How would you like to get ahead of the game and start mapping out how you intend to use your time? Plenty of people are doing exactly this, achieving results they never dreamed were possible. If you want to help make yourself more productive, you can and should get in on this productivity trend.
What is a Time Map?
To understand how time mapping works, you must first understand a time map.
It is your entire day laid out into blocks of time that you use to take care of the tasks that matter the most to you. You can refer to your map as often as you need to throughout the day to see where you stand, what you need to do next, and what you have already accomplished for the day.
What Does Time Mapping Mean?
Instead of haphazardly assuming that you will have enough time to accomplish everything you want to get done, time mapping lets you know that you can accomplish it all because you will have mapped out your entire day exactly how you need it to play out. It is easy to get lost in your day and not manage to get it all done if you are not careful. However, you can make great strides if you have a time map to refer back to as necessary.
What are the Benefits of Time Mapping?
There is no shortage of time mapping benefits, and you should consider them all very carefully. Think about what you need from your new strategy, and understand the benefits of something like time mapping. A few of the benefits that stick out right away include the following:
- A reduction in decision fatigue
- A greater understanding of how to use your time efficiently
- Avoiding the impact of Parkinson’s Law (more on this below)
- Visually see where your time goes
- Have a plan for every day
Parkinson’s Law refers to the idea that your work will naturally expand to fill your available time. In other words, if you do not schedule yourself precisely, you will continue to add more work to your workload until you fill up all the available hours. That is not ideal, and you can avoid this by setting up time mapping ahead of time.
In terms of how this can help you with decision fatigue, the answer is that you won’t have to make your own decisions about how to use your time. By setting up your time mapping schedule, you will have already made those choices ahead of time.
Instead of worrying about how to fill certain hours, you will have already made those tough calls. Thus, you can avoid having decision fatigue weigh you down.
Finally, you will benefit from learning how to use your time most effectively. You will have to create a schedule that allows you to block your time out effectively so you aren’t leaving any loose strings that could cause you to end up with a less-than-ideal weekly schedule.
What are the Cons of Time Mapping?
You may experience some cons of time mapping if you rely too heavily on it. You could find that your schedule is too inflexible for your needs or that you are simply looking for your map to figure out what you are doing next.
You might not like this process when you first start with it, and you may prefer something like a time management matrix. Either way, you should try to stick with it for at least two weeks to see if your opinion on it changes as time goes on.
Think About How You Spend Your Time Now
Taking time to identify how you spend your time before using time mapping is a very good exercise. It is so critical to know where your time is going now before you try to implement any new time management strategy.
You should try to do so because you will see quite quickly just how many hours you lose by not having a structured plan that you can lean on now. You may need time mapping to help you get your hours lined up just right and make life a bit easier on yourself. Setting up your schedule just the way you want is critical to your ability to get more done.
When you see the hours you have been using in less than effective ways, you will surely want to figure out some plan to get yourself back on track and make the most of your hours. That is when you will revert to time mapping.
How to Create a Time Map in 5 Steps
Once you have spent some time figuring out how you are currently using your time, you are ready to move on to create a time-mapping system that can work for you. Here is how you can start time mapping in 5 simple steps.
Step 1: List Activities in Segments
It would be best if you broke down the various activities you do in a day into segments you can more easily see and manage. You want to show some activities in a variety of different categories. For example, you should have some activities under work (or school), some under family time, and some under personal time. You may have even more categories than that, but those are some starter ones to give you an idea about how you should be mapping time.
It is very obvious as you do this just how many activities you have in each category and how these may need to be broken up even more. You will want to look at the activities and their segments to see if there is room to shift things around to make room for other activities as you see fit.
Step 2: Consider What Your Priorities Are
Be honest with yourself in this step, and lay out your priorities. Remember, you are not trying to impress anyone or make any particular statement. You are merely trying to lay things out exactly how they are and figure out where you stand with your priorities.
You might discover that you are not dedicating nearly enough of your time to the things that matter to you. If that is the case, then perhaps you will consider mapping time to make more room for the long-term goals that have an idea about your priorities will leave you unable to get much done on your goals. The reason is that you will struggle to settle down and figure out what steps you need to take next when working through your time map. You may move from one task to another without much careful thought. This happens to people who don’t use the Pareto Principle, which teaches us that knocking out our highest-priority tasks first is what moves the needle as far as getting things done.
Step 3: Block Out Your Time
You are finally to the point where you can start making real strides toward blocking out your time in a way that is effective for you. You may begin to draw literal blocks of time into your schedule.
Doing so allows you to see how you will move through each part of your day until you finish and complete all your tasks. You have to be very honest with yourself during these times. You can certainly make great strides toward your goals, but you must be willing to get organized first.
Blocking your time may be the most instructive thing you do in this process because it will show you where you have been using your time less productively in the past. You will finally have time to take care of how you need them to be.
Step 4: Use Various Colors To Separate Your Time
The time that you spend on your various activities should be something that you box out with different colors. In other words, you should create different boxes of time marked by different colors to get the most out of your time.
You want to see your time separated into boxes like this because you need to be able to look at your schedule with a glance and see for certain where your time is going and how it is being allocated across different activities.
The colored boxes make it a bit easier to see how much time is dedicated to each activity. The colors will draw your eyes in, and you will more easily be able to see how each one corresponds with how much time you are spending on it.
You may want to do the same thing in digital form. Tools such as Google calendars are used by many people these days to help them get themselves organized and on task. They sincerely appreciate the ability to map out their day in the most effective ways possible. If you find yourself constantly attached to your smartphone, then mapping out your day digitally may also prove more effective for you.
Step 5: Review And Approve Your Time Map
The final step to consider is to review the time map you have created for yourself and give it your final approval. You should be able to see everything that has happened on your map and why you put it in a specific order. There will be time to figure out why you have layered everything the way you have, but you may be able to do so much more easily if you have labeled it all with a color-coordinated map.
Use A Time Mapping Template
You can use a template to get the kind of results that you need from your time map. There are plenty of these templates online that you can print off and use at your leisure. It would be best if you tried to use them as often as possible because it will save you the time to try to come up with something like this entirely on your own. If you use a template, you can rely on the work someone else has done to give yourself a headstart towards taking care of your time mapping needs.
There are many upsides to using a time map, and there are only a limited number of drawbacks. If you are comfortable using another system, you may decide to stick with that, but many people find that mapping time helps them considerably.