Keeping a Time Log: How to Do It and Its Benefits

Survivalists use a time log to keep track of everything that happens and how much time has passed. This allows them to plan for the future, knowing what they have left and when it will run out. Here are some tips on keeping your own time log.

Keeping a time log can be an effective tool for learning about yourself and improving your life. This is because it allows you to see the patterns of your day, which will help you make changes to improve your life. It also helps you to remember where you were when certain things happened in order to understand them better. Read more in detail here: daily time log example.

Vintage man repairing clocks.

There are a plethora of productivity tactics available. Every day, dozens, if not hundreds, of articles on how to get more done at work and in life are published online. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. If I spent all of my time reading new articles and books, I wouldn’t have time to accomplish the things that are really essential and significant. So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, as if you don’t have enough time or should be doing more, where should you begin?

Why not start with the foundation?

To figure out how to be more productive, you must first figure out how you spend your minutes and hours. You complain that you don’t have enough time or that you don’t get enough done, but when you monitor your time, you find that you spend 60 minutes a day on Facebook. From there, the solution seems to be self-evident.

I embarked on this time-tracking experiment, and after a month, I am certain that my productivity has grown permanently. A light bulb has gone off in my head regarding how I spend my time and what I can do to improve it.

If you work in a highly organized setting where your day is mostly governed by appointments — for example, as a doctor or lawyer — this exercise may not be particularly useful during your working hours. If, on the other hand, you find that your evenings and weekends are slipping away in a cloud of Netflix and online surfing and aren’t as enlightening, interesting, and/or enriching as you’d like, you may use the same time management concepts to get more out of your leisure time.

Tracking your time allows you to take charge of your hours rather than being ruled by them and feeling lost at the end of the day. Below, I’ll go through the advantages and tools you’ll need to execute this experiment and start getting more out of life.

Do you want to get a better handle on your time? Treat it as though it were food

One of the reasons why time management is so tough is that time is so elusive. It’s invisible; it’s abstract; scientists are still attempting to figure out what it is!

To have a better understanding of time, consider it in terms of something more concrete: food. The tendency to get sidetracked is similar to a desire for junk food. A lack of production is like to gaining weight around the waist. And what is the solution? Time monitoring entails maintaining a meal journal.

Keeping a meal diary for many weeks or even months has been shown in several studies over the years to be one of the most effective strategies to lose weight. In fact, the original research from 2008 found that individuals who maintained a record of what they ate throughout the day — on paper, digitally, or even photographically – dropped twice as much weight as those who didn’t.


Why does food monitoring work so well?

To begin with, folks who are overweight may be surprised to learn that they are aware of what they are consuming. When you monitor every morsel of food that crosses your lips, it becomes clear that mindless munching or buying dessert on a daily basis doesn’t add up to much.

Food journaling also brings with it an element of accountability. When you eat a Whopper on the way home then throw away the evidence before coming in the door, the deed effectively fades from your mind. But once you write that Whopper down, it takes on a life of its own. It took place. You’ve got to admit it to yourself.

Food journal keepers lose weight significantly more successfully than those who do not. This is due to awareness, a healthy feeling of shame, and responsibility.

Keeping track of how one spends their hours and minutes has the same advantages and justifications. So, if you want to see your productivity levels rise, start keeping track of your time.

Do you want to get more work done? The Advantages of Time Tracking

Tracking your time isn’t exactly a glamorous way to boost your productivity. It requires the painstaking charting of your minutes and hours throughout the day over the period of a few weeks, if not months, rather than a shiny new app (or a shiny new smartphone). It’s also, unfortunately, a time-consuming activity; nevertheless, this upfront investment will pay off for years and decades to come.

Let’s start with some of the particular advantages of time tracking for productivity, and then move on to the best methods to accomplish it.

1. It lays the groundwork for other productivity methods.

“It’s difficult to reflect on whether you’re behaving in ways that align with your beliefs and highest-impact activities until you become aware of how you presently spend your time.” Keeping a time journal is an excellent approach to figure out where you want to start, what your beginning point is.” –The Productivity Project’s Chris Bailey

You wouldn’t start a strength-training program without first determining your lifting capacity. When you’re attempting to build new habits in order to get more done, the same rule applies. How can you set realistic objectives and deadlines for achieving them if you don’t have a clear picture of how your time is spent and what you’re doing with that time?

To apply the previous example, if you don’t notice you’re spending 60 minutes a day on Facebook, how would you know you need to take action to reduce your social media usage? If you’re not keeping track of your hours, it’s possible that it won’t even cross your mind, and you’ll just believe you need a new to-do list method. You must, in fact, block Facebook.

