Last year I published a summary of how I spent my time in 2019. It was a fascinating exercise and I received positive feedback on the analysis. Understanding how your time is being spent is one of the best things you can do to make better choices and plan more effectively in the future. So, I thought it would be worth repeating this exercise again this year.
NOTE: This analysis covers the period from January 1st to December 7th. So, although the year isn’t over, it gives me a pretty good idea of how I’ve spent my time this year.
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How I track my time
To explain my methodology, it hasn’t changed at all from last year.
As you may know, I’m a big fan of time blocking. By planning out when I’m going to work on specific tasks, this creates a nice time log and at the end of the week, I can go back and look at all the blocks on my calendar to see how I spent my time.
Time blocking is great but I also want a big-picture overview as well as a detailed breakdown of how my time is being spent. So for that, I use Timing (affiliate link). Timing is a time tracking tool I’ve been using for the last few years to track my time. It watches the apps, websites and files you use while you do your work and categorises them into ‘Projects’.
This is what I’ve used to produce the analysis below.
Summary of my year
- Productivity score — The productivity score is calculated based on how “productive” different types of work are. For example, in Timing, I’ve set “Client work” to be very productive. Whereas watching Netflix or playing games is very unproductive. My overall score of 86% (which has increased 2% on last year) is good to see, although it really doesn’t tell me much, so I don't pay a lot of attention to this.
- Most active weekdays — Monday’s and Friday’s tend to be shorter days for me. This doesn't surprise me. When I plan my time, I don't usually have much client work on Monday’s as it’s still a Sunday in the US where most of my clients are. I also plan to finish earlier on Friday’s, hence the shorter days.
- Most productive weekdays — It’s good to see that my productivity is very consistent throughout the week at around 83-88% rather than dropping off.
- Most active time of day — It’s interesting to see that I am more active in the morning. This makes sense due to when most of my client calls take place. Often the afternoons are spent on less productive work and admin. When planning my time, I like to work on high-energy tasks in the morning when I find I am more focussed and alert.
Hours worked per month
Here’s a breakdown of how many hours I worked each month this year:
Overall, I worked an average of 156 hours per month up slightly from 153 hours per month last year. That’s about 37-38 hours per week.
A big priority of mine is to maintain a healthy work-life balance and I’m always conscious of going beyond that threshold where the additional hours you put in aren’t as valuable as you start to burn out. I like to maintain ‘normal’ working hours and optimise what I can do within this time.
It’s interesting looking at my monthly working hours compared to last year. In 2019, I worked less when we were travelling the US and Canada. I also had a lot of time off in September. This year, with COVID I’ve worked pretty consistently and apart from the odd week here and there, haven't taken any prolonged time off. This is something I’d like to change next year (if COVID allows it).
Projects I worked on
Here are the top “Projects” I worked on. These are basically the categories of my work:
Top 5 projects:
- Client Work (604 hours, 33% in 2020 | 495 hours, 28% in 2019) — What’s interesting is that I spent 110 additional hours doing client work this year without my overall work hours increasing. I guess that meant I spent less time on other things. If I think about how I spent my time this year, I didn’t have as many internal (non-client) projects as I’ve had in previous years. After releasing my Master Asana and Pipedrive courses in early 2020, I’ve really been focussed on selling and working with clients for the rest of the year (COVID really made me prioritise focussing on maintaining clients as much as possible).
- Sales (231, 14% in 2020 | 256 hours, 14%) — I spent 14% of my time on sales e.g. on introductory calls, following up with people and writing proposals. Almost the same amount of time as I did in 2019. This is about half the time I spent on actual client work but is necessary to generate my consulting income.
- Email (189 hours, 10% | 123 hours, 7%) — This year my time spent on email jumped about 3%. But my overall time spent on email remains pretty low. I think one of the reasons email usage has gone up is that my wife Hayley, who’s now studying, is no longer helping with customer email and I’m doing this instead.
- Content (134 hours, 7% in 2020 | 149 hours, 8% in 2019) — I spent 7% of my time creating content (e.g. this post you're reading now). This also includes all the videos I make for YouTube that help me to get clients and sell products. This is important time as it’s how I generate a steady volume of inbound leads for my consulting services and products.
- Planning (127 hours, 7% in 2020 | 148 hours, 8% in 2019) — I spent about 7% of my time planning. As a productivity geek, I’m constantly jumping into Asana and my calendar to plan my time and work out next steps on a project.
Most used websites
Finally, here are the websites I’ve visited most often:
- Asana (222 hrs 2020 | 209 hrs 2019), Pipedrive (150 hrs 2020 | 149 hrs 2019) and Zapier (25 hrs 2020 | 25 hrs 2019) — I should start by pointing out that the Asana, Pipedrive and Zapier numbers are misleading. While a lot of the time spent using these tools is my use of Asana or Pipedrive because I consult with clients on these tools as well, this means a lot of the time is classified as “Client Work” and not my use of the tool.
- paulminors.com (71 hrs in 2020 | 110 hrs in 2019) — Down a bit this year as I made fewer changes to my website this year whereas I spent a significant amount of time creating my online courses in 2019.
- ConvertKit (54 hrs 2020 | 27 hrs in 2019) — I only started using ConvertKit halfway through 2019 so this isn’t a full year of usage. If you average it out, I spent around the same amount of time on email marketing in 2020.
After going through this exercise, I’m pretty happy with the results. I guess the thing that surprises me the most is how close the 2020 numbers are to 2019. It makes sense as I didn’t change much about my routine or what I’ve worked on this year. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?
Because I’ve been tracking my time and have a good awareness of how my time is spent, nothing here has really surprised me.
As for changes in 2021, I’ve been thinking lately about where to take my business next. Whether I continue doing what I’m doing (which is working well) or whether to grow my team and try to remove myself from some day to day client work. Recently, I started working with a friend of mine who’s helping with some client work and this has worked out great! Part of me thinks I should build on this but I’m not sure the best way to proceed. I don’t have an answer on this yet. Right now it’s just something I’m continuing to mull over.
As the year comes to an end, I’d highly encourage you to look back at how you’ve spent your time. Please let me know if you learn anything interesting in the comments below!