Do you find yourself constantly underestimating how much time tasks will take, biting off more than you can chew, and feeling behind?

If you’re facing a significant potential change in life, one of the biggest obstacles can be your relationship with time. If you feel overwhelmed by all of the tasks already on your plate, it can be tough to get clear about what’s next.

If this is you, then probably you need to learn to estimate how much time tasks take and set more realistic expectations.

Time tracking is one of the most effective methods I’ve found to help my clients learn to set realistic expectations, stop feeling so overwhelmed, and gain the ability to focus their attention on what’s next.

Time tracking is simple (though it requires commitment for a couple of weeks):

You track everything you do throughout the day and how much time it takes.

At the end of each day, you reflect on the following questions:

  1. How did I invest my time today?
  2. How long did it take me to accomplish each task?
  3. What did I learn?
  4. Is there anything I want to do differently tomorrow?

At the end of the week, you look over the information you’ve gathered and use what you’ve learned to plan the week.

If you’d like to try this practice, your first step is to choose a method for keeping track of time.

You can use paper, Google Sheets, or a time analysis app (my favorite is Harvest, which you can download for free for a month).

Don’t get stuck trying to find the perfect system. Just pick one.

Keep in mind that when you take on new tasks, it will be hard—almost impossible—to estimate how longs things will take because you haven’t done them before.

The key is not to be mindful of how long tasks take so that you can carry that information forward into the future.

You do not need to do this practice forever.

I typically find that it takes one week to one month for my clients to dramatically improve their ability to accurately estimate how much time tasks will take. And as a side benefit, they gather all sorts of other unexpected data about how they’re investing their time and what they want to change.

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