Managing My Time with A Dashboard View
Eric Mann realized at a point in his life that he didn't feel he was getting what he needed out of life, so he began tracking his time spent in his life. He pulled a bunch of data together from his calendars and put it into a spreadsheet to analyze. He then went a step further and built an app to visualize his data and also set goals so he can actually see if the time he is spending is working towards a goal or not.
Excel | Google Calendar | TimeBoost
So my name is Eric and I’m a marketing guy which basically means my calendar is packed every day, and I got to a point in my life where I was pretty stressed out about it and kind of was having impact on other parts of my life.
What really ticked it off was I was in a meeting and I was rolling out this program and everybody loved the program but they didn’t like the name and they rat holed on it. And they wanted to get a whole bunch of people in another meeting to start talking about what the name should be. And they were thinking about bringing more people into this.
And I was either having a nervous breakdown or I was going to implode and I wasn’t sure which, but it was a turning point for me and I got to this point where I felt like there’s a lot of time in my life that just isn’t going to things that I think are important or that matter. And sometimes I end the day or week feeling like I didn’t get anything for all of that time that I spent.
So I started to pull some data together and I did it kind of old fashioned with Excel. It was really hard to pull data out of calendar and I don’t know if anybody has tried to do that. It’s a really painful format.
Put two categories next to each item and I manually categorized all my data. So this was one of the harder things to figure out how to categorize it, categorize time that is. So to do it I ended up getting the data from friends also sort of marketing, you know, people in similar lines of work to me. And looking at all of their calendars and then kind of coming up with categories that made sense.
So it turns out like if I’m doing a one on one meeting with somebody that’s management, one on one. Or if I’m meeting with my boss that’s management, you know boss. If I’m interviewing somebody that was human resources, second category hiring and that kind of thing and marketing campaign.
So I went through and I manually categorized everything, and then I was able to get some insights from all of this is what it amounts to. So pretty quickly, even from crappy Excel I could get like some things were really obvious right away, like 20 hours a week with people who I knew were just not attached to anything that really mattered to me. There were people who I either liked working with or there were people who demanded lots of time, or they were somebody said oh oh you should meet with such and such, but they weren’t really anything that I care about.
I’m in marketing so I try and meet with customers and partners and stuff a lot, and there were lots of meetings where I had 90% were internal meetings or more. Reoccurring meetings was a real eye opener for me, not every week but a lot of weeks I could have 70% of my time was basically taking up before I started. And then I also started to do something that was kind of interesting. I started to rate meetings. So I would go back after a meeting and I would like on a scale of 1 to 5 kind of say good, not good. And then I could go back and start to look at those ratings and say well what about it made this five versus this other one that was a three. So that was pretty interesting.
So right off the bat, just from the first time I looked at the spreadsheet, sorted it stuff like that was pretty obvious like okay, I’m meeting with the wrong people a lot. One of the things that came out of just rating the meetings was if there are more than four or five people in a meeting I almost always rated it poorly. If there were other things that caused bad ratings like certain people for example, always seemed to have crappy meetings, and there were certain topics that just don’t interest me. But the one thing that was consistent that was really big, it was almost always going to be a crappy meeting. Too many reoccurring meetings.
So lots of these kind of early like okay I get it. But the big a-ha from all of that was I need to see time differently. So looking at it in a spreadsheet and trying to draw little graphs and stuff meant that I was looking at it more like I was look at finance. That’s right; I was looking at it more like I would look at my bank stuff all my investment stuff. As opposed to looking at it as a calendar, which is how I think of time. I always think of time in a calendar format because that’s how I use it.
So that set me on a little marginally obsessive path, but there were some things that kind of came out of this which is so if I wanted to really jump on this I needed it to be more in real-time. I couldn’t spend hours and hours categorizing it all the time. I needed it to be graphical and I really needed this new way to see time.
So I built a Google spreadsheet with a script and then I built an app, and now I’ve got lots. But then I said let’s look at my goals. And these are my work goals, but one of the most interesting things of this whole adventure is what has come out of it personally for me. But you know, I’ve got clear goals here, and then I could look at how did I do.
And when I first looked at it it was really disappointing because my time really does not match up to my goals. So if you look at all of the meetings that I had and if you look at all of the goals that I could list, personal and professional, most of my time is not represented as something that’s actually a goal.
But when you dig into it or when you do it a lot, what I found is that’s okay. I’m really concerned when this box is all red, meaning none of my time goes to my goals. But like if 10% of my time goes to goals in all week that’s actually not too bad, 15% is a really good week for me.
Kind of type a was sort of going into this thinking “Oh well I’m going to get 95% of my time is going to go on goals and I’m going to be on top of this”, and that’s just not how it works. Because I categorized stuff I also got some good insights. I learned that there are priorities or things that are effectively priorities that just weren’t on my list. Like when I actually look at how I spent my time by category, there were some things that I was like yeah, I wouldn’t have said that’s really important but you know what I really need to have those one on ones or whatever it is. A lot of it is personal stuff in there actually, but it actually became important. So then my sense of what a priority was also changed a little bit.
So a little bit about behavior change and attitude, so I guess I’ve learned lots and lots of stuff and I continue to learn and continue to play around with this. But the number one thing for me is about linking meetings to priorities. So like before I create a meeting or before I accept one I’m just like, okay what is this actually serving? Is this something that I want to do, I mean just being more present, being more intentional with my time.
I schedule everything now, so I do not have a separate to-do list that lives outside of my calendar. I have a to-do list and everything in it goes in there, including fun stuff and screwing around, like I put time in my calendar you know, post pictures on Facebook. I know I’m going to do it and I might as well just get it into the calendar. And I learned from how I used time as I said before. So the payoff are real and I’m getting a hug here but you know, I am getting more done and I should say I’m getting more of what’s important done.
That’s it, just manage your meetings and be intentional and invest in prep.