked back over my time card at the end of the day.

There were times I'd sat down to work on an article, and rather than really working I had flipped to my email, then my instant messenger, then a quick (unrelated) search in my browser.

My biggest problem, though, was getting started with something and then getting distracted. I'd open my browser to post an article and get distracted by another tab. I'd be in the middle of something, think of something else to do, and off I went to do it. This “multitasking” was not working well for me. I ended up with a cluttered desktop and tons of un-finished projects!

I discovered so much about my own habits and time wasters.

Do Your Own Experiment

You need to do this too. Get a sheet of paper out tomorrow morning and write down what you do all day long. Write it down every single time you change activities.

That means if you're writing an article and you switch off to your RSS feeds, write that down. If 2 minutes later you're in your email inbox, write that down!

You may be surprised to find out just how much time you're slipping into unproductive, time-wasting behavior. I know I was. I consider myself an extremely efficient person, but like I said, I was wasting a lot of time.

Making Changes

I knew that I could be more productive with my time. I made some immediate changes to help myself focus when I sit down at the computer, because that's when I need to be efficient and productive – and that's when I was wasting time. I'll write more about these efficiency changes and organizational changes in the next few posts.

For now, make the effort to track your time. The results are enlightening.

Kristen
 

I'm a wife and mother who loves working online. This is my little home on the web. I run Milk and Mud to share what I'm discovering as I run my own business and explore personal development.

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Trying on Minimalism For Size - December 22, 2011

[…] when you’re a busy person (and I know you and I are both busy!) I shared in my post on entrepreneurs and time cards that keeping a time card to see how you really spend your time can be very… enlightening. I […]

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Justin Mazza - January 3, 2012

Hi Kristen,
I work way more than I should because it is so convenient.It’s so easy to get distracted when working at home and learning to be disciplined like keeping track of time spent will really help with this.

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    Kristen - January 3, 2012

    Justin, I know how distracting working at home can be – and you do end up working, working and working some more. Keeping a log of my time was really revealing to me. I plan to do it periodically to help myself work on what’s really important. Let me know if you decided to log a day or two!

    Reply

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