We all want to learn how to use our time wisely. Yet, our modern lives don’t make that easy. Between various responsibilities and distractions, it’s common to make it to Friday without feeling like you did a single productive thing all week.
If you often feel like time is getting away from you, an activity log is your new best friend! In this blog post, we’ll cover everything you need to know about using an activity log to optimize your schedule and take control of your time. Plus, we’ve also included a free activity log template.
Let’s get started!
What is an activity log?
An activity log is a written (or electronic) record of how you’ve spent your time. It includes your tasks and activities, along with their durations or start and end times. The formatting varies, but generally an activity log is a table or spreadsheet.
Pro tip: A time tracking app can also achieve the same functionality with less manual work!
What is the purpose of an activity log?
The purpose of an activity log is to see how you’re spending your time, so you can become more productive and more intentional with your time management. By gaining clarity on your current habits, you can identify how to best pivot to reach your goals.
Note: If you research activity log examples and activity log excel templates online, you’ll get all sorts of examples, from logs for physical activity to employee activity. For the purpose of this blog post, we’re staying within the context of productivity.
What is the difference between a calendar and an activity log?
Calendars are for planning, while activity logs are retrospective. In other words, a calendar is for future events; an activity log is for activity history.
Additionally, people use activity logs for tracking their time and habits. Typically, a calendar is only meant for scheduled events and doesn’t extend into habits.
How to use an activity log for time management optimization
Here are four steps to using an activity log to help you improve your time management and productivity.
1. Get your activity log ready.
Create a chart with the following column headers:
- Description of Activity
- Start Time
- End Time
- Total Hours
- How I Feel
You can use Google Sheets, Microsoft Excel, or download our printable activity log template (found below). You can also find activity log templates on Canva.
2. Record yourself for a week.
From your morning coffee run to your daily stand-up meeting, jot down every activity that makes up your day (even if it seems super meticulous to record the small things). The goal is to gain a complete snapshot of how you’re spending your day-to-day, so don’t leave anything out.
During this process, it’s important to stay objective and not judge yourself. If you find yourself logging into social media more often than you’d like to admit, remember that awareness is the first step in the right direction!
3. Pay attention to how you feel throughout the day.
This exercise isn’t exclusively about time management — it’s also about energy management. As you jot down your activities and their durations, be sure to also note how your energy fluctuates. That way, you can match your tasks with your physical and mental energy. Let’s take a closer look at what that means.
- Peak: This is your highest natural energy point of the day. You feel alert and at your best. This time should be used for your focused work, analytical tasks, and decision making.
- Trough: This is your lowest natural energy point of the day. You feel sluggish, have trouble focusing, and are easily distracted. Your trough should be used for mundane tasks or taking a break.
- Rebound: This is your second highest natural energy point of the day. It’s a great time for brainstorming, creative thinking, and problem solving. Your inhibitions are just a little bit lower, so your creative juices are flowing during your rebound more than any other energy phase.
4. Assess your activity log to find opportunities for improvement.
Here’s the fun part. Once you’ve recorded yourself for a week, go through your activity log and assess how you’re spending your time. Where can you make adjustments to your schedule and workflow? Ask yourself:
- Can I batch any of my tasks?
- Which types of events or activities are high-value (i.e. contributing to your goals)? Which are low-value?
- Can I delegate anything?
- Are there any patterns to my energy levels? When is my daily peak, trough, and rebound?
An activity log is an awesome tool for time management because it gives you a clear picture of how you’re currently spending your time. From there, you can make changes for the better! Remember that time management is an ongoing process, and what works now might not work for a different season of your life. Readjust whenever you see fit. Pro-tip: Try out Clockwise to automatically schedule Focus Time for you and put your calendar on autopilot!