How I Boosted my Productivity in 2018 by Tracking How I Spent my Time

Note – This article was originally published on my LinkedIn profile on January 1, 2019.

One of my goals for 2018 was to log every hour of every day. I’ll describe how I did this further down, but doing this taught me a lot about how I spend my time and what I prioritize the most in my life. By creating a “life dashboard”, I was able to log how I was spending my time and track my goals.

It was an eventful year for me; I graduated with my masters degree from BYU, read more than 100 books, started my career at KPMG, moved to a new state, studied for and passed the CPA exam, ran 775 miles and lost 25 pounds. And I was able to do this by using a life dashboard tracker.

What tools do you have in place to help you boost your productivity in 2019? If you are looking for ideas here is how I met my goals and some things I learned.

How It Works

I used a simple color-coded Google Sheet to visualize my days. The dates are listed vertically in the first column and there are 24 columns to represent each hour of the day. I used Google Sheets ‘list from a range’ function to create a drop-down menu to represent the categories I would fill my time with. Conditional formatting was used to change the font and background to the same color so that each hour would be one solid color to help me visualize each day.

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There were 18 categories I used in my life dashboard including work, family time, exercise, studying for the CPA exam, sleep and other important priorities. To simplify the use of the dashboard I logged whatever I did the most in that hour.

There were multiple tabs in the dashboard which I used to help keep track of the goals I was working on throughout the year. One tab was dedicated to my physical goals. Every mile I ran was logged as well as my daily weight. On the CPA tab, I kept track of how many multiple choice questions I answered every day. I found this metric helpful in gauging my preparedness for the exam.

What I Learned

It was beneficial to know the exact hours I spent doing activities during the week. For example, I did poorly on a mid-term and when I went back and looked at the number of hours spent studying the prior week leading up to the exam, it was significantly less than the previous mid-term which I did well on. Every week I would review trends in my life dashboard and set goals for the next week.

Filling out the life dashboard was a constant reminder that time never stops. It was a daily reminder to use my hours as best as I could.

2018 Snapshots

It was fun reflecting on 2018, and to see it visualized in my life dashboard. Here is what busy season at my work was like for me (hint: the blue is work):

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Here was part of my last semester in Grad school. You can see a lot more variety of activities. I always felt on the move during school – going from work to class, to studying, to the gym, etc.

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Fun metrics from 2018:

  • Read 104 books (including audiobooks)
  • Played 75 hours of basketball
  • Watched 31 movies (average IMDB score of 7.73)

Here is a snapshot of my 2018 life.

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2019 Challenge

Looking back on 2018 I am amazed by how much I was able to accomplish. I was able to achieve many of my goals by tracking my time and using the insights from the dashboard to help me stay focused.How are you planning to accomplish your goals in 2019?

If you’d like to create your own life dashboard for 2019 here is a link to a basic template. You can either make a copy (file -> make copy) or download (file -> download). Note – you will have to change the conditional formatting rules if you change the category names.

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