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Want to Be More Productive? Track What You’re Doing

In addition to having goals and a plan, one way to kick-start a productive day is to write down what you’re doing right now. You can use a piece of paper, a notebook, Evernote, a Word doc, or any kind of calendar for this.

05-20 Pink Ground-Cover Roses

6:30 a.m. Neighborhood Walk & Rose Photo for Blog Post

This is not the same as planning out your day and writing out what you are going to do. Instead, this is writing down what you are actually doing, as you are doing it. Something like this:

  • 8:30 Read Feedly, check email
  • 8:45 Call client
  • 9:15 Provide input for proposal
  • 9:50 Write materials for Project X
  • 10:15 Little Break
  • 10:30 More on Project X

Keeping track helps to stay focused and it gives you a new, two-part goal:

  1. See what you can accomplish. The positive side is that you can look over what you’re accomplishing, in real time and also later. This will shape how you spend your day because you will want to be happy with what you are doing.
  2. Don’t embarrass yourself. The other side is, when you write down that you are spending time surfing the web right now, you don’t want that sinking feeling that happens when you realize you’ve just spent way too long surfing the web for no good reason.

Sometimes, a perfectly acceptable goal is to be satisfied with how you are spending your time. If you have high standards, then satisfaction with your own efforts is a very good thing.

It only takes a second or two to write down what you’re working on, and it can have a dramatic impact on how you spend your time. Try it, and see what you think. (And don’t forget to give yourself time to just do whatever: time off, in other words.)

Keeping track is a great antidote for the woeful feeling many have at the end of the day, “I was busy all day, but what did I do?” Keeping track is not a substitute for goal-setting or planning, but it’s a great companion practice.

Let me know if you try this or something like it. Maybe you do this already. I’d love to hear your tips.

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