Ever complain that there are not enough hours in the day to accomplish everything you need or want to do? Yet, you may spend hours on activities and conversations–think social media and interactive online games–that don’t come close to being a top priority.

To identify those time wasters and focus on balance, take an inventory of how you spend your time. A time inventory is a tool to help you see how well what you do every day matches up with your big-picture goals and values. How you conduct your inventory is up to you (laptop, tablet, journal) but be honest and consistent.  This four-step process can help you evaluate where the hours go and use that information to gain greater balance:

Track. Keep a log for a week or two and jot down what you do for any period of an hour or more. Some themes or categories will emerge: career, family, community, health, self, spiritual pursuits and so on.

Understand. Write down why you did what you did. Do your actions reflect or contradict your values and goals?

Review. At the end of your time tracking, look at your notes and consider how you feel? Do you feel “in balance”? What does your assessment tell you? Consider the following questions:

  • Are the activities in your log necessary for daily living, your career, your family, your health or your pleasure?
  • What percentage of time did you spend in work-related activities vs family activities?
  • How much time did you take for yourself?
  • What inspires and rejuvenates you? Did you spend enough time on those activities?
  • How much control or choice do you have about how you spend your time?
  • What is beyond your control? Have those obligations, such as childcare and elder care, changed over time?
  • List the activities that you believe you “ought” to be doing. How much of the time you devote to your “oughts” is fulfilling for you? How much of that time is fulfilling for others who are important to you?

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Decide. Put a check mark next to the activities that are truly not negotiable. Consider the rest. What do your activities say about you? Do you try to please others rather than pleasing yourself?  What could you change? What steps can you take now and over time to put more balance into your life?

The choices you make about how you spend your time may well turn out to be consistent with what you value. On the other hand, the values you declare or profess may not be the ones you actually live. Your time inventory can help you see yourself more clearly and begin making positive changes.

Have you found more balance since completing a time inventory? Share how the results motivated you to make a change. 

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