By keeping track of your time, you can concentrate on developing productivity strategies that work in your real life rather than simply what you believe you need to accomplish.


I’ve discovered that if my day isn’t well-planned with at least three key must-complete chores, I wind up spending more time since I’m simply floating about trying to figure out what has to be done, and I inevitably attempt to multi-task. I can launch into the morning with a full head of steam and not spend any time trying to find out what’s on my schedule if I plan beforehand, particularly if it’s the day before. I’m not sure I would have understood that the first 20-30 minutes of my day were primarily useless due to a lack of a specific goal if I hadn’t kept track of my time.

2. You’ll realize you’ve been underestimating the time it takes to do certain tasks…

Everyone nowadays appears to be in a perpetual state of activity.

What if, instead of being an issue of reality, your busyness was a problem of perception?

One of the main reasons you may believe you don’t have enough time for everything is that you are probably underestimating how long some chores take and how much time you spend on them. This phenomena is described by author Laura Vanderkam as follows:

“We have a tendency to exaggerate or undervalue things depending on socially acceptable beliefs or present emotions.” Few of us, for example, like the mundane tasks of housekeeping or home management. We feel like we’re constantly performing these duties, whether it’s emptying the dishwasher or paying payments. So, when asked how much time we spend on such activities, we overestimate – by as much as 100% for both men and women — when compared to the real figures recorded in time diaries.”

When it comes to overestimation, the bad result is that you feel busier than you really are. When you look at your calendar, you exaggerate how long certain things will take, make yourself feel overburdened, and get discouraged from trying to achieve specific objectives or begin a new interest. Furthermore, you may spend more time on an activity than is necessary in order for its length to fit your preconceived estimate; labor, as they say, occupies the time.

I used to say that my daily and weekly job maintenance activities (the minor things that don’t take much time or effort, and don’t offer much value to the bottom line, but must be done) took me 1-2 hours each day a few months ago. When I began keeping track of my time, I discovered that those tasks took me around an hour every day on average, and sometimes even less (down to 30 minutes on rare occasions!). I began to squander less time in order to fill the time I had previously estimated these jobs would take, and realized I had more time than I had anticipated, motivating me to design a more ambitious daily schedule. 

Of course, not all activities seem to be time-consuming; some are, and you may not have enough time to do all of your chores. However, after monitoring your time for a few weeks, you’re likely to discover that certain jobs take less time than you expected, that you’ve been squandering valuable hours, and that you can fit more things into your calendar than you imagined.


3….As well as underestimating how much time you spend on other things.

Over the course of a week, we all have the same 168 hours. What makes some individuals seem to get more done than others? Do they locate extra minutes in the day that are hidden and only available to the ultra-productive? Certainly not!

They just make better use of the daily supply of precious time that we all have.

We commonly underestimate how much time we spend on specific tasks, just as we often overestimate how long things take.

We have a propensity to exaggerate how much time activities like housework take since they are more difficult to do and hence more important. Tasks that involve minimal cognitive effort and are more passive in nature, on the other hand, tend to slide by unnoticed.

Most people, like food journalers, don’t keep track of how much they eat. They also don’t keep track of how many hours they spend staring at screens. They may believe they just watch an hour of television every day, but when they monitor it, it turns out to be three hours. They believe they just check their phone a few times a day for a few minutes, but when they sum up all those “peeks,” they find they’ve spent an hour messaging and browsing through Instagram.

We engage in a number of passive, useless tasks throughout the day that may be decreased and repurposed for greater reasons. However, you won’t know what they are until they’re actively monitored!

4. It holds you accountable right away.

Logging your time, like maintaining a food diary, holds you responsible for squandered time straight immediately. When you go online for an hour and then return to work mode, it’s quite likely that no one else observed it but you, and it basically vanished into the ether (let’s call this a “Time Whopper”). You have nothing except your guilt till you forget about it and squander another hour or two the next day.

However, if you’re keeping track of your time, you’ll need to record that hour of useless online browsing. You see that it has been logged, and there is a different sort of response. “12pm-1pm: online surfing,” whether written or typed on a computer, elicits a stronger sense of healthy conviction than just thinking, “Whoops, there goes another hour.” You must confront that squandered time and accept responsibility for it.

This was a considerably stronger motivation than I anticipated it to be in my own time tracking experience, and I bet you’ll find the same. You’ll want to see a record full of productive activities at the end of the day, even if productive means reading or playing with the kids. When you squander time and record it, you’ll be motivated the following day to start fresh with no hours wasted on your timesheet.

