Use activity logs to unlock your potential and maximize productivity

Darryl Bachmeier
Sep 2, 2019

Have you ever found yourself struggling to maintain your focus while tackling the most important task you were supposed to do during the day? Or maybe it’s about time to get off from work and you open your task list to find so many unchecked boxes and wonder: what did I even do all day?

Every day, most of us wrestle and grapple with time to get the most out of it and try to complete as much productive work as is possible. Yet, we find ourselves failing to complete our work on time, unable to focus during the more difficult parts, and generally falling behind schedule.

Activity logs can help us better understand where our time is spent during the day and which activities we end up wasting too much time on. Let’s dive into more detail on what activity logs are, how you can benefit from them, and how to implement them.

What is an activity log?

An activity log is simply an accurate and detailed record of the activities you do throughout your day, made to help you understand how you’re allocating the 24 hours of each day. Think of it as a time tracker: if you’ve spent 30 minutes at the start of your day checking your email, you note that down in your log.

In addition to the activity and its duration, you also highlight the priority of the task you performed. For example, working on an important project would take priority ‘A’ whereas surfing the internet for funny videos would take priority ‘C’.

Finally, you could also add a comment with each activity in which you write about your energy levels while you were performing that activity. If you blazed through a difficult problem, you can note down how ‘it was a piece of cake’. If you struggled to stay awake while trying to think deeply, you can write down that you were ‘teetering on the edge of work and drowsiness’.

Once you’ve consistently made this log for at least a week, you can sit down and prepare yourself for the magic: the log will tell you everything that is wrong (and right) about how you utilize your time on a daily basis.

Why should you make an activity log?

You might be tempted to think: but I already know what I spend my time doing, why should I explicitly write everything down?

The reason for writing everything down is that it is difficult for our mind to keep track of how much time we’ve spent doing all of our daily activities and also compare it to how much we should actually be spending on those.

Think about it: when you’re about to leave your office, you have a sense of what your day was like, but you can’t point towards why your day wasn’t particularly productive if that’s the sense you’re getting. Your mind can grasp the big picture but it can’t zoom in on the details.

This is where activity logs come in: they serve as this permanent storage where you can find every detail about every minute of your day. With this information at hand, you can then start analyzing patterns and figure out how you’re being unproductive with your time.

You may, for instance, notice that you spend 40 minutes at the start of every day discussing the news with your colleagues over a cup of coffee, or that your day is packed with priority ‘C’ tasks and you only come round to your priority ‘A’ work when it’s about time to leave.

By identifying these patterns, you will be able to take steps to eliminate them. You will start avoiding those news discussions and see an instant addition of 40 minutes to your work time. You will be able to restructure your day so that you tackle high-priority tasks in the morning and delegate most of your low-priority work.

In effect, you will be left with greater productivity, a better understanding of your time, fewer low-value tasks in your schedule, more appreciation for the value of your time, and ultimately, better performance.

How can you get the best out of your activity log?

Follow 3 key principles

You won’t find your activity log of any use to you if it is full of hours-long gaps, incorrect durations, and missing details. You must follow these 3 key principles to successfully improve your time management: honesty, meticulousness, and consistency.

This means that even if you’re ashamed that you wasted an hour surfing YouTube when you should have been working, you still have to write it down accurately. Even if you’re feeling lazy or are having a busy day, you must take time out to fill your activity log and complete all the details. This is essential if you want the log to work in your favor and not be yet another waste of time.

Analyze different aspects

Consider asking yourself these questions while analyzing your activity log. Each will give you useful insights to implement in your daily routine:

  • What unproductive activities do you perform that eat away your time and are generally of no use? E.g. reading spam email, scrolling endlessly through your Twitter newsfeed.
  • What chunk of your time is taken up by interruptions like urgent requests, visitors, and meetings? How much of it could you have avoided?
  • What portion of your time was wasted simply because you did not plan well ahead of time? Did you jump into some project unprepared and ended up working in the wrong direction before someone corrected you?
  • At what time of day do you feel full of energy and creativity? When do you slip into lethargy and drowsiness?
  • What activities do you enjoy and look forward to the most?

You only have so much time - use it wisely

All of us have 24 hours in the day, and we spend a third of it (on average) sleeping. This makes it all the more important that we value its worth and pay heed to Thomas Edison:

“Time is really the only capital that any human being has, and the only thing he can’t afford to lose.”

It’s time you take control of your time - that is the only proven path to success!

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