Tools of the Trade – Timesheet

Whether you charge for your time or have to track it for your employer, tracking the time you spend each day will make a huge difference in how you manage your time.

There are countless applications out there (for your PC or mac or your phone,) but for me, I have found good ‘ole Microsoft Excel does the trick.

Again, you may have different needs, but here is the basic layout I use, and as an ADD adult, finds works me:

I set up 12 worksheets labeled for each month of the year (Jan, Feb, etc) within a single workbook. 

I have six columns (A-F): Date, Client, Task, Cycles (I track by half hour), Billable, Hours (calculated column)

Each day is put in the Date column, and I allow each date to have their own line. 

On the following lines, I enter the client the work was done for, the particular task I was working on, the number of cycles I spent on that task, whether or not it is billable, and then the hours are calculated automatically.

As I am working, whenever the timer I have set goes off (we’ll discuss timers in another blog entry,) I enter the client (if I don’t already have them entered,) the task (again, if not already entered), and I add the number 1 to the number of cycles (if it is blank, then I just put in the 1, if I have already worked a cycle on this task, I add the 1 to make 2, etc.)

Boom, I have a complete record of how I spent my day, what was billable and what wasn’t and how much time I spent on each task.

If you would like a template copy of this spreadsheet, you can download it by clicking here: time sheet template

Tools of the Trade

Can you imagine trying to drive a nail into a board without a hammer? It can still be done. Maybe with a rock, or another board, but what a pain.

Gaining control of your time and your life is no different. So lets look at tools for your to-do.

To build my master list and daily to-dos, I use Simpleology® from Mark Joyner’s company. The base system is free, and there are paid versions with more features. (Note: I am not an affiliate, I make nothing if you decide to purchase anything from them.)

Without going into a lot of boring detail,  Simpleology’s to-do list allows you to create and maintain a master list and then select from or add to it to create a to-do for the day. There is a process you follow to build your list to help you capture as many to-dos and organize them as possible.

If Simpleology isn’t your cup of tea, there is always good old Microsoft Word and Excel (or the free word processor and spreadsheet from Open Office.) And of course there are physical planners.

Being a system guy, if you go the Word or Excel route, I would recommend creating and maintaining your master list in a separate document in Word or a separate sheet in an Excel workbook, and then copying your to-dos for the day from that into a Word document or Excel worksheet within the workbook (if you aren’t familiar with workbooks vs. worksheets I suggest you Google it.)

As you might have noticed I am sold on the to-do list idea. My problem in the past has been losing written lists (thank you ADD.) So using a computer is my logical go to (my lists no longer wander off into the same place that one sock in a pair so often seems to get off to from the dryer.) Plus, I type A LOT faster than I write (and much more legibly) However, I understand the comfort of having your list with you in a nice physical binder or notebook. If that works for you, great!

In the end, you need to find something that works for you. If you find yourself losing your list or forgetting your planner (or worse, only doing it intermittently because it is a pain,) then get over it and use a computer. 

Not sure what to do? Click here to go to the blog directly and leave a comment. I’ll do what I can to help you out.

The Real reason to get control of your time

The wife of one of my business acquaintances died last week.

I haven’t known him for a long time, but I have seen some of what he does in both his business life and personal life – especially concerning his wife.

I’ve seen him accomplish a lot business wise, but also a lot on the personal side, especially for his family. He doesn’t  “make” the time for personal matters, rather he organizes his time and life to ensure he pays sharp attention to both.

The fact of the matter is none of us know how much time we or the ones around us are given. While it is all well and good to say “no one goes to their deathbed saying I wished I worked more,” the reality is work, play, and family are all important parts of our lives, and each deserves whatever time we allocate for them. We can’t wish for or make more time.

The real reason to get control of your time is so that each aspect of your life is given your all without subtracting or compromising from any of the others, because we simply don’t know how much time we really have.

Much ado about To-do

Sometimes a simple change can be very powerful. Sometimes even the most open to change person can be bull headed and recalcitrant. I saw how both of these statements applied to me this past week.

