What in the world does measuring time mean?
Simply put, it just means figuring out how long things take.
My dad used to have a co-worker who was never on time to work, despite his elaborate time calculations. He had everything figured out, in terms of how long it took – including his daily visit to Dunkin Donuts – and yet, he was always late.
Now I’m not asking you to do anything quite so precise. All I want is for you to get a clearer idea of how long certain things in your life really take to do.
If your morning routine is a problem, for instance, take a look at see where the problem is.
Are you taking too long to get dressed? Figuring out what to wear and then changing your mind? (My niece wears what is in front of her closet each morning, no matter what. It helps her decide if she loves something or needs to give it away, plus she’s not wearing the same thing too many times.)
There are two things that I used to hate doing: cleaning the kitchen when it was super messy and mopping the floors. OK, I still hate mopping the floors.
But when I found out that each of these tasks took about 20 minutes, that made a huge difference. Because while it looks and feels overwhelming, I know that in 20 minutes or so it will be done. I can do that. And I feel better afterwards.
Where to Begin?
The best place to begin measuring time is where it’s giving you the most trouble.
And like my example above, it doesn’t necessarily have to be related to time.
Certainly, if you’re late on a regular basis, you might want to take a closer look at that.
But also take a look at the tasks that you tend to put off the most.
Some of those will be related to time, and others won’t.
For instance, you may dread the thought of cleaning the bathroom. Who doesn’t, really?
But if you knew you could be done with the job in 15 minutes, you might be more willing to begin.
On the other hand, I’m terrible at making appointments for myself, especially health related ones. That’s got absolutely nothing to do with the time it takes, and more to do with the fact that once I’ve made an appointment, I have to go. And I don’t want to.
If you come up with more than one thing that’s giving you trouble – and you probably will – then start with the one that’s the most important.
Showing up to work on time might be considered more important than getting the floors mopped on a regular basis.
How Does This Help?
The reason that timing yourself or measuring your time helps is because we often think that things take less time than they really do. Or more time, if it’s something you hate.
Maybe you’re late to work because you really hate working there.
Or maybe it’s because you think it’s a 15 minute drive, when it’s more like 20 minutes on a good day. Throw in some extra traffic and you could be looking at a 30 minute drive.
The other reason that measuring time helps is that once you have a general idea of where the breakdown is, you can look for solutions.
Maybe it seems like making dinner takes hours, and it’s always on the table later than it should be.
Break down the steps of making dinner and see where the problem is:
- Was the meal planned in advance?
- How busy or full was your day? A full schedule means an easy dinner.
- Was dinner a bit complicated to make or something you’ve never tried before?
- What about taking something out of the freezer? Did you need to do that, and did you remember?
- Is there a lot of prep work involved, such as chopping vegetables?
- How long does the meal take to cook?
- Did you start cooking at a reasonable time, or did you put it off?
OK. You have a better idea now of how long some of your biggest “headaches” take because of measuring your time.
The easiest way to do this is by using the stopwatch on your phone. It’s within the calendar app.
I usually recommend timing yourself a few times, because the first time you’ll probably turn it into a race and come up with an inaccurate time.
Try timing yourself three times and then take the average: add them up and divide by three. You might want to round them off to just minutes too.
Measuring your time tells you what’s taking longer than you think, what’s faster than you thought, and gives you a starting place for making some changes.
If something takes longer than you thought, you need to adjust your routine. Get up earlier, start sooner, whatever.
If it takes less time than you thought, and it’s something you really don’t want to do, remind yourself that it’s only a few minutes out of your day. Or maybe, since it is such a short task, you could delegate it to someone else.
You might also find it helpful to time block a day or more with the things that you normally do. You could even do this both before and after you begin measuring your time.
Time blocking, for this purpose, is just marking off blocks of time on a daily calendar that has the hours of the day listed. Google Calendar, in Daily view, is an easy way to do this.
Just plug in the times that you spend getting ready for your day, making dinner, or whatever. Then Google will add a block of time that you spend doing that. It can even show you where your times overlap. And it can be a real eye-opener when you see how your days are spent.
Measuring your time can be a valuable way to manage your time and get it back under control so that you have time for you and what matters to you.