Productivity is a much-discussed topic in construction, and we often think of it as referring to ‘other’ people and not ourselves. But, are we really as productive as we think?
Here’s how to start improving your own productivity.
According to the attribution theory, humans assume the behaviors of others can be attributed to their personalities, motives, or beliefs. And yet, we don’t measure ourselves the same way. Judging our own behavior, we often assume outside factors, such as the situation or environment, are to blame. So, while we attribute another person’s time-wasting to their ineptness or busybody habit, we believe our wasted time arises from interruptions or other people not doing their job.
Regardless of the cause, the truth is we probably waste our own fair share of time by procrastinating, letting distractions reign, ‘padding’ our schedules, and choosing analog processes over digital ones. Staying busy does not equal being productive. So when we finally decide to get a handle on exactly how we spend our time, we need to start with facts.
How much time do I really waste?
When people start tracking their time, the biggest obstacle is deciding what to track. The second obstacle is remembering to do it. The good news is breaking your hours down into major aspects of life makes choosing easier. Your categories are highly personal, but in general, you might track the time you spend on:
- things you get paid for;
- professional development;
- personal development;
- cleaning/taking care of things;
More detail gives more clarity. So be sure to include other categories like ‘procrastination’ and ‘mindlessly distracting yourself’ where you’d include behaviors like:
- those five minutes searching for and eating a snack;
- the personal Tweets sent in between checking the schedule and following up on a budget issue;
- the YouTube video you watched twice just to avoid the next thing on your schedule;
- the 10 minutes you spent researching a stock while watching TV.
The ‘remembering-to-do-it part’ is basically a training exercise. Set reminders on your mobile device, set periodic alarms, or put “what are you doing right now” stickies on the fridge, computer, TV, and door. After just a few days, you’ll begin tracking your time spontaneously.
There’s an app for that
You can find plenty of apps to help your time-tracking efforts. Some of them you might already use for work, like those that integrate with Procore. Others with less emphasis on work and teams include Forest and Rescue Time. Since most time tracking apps are geared for work, projects, and teams, they might be too detailed. If none suit you, try different approaches.
You could use a spreadsheet. Accounting for your time every hour is another option. Jot down notes with start and stop times, and add them to your tracking system when alerted by an hourly alarm. Or, if you really want simplicity, you could go analog, relying on pencil and paper for your entire system. One downside, though, is you’ll have a bigger job cataloging and analyzing your results. Still, it’s better than nothing.
Remember to set an end time for your tracking activities. It’s your choice, but usually, a couple of weeks to a month will provide plenty of insights. Be honest with yourself. Ignoring the little time wasters you’ve built into your day will just undermine the entire exercise.
Knowledge is power
Here, knowledge is time. It’s time spent on activities that don’t serve you or your goals. It’s time lost on silly little things that you’d rather have for something else. Then, when the tracking is all done, you get to the best part—finding out how you spend your time and getting insights for improving your productivity.
Use the app’s reporting feature or add your data to a spreadsheet. Put all your time in the same format, either hours or minutes.
Armed with the analysis, you can now plan how you will reorder your schedule and reclaim your life. For example, if you see a procrastination trend happening right before you have to update the project schedule, you can explore ‘why’ that happens.
If you find you spend two hours in the middle of the night thinking about what you need to do the next day, consider setting aside time at day’s end to deal with those nagging details instead of letting them keep you up at night.
It might seem like a lot of work. However, the reality is when you track how you spend your time, you are really tracking how you spend your life. That’s pretty important.
Would it be worth it to you to discover you spend four hours a week doing something you hate doing? Would you like to find an extra three hours a week to pursue a hobby or side business that’s your passion? Would you like to reassure yourself that you really are as productive at work as you think? Track your time and find out.