Once I came around to how powerful a to-do list could be, I was faithful in having a list every day. In fact, I worked to create a fresh to-do list at least 5 days a week for over two years now (I tracked it!)

However, I insisted that I create this to-do list at the start of my day. Even if circumstances forced me to create it later in the day, I was obstinate in my belief that I needed that list on the day I was going to be doing the things on that list.

Then things changed. My morning schedule was disrupted by the requirements of a contract. Plus, my sleep patterns had changed. Suddenly I still had my daily to-do list, but it was consistently being created later and later in the morning. I often ended up starting on items without having my list complete, and I occasionally allowed things to “jump-the-line” because I didn’t have my daily list created.

I was starting to get frustrated.

Finally realizing it couldn’t hurt, and if it did, I could switch back, I started doing my to-do list the night before. Now, I create it just before I go to bed.

The difference is amazing. I feel much more relaxed as I start my day, knowing that when I look at my list on my computer, my work list for the day is already laid out and waiting for me. I can just launch into it.

I had taken what had become a stress point, and made it back into the stress relief it was supposed to be.

When do you create your to-do list? Does it still feel right, or has it become uncomfortable? Most importantly, are you willing to try something new?

A few words on mindset

I find it interesting that almost every success seminar (for life or business – it doesn’t matter) that I have attended spends what might be considered an inordinate amount of time on mindset. Statements like “You have to be comfortable with making money!”,  and “You have to minimize negative self-talk” got beaten to death at the start of many seminars I attended.

So what does this have to do with organization or time-management? Simple. Mindset means nothing if you don’t have a to-do list for today that reflects reality and what needs to be done today (not tomorrow or next week, although those are good for your master list.) If you know where you need to go and you have a list that contains the things you need to do to get there, and you attack that list every day, your mindset and attitude will take care of itself.

The single best piece of no-nonsense advice regarding mindset and attitude I have encountered was from Stephen Covey in “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. In essence (I’m paraphrasing here): If you are lost in New York, all of the positive thinking in the world won’t help you much if you are looking at a map of Chicago.

If you aren’t organizing your daily to-do list with tasks that reflect where you are and what will help you get to where you want to be, all the positive mindset and exercises to improve your self-talk aren’t going to do much. So much better to reflect on and execute what needs to be done rather than how you feel about it.

Making a list and checking it twice

Making a to-do list is critical to getting the right things done. I have had days where I have gotten a ton of stuff done, but it was all little fires that cropped up that day – it wasn’t what I wanted to get done. Why? Typically because I didn’t create my to-do list before the fires started.

The problem is there are as many ways to create a to-do list as there are things to do.

One expert I know says he writes down 3 things to do at the beginning of his day. If he finishes all three, he writes down another three.  Other experts will tell you to write down what you think you would like to get done and then prioritize the list. Then there are all of the hacks to make sure you follow your list.

For me the little psychological tricks of scratching things off a list and being able to shout to the heavens that YES I FINISHED MY TO DO LIST! that are supposed to inspire you don’t work.

I keep a master list, and each morning I select things to do from that master list, and I add anything new that I can think of. The resulting list is usually anywhere from 5 to 10 items long. I will often move what I consider the three most important things to the top of the list. 

I don’t care if I get through the whole list. I need to know (and not forget – hence the master list) what is on my plate. I know my deadlines, and I execute accordingly. I also need the flexibility to pick and choose from my to-dos when I encounter a delay on a project. I don’t need to spend time agonizing over which task is more important, or if this one is an A or a B priority. 

So how do you do your to-do list?

So how well does the average person manage their time?

I recently read a fascinating article on the Inc. website. According to the article, research suggested that in an 8 hour day the average worker was only productive for just under 3 hours! The article goes on to list what are the most common non-work activities and the time the average person spends on them (here is the link to the article if you’re interested:

That is a pretty amazing statement.

