What did I do? Keeping track of what fills your time

There are all sorts of ways of keeping tabs on the different ways you fill the working day. When I worked in industry we had to keep an accurate log of how much time was spent on which project according to the appropriate job number. Here at CYO, like many youth work organisations, we keep timesheets based on sessions worked (morning, afternoon, evening), but some days are a right old mixture of tasks, especially the ones that have meetings and admin going on intermingled with whatever else crops up. Perhaps you don’t have days like that…

For over a year now I’ve been keeping a small text file going on the desktop of my laptop in which I note each of the things I’ve done each day. There is no record of how long each task took, just that it happened. Some days might have only two or three entries, others seven or eight. Each month I save the file and start a new one.

In analysing these lists I’m not looking for a numerical analysis. What I want is a visual impression of what’s grabbing most of my attention and what’s hardly registering. Enter wordle

By copying a log file into Wordle I get an instant visual impression of what I’ve been doing. I can do this for each month, or combine several (a term, a whole year) into one. It takes seconds, but the results literally speak for themselves.

The example below is from the spring term. I use some codes, for example, schools have 2 or 3 letter abbreviations (GI, TLA) and RE obviously means an RE lesson. Although the word ‘Meeting’ is huge, this doesn’t imply that I spend lots of my time in meetings, only that I had quite a lot of meetings with people.  Sanctum got quite a few mentions – we ran a week in the local Sixth Form College, there were quite a few days of preparation and I attended some meetings in London with people from 24-7. Other things to note are that the words “Open” and “Evening” really belong together as this refers to the planning and running of our annual Open Evening.

Activity log 09

Having tried this system out it occurs to me that it might be a more accurate reflection if I weighted my daily entries a little. So, for example, a whole day on a task might merit two entries (one for morning, one for afternoon), as it would have done had I spent half a day on it one day and half a day on it the next. In this way it starts to get a little closer to a time sheet, without getting into too much bean counting.
Also, some tasks could be prefixed with categories so that these show up in the wordle analysis: admin, yp (for face to face time with a young person), school, management.

It really is that simple. I’m certainly not one for too much number crunching evaluation – it bores me completely. But keeping a simple log of activities is bearable and bunging it into wordle is right up my street as I’m inspired by good visual presentation.
Give it a go.

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