5. Allows you to load the arch with more weight.

When you keep track of your workday for a while, you may discover that you don’t have nearly enough to accomplish. You’re squandering time because you can do so without negatively impacting your job.


If you’re keeping track of your time and find that you can do all of your tasks with plenty of time to spare, but you still feel unproductive or like you could take on more, you may elect to increase the load on the arch. This is simple if you’re self-employed or primarily self-directed. Make phone calls to suppliers to negotiate lower rates, publish additional blog entries, and contact some new customers. If you aren’t self-employed, ask your boss if there are any projects you can work on; you will almost certainly not be turned down.

6. Requires you to focus on a single task rather than multitasking

Multitasking is generally acknowledged to be detrimental to productivity. In any case, the concept is a lie; you’re not truly doing numerous things at once; you’re merely cycling between various tasks extremely fast. Because your brain isn’t designed to handle tasks like an octopus, things will unavoidably be neglected or done poorly.

When you’re time-tracking, you’re aware that each increment is noted, whether it’s 15 minutes or an hour. This implies that you give each work its appropriate time for the sole reason that you want to be able to record it correctly, at least in my experience. Your journal will be a jumble if you spend just a few minutes on a range of chores. However, there’s a sense of accomplishment in being able to devote an hour or two to a single critical task.

You’ll notice that your capacity to concentrate has improved over time, and you won’t be tempted to multitask and intersperse critical work with useless maintenance duties. Rather, you’ll learn to set out 30 or 60 minutes every day to do these easy tasks and get them out of the way all at once.

How to Keep Accurate and Effective Time Tracking

Now that we’ve identified the advantages of time-tracking, let’s get down to business and figure out how to make the most of it. We’ll start with some broad ideas and then move on to some practical tools.

To get the most out of time-tracking, there are three main rules to follow:

  • Honesty. What’s the purpose of being honest about how you spend your time if you’re not being honest about how you spend it? If you lie, you’re simply shorting yourself since you’re the only one who sees your time record (unless you select differently).
  • Consistency. In investigations of food journalers, it was shown that individuals who failed to lose weight did so because they stopped writing after just a few days. You’ll need at least two weeks of time-tracking to obtain a fair sense of how your hours are spent consistently. And they should be “regular” weeks, not vacation weeks or weeks leading up to vacations. Choose a period of time that is as typical as feasible.
  • Meticulousness. This was the second factor that prevented food journalers from achieving their objectives. You must be meticulous in order for time-tracking to be successful. Think in minutes rather than hours. I tracked my day down to the minute for the first few days, from when I got up to when I went to bed. Then I worked in five-minute intervals for the following several days. After that, I tracked in fifteen-minute intervals for the last two weeks. Yes, it takes time, but it only takes two weeks. You’ve got this.

There are two fundamental frameworks for monitoring time in addition to these three keys:


  • According to the time of day When you track by time of day, you’ll record your activities for a certain period of time, such as 9-9:15 a.m. Set a timer for every 15 minutes (at least at initially; as you get into it, it may be longer), and take a brief second to note down what you’ve been doing.
  • Task by task. You’ll go about your day and activities as usual, and just write down when you switch tasks and start anything new using this strategy.

Experiment with both and find what works best for you. I tracked my time by task for the first few days. I’d keep track of when I began and ended doing anything, as well as when I switched to a different activity, down to the minute. This allowed me to determine how long things took and how my day was organically organised.

After that, I switched to time increment monitoring, which is more helpful for planning reasons, such as determining when you’re most prone to squander time, how to arrange your breaks, and so on. Another advantage is that having a timer to remind you to write down what you’ve been doing helps you refocus if you go off course.

I also enjoyed giving my time-tracking notes some context. I listed whatever book or magazine I was “reading” if I was “Reading.” While “Driving,” I would sometimes make a note of the weather or a podcast I was listening to. I’d write “Jamaica, dark roast, French press” under the section “Making coffee.” “Playing catch around the house with a small basketball” was more specific than “playing catch with Graham” (our toddler). As a result, it became more of a diary than merely a time-tracker. This isn’t required, although it might be fun to reflect on.

It will nearly become second nature after two weeks of rigorous monitoring. At least, it worked for me. Even while I’m not keeping track as meticulously as I used to, I still check the clock regularly (at least during work hours) to ensure I’m making the most of it. If I stray off track, I’ll scribble down what I’m doing and for how long in my pocket notebook, and it’ll immediately bring me back on track.