It really puts a whole new light on deadlines. Think how less stressful those deadlines would be if half the day wasn’t wasted doing trivial things (besides time wasted in useless meetings – not much you can generally do about them.)

More interestingly, as I reviewed that list, I thought how easy it is to slip into non-productive activities. This could be a real issue for employees or consultants/freelancers that work at home.

How much more could the average person do if they had a real system to stay on track?

I’m curious, how many of you believe that research conclusion, or have you heard different estimates? Tell me what you think in the comments.


There is no “Information Overload”

One of the biggest crocks still out there is that we are inundated with information, so much so that it can paralyze our decision-making. Like I just said, it is a crock.

We are inundated with data. However, there is a difference between data and information.

Data is, simply put, “stuff” or better yet, lists of “stuff.”  Last month’s sales numbers are data. How many people are on Facebook is data. This is what we are inundated with.

Information on the other hand, is data that is organized and presented in a way that allows us to take an informed action. It is data placed in context.
Rather than information overload, we often have an information deficit.

Check this out:

1 billion people use YouTube (10/3/2016)
4 billion views per day on YouTube  (1/23/2012)
6 billion hours of video watched per month (4/21/14)
40 minutes is the average time spent in YouTube in a session. (10/3/16)

OMG! That is amazing data! Why aren’t you producing videos on YouTube! Look at the audience! That simple list above is a perfect example of meaningless data. By the way, the site I pulled those numbers from (that pulled them from numerous other sites and studies) has another 140 fascinating statistics. Lots of data without any context!

Qualifiers that might turn some of that data into information depending on what you are looking for:

Age ranges of users
Types of videos viewed
Average time spent viewing what types of videos

It is easy to overwhelm yourself with data. Take some time and determine what data can be used to generate information and then focus on that. You will feel a lot less overwhelmed, and more successful.


Everyone has “Big Data”

Just about everybody has heard the term “Big Data.” Most likely you have heard it in the context of Fortune 500 companies or the government scanning millions or billions of pieces of information looking for patterns. These amazing feats of data analysis require special software packages and tons of hardware; did I mention millions or billions of pieces of data? So “Big Data” is strictly for these multi-billion dollar companies and the government, right? Well…

Even relatively small sets of data can have patterns. Obviously the more data you have the more confident you can be about the pattern, but if you have been in business for a few years or working on starting a business, you probably have more data than you think. When we hear the word “data” a lot of us immediately think “computer.” Understandable, but wrong. data is simply a collection of “things.” It could be your memories of the last 10 customers you worked with. It could be the sales figures in your accounting system. It could be the collection of invoices in your filing cabinets where you scrawled notes about the customer. The issue for most of us isn’t that we don’t have data, but rather we haven’t yet taken the time to organize and examine the data we have to see the patterns that exist, or don’t know how to.

In fact, you most likely have access to some very powerful tools to organize and analyze data. I’ll introduce those in upcoming posts.

The Presidential Debate: A Metaphor of the Marketing Challenge

First off, let me say this post has nothing to do with who should or should not be President of the United States.

No, what I thought interesting was for all of the analysis of who “won” or who scored a hit on the other, the end result of the debate will be pretty much nothing. No massive swing in the polls for one candidate or the other. Which makes the debate a perfect metaphor for so much marketing today: Lots of noise and hyperbole, but really nothing new, resulting in… few sales.

There was nothing new presented in the debate. No new policy announcements, no real solutions to real problems. People who were going to buy their candidate anyway are still buying, and those who weren’t…

This is the lesson that so few marketers allow themselves to learn. In today’s market, hyperbole works, but only if it is hyping something truly new and original. If you already have some customers who support you, they will stay with you (as long as you don’t actually do something to damage the trust you have built,) but you probably won’t attract too many new followers – we have heard it all before from too many sources, and it has become background noise.

The reality is you need to present something different, something unique – which is hard to do in a market flooded with competition. Find that differentiator, a true difference, and then scream it from the hills with all the hyperbole you can muster. Screaming the same thing over and over again won’t get you very far. Not today.