During one part of my career before I was a solopreneur, I worked for a holding company that was a parent company for engineering and architecture firms. My job was to help standardize systems across all the companies. Because of the job-by-job nature of the work, everyone filled out a timesheet – even the administrative staff. I found that knowing I was going to have to slot my time into categories when I did my timesheet helped me to think more proactively about my time and use it more wisely.
For most of us, more freedom is one of the main reasons for being self-employed. We love that we can work whenever it suits us and spend time however we want. If you’re like me, you’ll be thinking “Ugh, I could never go back to something like a timesheet now.” I thought this too, until I saw how it changed my business and my life.
I started using a timesheet 6 months ago when I felt like I wasn’t getting enough done in all the major areas of my life – personal, our fixer upper house and professional. My husband went to school for engineering and now works as a computer programmer and it was his idea to start tracking my time. In the engineering mindset, you can’t optimize a resource until you know how it’s being used now. So, in an effort to diagnose the problem I reluctantly began keeping a timesheet. Boy did I become a convert quickly!
So many great things came out of my using a timesheet it would be hard to list them all here. I became more aware of how long things really take which makes me better able to plan. I could preset how much time to spend on each area so that I invested my time according to my values. Strangely enough, I felt a sense of freedom from being on top of my time. I imagine it’s similar to when someone finally gets on top of their budget and spending. You can’t have unrealistic ideas about your time if how you spent it is right in front of you. My timesheet helped me remove unhelpful blurring of work and personal time, which is a big trap for work-at-home solopreneurs.
If you don’t keep track of how you spend your time, I invite you to do this even for a week or so. It’s a great practice to do every few months or so to make sure you’re spending your time how you think you are.
For my timesheet I used a spreadsheet where each line is a time window, and then I spread out how I spend the time into columns representing the areas I wanted to focus on. You could just write things down on a notepad or use a calendar if that works better for you. Don’t get caught up in finding the perfect tool – just do whatever works and will get you the information you need to make the best decisions about your time.