Even if you don’t monitor anything after your two-week experiment is finished, you should still undertake a time audit every a year or so to assess how things have changed and to stay on track (or to re-align if things got off). Of course, you can always take stock if you start to feel like you could get more out of your days (or, conversely, if you start to feel like you don’t have enough time!).

Digital Resources

There are many digital applications on the market that can automatically monitor your time by tracking your keystrokes and open apps/tabs to see what you’ve been up to. In general, I’ve found that, although digital tools may be useful, they shouldn’t be depended on for all of your time-tracking needs. Even if you spend your days in front of a computer, a basic diary of the websites and applications you use may not be sufficient. Sure, you spent an hour on Facebook, but if you work in marketing, you may have used some (or perhaps all) of that time for professional objectives. Digital applications can’t tell you what you were doing on a certain website or app; they can’t tell you what you were doing.


However, they may be useful additions to your current activities and can assist refresh your mind if you fail to record anything over the course of a few hours.  

In the space, RescueTime is the undisputed leader. It’s an application that you download and install on your computer to measure how much time you spend on different websites and web-connected apps. It works on a variety of operating systems, including Android phones. It also provides a variety of data on how you spend your time, including the ability to measure your efficiency and productivity development if you select pre-defined objectives (such as “spend one hour less on email every day”).

Toggl is a simple web-based timer. While it was designed largely for freelancers and those who need to manage client time, its extensive labeling and classifying capabilities have made it popular for goal-setting of many types, from health to general productivity. Using charts and graphs to visualize your productivity is also beneficial.

Only available on iOS, ATracker is a useful tool for keeping track of your time. You just add typical jobs (or time wasters), click on them to indicate them as being completed at that time, and then click the next item or activity to stop and log the prior. It you’re manually keeping track of your time but using a digital interface to do so.

Evernote, like ATracker before it, is a hybrid of digital and analog. You’re utilizing a gadget, but solely to record rather than monitor or graph your time. Use Evernote like a piece of paper; create a new notebook for your time records, and record how you spent your hours.

Analog Instruments

For me, the ideal method was to use a pen and paper. I didn’t utilize any digital tools since I knew they’d be a distraction in and of itself (“Charts and graphs showing my productivity!”). “How fruitful!”).  

Timesheet for 168 hours. Author Laura Vanderkam designed this useful timesheet template. Simply jot down what you’re doing for the whole 168 hours of the week in 15-minute intervals. Keep a copy of this page on your desk, kitchen counter, or bedside. After a few weeks, you’ll have a decent sense of your top time wasters, as well as how long things take against how long you believe they take.

Notebook that fits in your pocket. For a reason, the pocket notepad is a classic. It fits in your back pocket, so jot it down anytime you switch duties or hobbies, with explanatory comments if necessary. If you were reading a web page for work, for example, designate it as such rather than merely “online reading.” Check in at the end of the day to check whether you’re satisfied with how you spent your time. If you’re anything like me, you’ll notice what went wrong fairly quickly, what distracted you and wasted time, and you’ll feel a decent degree of remorse about it. Immediate responsibility is the way to go!


You’ll experience enormous satisfaction when you can look back on your time sheet and see a full, accomplished day, and you’ll know you’ve earned your leisure and sleep. Time monitoring altered not just how I spent my minutes and hours, but also how I saw my life and my time on Earth in general. Make sure you’re focusing on the things that are really important to you. 

Keep track of your time and make a difference in your life. Take the bull by the horns in 2017.

Keep track of your time and make a difference in your life. Take the bull by the horns in 2017.


Chris Bailey’s Productivity Project 

Laura Vanderkam’s 168 Hours 



Keeping a time log is one of the best ways to keep track of your day. It helps you to see where you are spending your time and how much time it takes to complete certain tasks. This can help you to find out what needs more attention, as well as give you an idea of how long things will take when they’re done. Reference: how to keep a log.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the benefit of using a time log?

A: The benefit of using a time log is that it allows you to know your speed and accuracy. It also helps you understand how different music affects the game, which can be helpful in achieving better scores on songs with difficult parts.

What are two benefits of keeping an activity log and analyzing activity behaviors?

A: Two benefits of keeping an activity log and analyzing activity behaviors are (1) the ability to see how your behavior changes over time, and (2) a better understanding of what types of activities you enjoy most.

How can keeping a time log assist you in managing your time?

A: Keeping a time log helps you to keep track of how much time you spend on social media, what websites or apps you use the most and your general progress in anything. This can help motivate yourself to work harder at other tasks that may be more beneficial or challenging for your personal goals.

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