October 13, 2018
Have you ever felt stressed about not having enough time in a day to do all the things you want or have you ever experienced that you didn’t manage to complete all of your tasks? If the answer is yes, then time mapping can help you out tremendously.
Time mapping is an effective way to manage your time. It is a way of organizing your professional and personal time in a physical calendar or using an online tool. You create color-coded entries for how you plan to spend your time each hour of the day. These hours might be spent on work, sport, family, or any other activity.
Even though calendars and planners can be a way of organizing your appointments and personal time, it often ends up being a schedule for what you SHOULD do rather than what you WANT to do. This is where time maps come in handy.
What is time mapping?
Time mapping is a concept that can be extremely valuable to help you organize and manage, but what is it actually?
Mapping your time means that you create short entries in distinct time blocks for how you plan to spent each hour of the day, typically visualized on a weekly basis. This time might be spent on work, family, sports or rest. This will categorize how you spend both the professional and personal time of your life.
Furthermore, time maps help you rate the quality of the time you are spending each hour. By rating each activity in the map, you become aware well you spend your time. For example
In short, it is a calendar that visually tracks how you spend your time and provides an understanding of the quality of the time you have spent each hour of the day. It is a fairly simple concept and luckily it doesn’t take much effort to get started making a time map either.
How to make a time map
Before you start doing anything, you will need to make a quick assessment. The time you have in a day, week, month or year is like the space of a cabinet: only a certain number of things can fit in.
So, before you start filling in activities in your time map, start with deciding on how you want to fill the limited space of your day or week. Think about what takes up your time. This could be work, parenting obligations, workouts, date nights, volunteering, friendships, etc. The list can be long and is going to fit you uniquely.
If you are an entrepreneur, work might take up a lot of time. If you are a parent of a young child, family time will probably dominate. If you have plans to participate in a big sport event, exercise might fill a lot in your life. Everything will depend on your life situation.
Once all your current activities and tasks have been defined, then think about how your ideal calendar might include. How do you wish to spend your time? What priorities would you like to make time for no matter what and what activities fall further down the priority list?
Answer the questions to get clearer about how your ideal time map should look like. Then proceed to map each of your activities.
Assign a color to each activity or task you have. This will make it easy to visually identify what your time map is made up of. Now fill in your calendar and remember to be specific! Leave as little blank space as possible, so that you can see exactly how you are spending your time.
One tip: keep your overall ratios in mind. Aligning the things you deem most important in life with the correct amount of time you have available will make for the best time map. That is, if your career is top priority, the largest percentage of your map should reflect that.
Now that you have determined how you would like to spend your time according to your life priorities, you are halfway to making that a reality! It just becomes a question of implementing it.
After filling out your time map, you will also be equipped with a colorful and visually appealing calendar that continuously lets you analyze a few things, such as:
- Where your calendar is over-weighted
- Where you are spending time that you enjoy and don’t enjoy
- Where space is taken up by activities that doesn’t propel you towards your dreams (these should probably be replaced with other activities quickly)
- Where is there a color that should have more time assigned (workouts, quiet time, de-stressing, dream-building activities, etc.)
- Are you spending enough time with family and friends that you want to
Time mapping template
Time maps can vary a lot depending on each individual’s tasks and life goals. But if you want some inspiration on how your own time map could look like, here are a few examples.
For a person with kids and family obligations, a time map might look something like this.
If you have a job that requires you to work with clients – such as being a marketing consultant, your time map could look something like this.
The final example could be for a freelancer. If you wear many hats in terms of work, this part of life will probably take up some time.
The different time maps look vastly different. This will also be the case with how different people choose to use their map.
How to use time maps
There are different ways to use time maps.
Some people use it as a planning technique, others use it as a time accountant technique and some use it as an evaluation and improvement technique. Either way, mapping out your time gives you hourly blocks of scheduled time that can be used for increased focus, understanding your time spent and optimizing your life.
As with any suggestion, planning system or concept, zero in on where you are experiences the most frustration, where you have breakdowns often. Depending on where your frustrations come from, you can use time mapping differently. So where is your frustration?
- Is it in time estimating? Focus on planning
- Completing tasks? Focus on managing your time and chunking out your projects into doable tasks
- Forgetting things or trying to remember what to do? Focus on a consistent schedule and reminder system with notifications of the important activities – and remember to set aside time to maintain your system
- Managing all the details? Focus on the overview of the time map and include very detailed descriptions of each activity
- Wishing to do more activities that contribute to your life goals? Focus on change and over time replace non-fulfilling activities with fulfilling activities
If you can figure what is not working for you, you will be able to decide on how you might start using time maps best.
Once you have created your time map and know how to use it best, you must see how your actual schedule lines up with your ideal. Have your time map somewhere where you will see it daily and for each day jot down your time to compare your vision to reality. Note how close or far your actual time is to the map you created.
Maintaining your time maps each day will also become the way of keeping score with life quality and well-being. As you notice improvements in activities you want to incorporate into your schedule or limit the number of empty time blocks, you know you are achieving your ideals and bettering your life.
Wash, rinse and repeat the process. The more you work with it, the better it will work for you.
Time mapping apps
You could write down everything on paper. There is something nostalgic about having things on paper nowadays, but it can also quickly become unmanageable and fill up physical room wherever you choose to store it.
Time mapping apps can help you fill in your activities, make corrections and store your maps much more efficiently. Some of the available software on the market, which you can use to create your time map include:
Don’t forget that you can help yourself with these special softwares used in time management. For work specifically, you can even add on time tracking and software management software, which has very valuable features to help you track work time spent on your different projects.
All in all
“Where has the day gone” is a saying heard all too often.
Our lives nowadays are hectic and lived on autopilot, as we move from activity to activity with little reflection. This leads to repeat behavior without noticing that we can improve our lives.
A time map is a tool for reaching that desired destination. In life, our ideals define this destination. We cannot get to where we want to go if we travel without a map and a plan. In mapping our time, we can create a framework for following and improving our life’s course.
Now it is up to you to start mapping.