I’ve been thinking a lot about time recently. How I spend it, when I do certain things, how long it takes me to do things, et cetera. I’ve also been doing a lot of reading on the topic because, I’m me, and that’s what I do: I read.

Through this journey, I’ve heard from a lot of experts that have tracked time, have evaluated hobbies and work and family, and who have come up with some overall tips on making the most of your time. Here’s how you can take an inventory of your time and get your life back without diving down the depths of the time management rabbit hole.

Here are some important links if you want to learn more about time management:

168 Hours by Laura Vanderkam

Laura Vanderkam’s Time Log Example

Make Time by Jake Knapp

Before Breakfast, a podcast by Laura Vanderkam

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

1) Log your time

It’s hard to know where to start with a time overhaul if you don’t know how you’re spending it together. One of the authors I love on this topic, Laura Vanderkam, recommends tracking your time every day for a week in thirty-minute intervals. You can be vague or specific in this: “work” is an appropriate way to log 9-5, but so is breaking it down into “emails” from 9-10 and meeting from “11-12” and so on. You can also use apps on your phone, spreadsheets, or a pen and paper to do this logging, but I highly recommend you do it, especially if you feel very busy and think often “oh I just don’t have the time.”

2) Take time to evaluate

Once you’re logged your time for a period, sit back and look at your findings. Look at some of the major categories first. How much time did you actually work? What about sleep? Did you spend a lot of time on entertainment? Or exercise? It’ll be hard to make change if you don’t know what’s going on currently. When I looked at my time log, I saw that I was working way more than I realized, even though I was often multi-tasking.I also slept more, which is great,because that means I’m relatively healthy. Exercise? Non-existent, though I do walk to and from work most days. Taking the time to sit down and look at your time log over a week period rather than just one specific day will help you make progress in changing your time management techniques.

3) Make some goals

Once you know how you already spend your time, you are better prepared to tackle changes. You want to sleep more? What can you cut out? If you want to exercise, do you have more time in the morning, or the evening? Think you don’t have time to read, look at your commute, or your time before bed. Ask yourself what you want to do. Do you want to spend more time with family and friends? Take more walks?

RELATED READ: 5 Secrets For Mastering Time Management

Once you have some goals in mind, give them a timeline. You can’t change your life overnight, but you can make small, meaningful steps to change. Think about what accomplishing those goals looks like. Is it a change in routine, like a different commute? An earlier wake up time? What needs to be accomplished or planned for in order to allow you to accomplish that goal. This is a plan about your plan, and it’s critical to actually achieving your goals.

4) Put things into action

Okay, so you’ve logged your time, figured out where it’s all going, and made goals for change, but now you actually have to do the dang thing. Set an earlier alarm. Write down a to-do list that includes these things. Cut out what you said you were going to cut out, whether that means turning off the snooze button, unplugging the TV after 9PM, or unsubscribing from Netflix. Only you know what your goals are, and I’m not saying you have to tell people what you’re changing in your life, but I find that accountability helps me a lot. Starting a Twitter thread in which you document your journey may prove useful, or you can write in a journal and track how you feel about your time as you make these changes.

Aryssa D
FFL Cabinet Member