Time Diary

Friend to Me: Heya! How have you been? How has your week been?
Me to Friend: It was great! I’ve been busy with work and stuff I need to relax!
Me to Me: Wait a minute, what did I do over the week? Hm…

That conversation sure is familiar to us. It has almost become a default answer to say “I’ve been busy” but have you asked yourself, what were you busy with? Were you really so busy that you couldn’t spare an hour or two catching up with a friend? Or perhaps another question you should ask yourself was how busy were you with non-important stuff? Stuff like browsing websites endlessly, youtubing cat videos, taking copious amount of selfies, editing them and posting on snapchat?

The truth is we believe our good and bad habits have some form of importance in our lives. That is why they exists in our daily routine. The problem with that is 1) how much time does our routine take, 2) when do they occur, 3) how significant are they in achieving our goals and 4) how can we change our routine to be ‘better busy’? Before we can start improving ourselves, we need to become aware of what we are doing. To learn about how we spend our time, the best method (in my opinion) is a time diary.

What is a time diary?

Similar to a journal, a time diary records the activities you carry out throughout the day and week.

Why should I keep a time diary?

The intention is to reflect upon it to be aware of how much time each activity takes, whether it deserves that much attention in our life, see if they move us towards our life goals and become more mindful how we spend our time in the future.

Why can’t I just use my work calendar?

It should include both work and life activities. You may be a busy bee at work but a lazy ass in life, and all of us can benefit from having more time in a day.

What should be in my time diary?

In its essence, a time diary should record when you start and end each activity, from the moment you wake up to the point you go to bed.

I agree, it sounds daunting. But with practice, it becomes easier.

How should I start my time diary?

It depends on your personal preference. It may be easier for some to record during their regular working hours and slowly branch out to capture the activities outside working hours. It may be easier for others to plan their week and adjust the activity durations accordingly as they complete them. Find and use what is convenient for you.

What should I look out for after a week?

For those starting out, find the blanks. There will definitely be blanks in your time diary because you wasted it, I meant spent time relaxing. Ask yourselves, does the blank really need to be that long?

For those who are a few weeks into using a time diary, highlight the activities that contribute to achieving your goals. Ask yourselves, how can I do more of them?

And finally for those who are a few months into it (kudos to you!), look back throughout all the time diary and find out what time of the day are you least productive. Ask yourselves, how can I move my activities around such that my relaxation time is during my least productive hours?

Is there any diary which I can reference or use?

Good question. I was going to write about this but realized it deserves a post in itself, so stay tuned for my next time-management article as I will be providing free templates for you!



  1. 11 Tools for Time Management | Linus Tan - […] followed by a few thoughts about multitasking, how to focus and the benefits of keeping a time diary, I…


23 SEP 2016


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