how I spent my time in 2021

A detailed summary of how I spent my time in 2021 [PMP #235]

In 2019 and 2020, I shared a breakdown of how I spent my time for that year. It’s always an interesting exercise and it’s useful for me to analyse how I’m using my time differently year over year. 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, without further ado, here’s my analysis for 2021.

NOTE: This analysis covers the period from January 1st to December 3rd. 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

My time-tracking methodology has been the same for the last few years.

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

timing 2021 summary

Observations:

  • 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 82% (which is down 4% from last year), although this really doesn’t tell me much, so I don't pay a lot of attention to it.
  • 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 82-84% rather than dropping off significantly.
  • The 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 focused and alert.

Hours worked per month

Here’s a breakdown of how many hours I worked each month this year:

timing 2021 hours per month

Overall, I worked an average of 154 hours per month down slightly from 156 hours per month last year. That’s about 35 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. My goal has always been to sustain (or grow) my income but to do this without working longer hours. This has the effect of increasing your ‘effective hourly rate’ or what you earn for an hour of your time.

Projects I worked on

Here are the top “Projects” I worked on. These are basically the categories of my work:

timing 2021 project summary

Top 5 projects:

  • Client Work (414 hours, 23% in 2021 | 604 hours, 33% in 2020) — This is probably the biggest change in terms of how I spent my time in 2021. I did close to 200 fewer hours of client work this year, down about 32% compared to last year. This is in big part to brining on my first full-time contractor, Warwick, who does a lot of the heavy lifting on projects for me. I also have a few other contractors helping clients via private consulting sessions and less of this is falling on me now. This was one of my big goals coming into the year was to build out the team to reduce the workload for me and to remove myself as the bottleneck.
  • Sales (293, 16% in 2021 | 231 hours, 14% in 2020) — I spent 23% of my time on sales e.g. on introductory calls, following up with leads and writing proposals. A bit more than I did in 2020. Even though I’ve dedicated fewer hours to client work, I’ve been able to grow my income and this is in large part due to the increased time I’ve spent on sales.
  • Planning (173 hours, 10% in 2021 | 127 hours, 7% in 2020) — I spent about 10% of my time planning. This has gone up a little from last year as I’m now spending more time managing the team and the work that they’re doing. But isn’t that interesting, that 10% of all my time is spent just planning the work?
  • Email (165 hours, 9% | 189 hours, 10%) — This year my time spent on email went down 1%. Not bad but I’d prefer this to be even lower.
  • Content (135 hours, 7% in 2020 | 134 hours, 7% in 2020) — 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 an important time as it’s how I generate a steady volume of inbound leads for my consulting services and products.

Most used websites

Finally, here are the websites I’ve visited most often:

IMAGE

Observations:

  • Asana (160 hrs 2020 | 222 hrs 2020), Pipedrive (198 hrs 2021 | 150 hrs 2020) and Zapier (26 hrs 2021 | 25 hrs 2020) — 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. What is interesting is that I spent a considerable amount less time using Asana this year and more time using Pipedrive. This is consistent with my findings above that I’m doing less client work (which is managed in Asana) and more sales (managed in Pipedrive).
  • paulminors.com (66 hrs in 2021 | 71 hrs in 2020) — Basically the same as last year.
  • ConvertKit (35 hrs 2021 | 54 hrs 2020) — I was a little surprised by this at first as I’ve been making a lot of changes to my email funnels. Then I remembered that in 2020 I spent a lot of time setting up new email funnels for my Master Asana and Pipedrive programs.

Closing thoughts

After going through this exercise, I’m pretty happy with the results. I haven’t radically changed how I’ve spent my time. As I said, the biggest change has been the shift away from client work to doing more sales and this can be seen in my companies growth this year.

It’s funny… When I re-read my analysis from last year, I was still not sure about whether I would hire Warwick. And now, a year later, it’s pleasing to see this has worked out very well.

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!