Time Tracking

I developed this template for tracking project goals and managing time commitments that you're welcome to borrow and adapt. These spreadsheets developed over time -- they saved me in graduate school and I just never stopped.

Generally, the logic is that you should have a plan to tenure (or getting your PhD and finding a job) and then work backwards from there for yearly, monthly, and daily goals. I also recommend tracking your daily and weekly hours to meet daily/weekly/monthly productivity goals and then feeling guilt-free about taking nights, weekends, and holidays off (to steal from Tanya Golash-Boza, get a life!). It's also a way to think about what's important to *you* -- what kinds of research, teaching, and service do you want to prioritize each year? The goal isn't to "maximize productivity," but to focus on the work most important to you *and* set aside the rest of your time for family, friends, and other meaningful engagements outside of work.

A note on hour goals: People are routinely shocked at how little time they actually spend working when they start tracking hours. I advice people to start by just better observing their work routines now, entering the start and end times for work (which can include emails, but not things like getting a snack, scheduling a personal appointment, and all the small and big things that break up the work day) and then set some targets with that in mind. My sense is that for most people working full-time, you want to aim for 30-40 hours of actual work time per week (and no more!), with at least 20 full vacation and sick days built in. (Of course, not everyone can or wants to work full-time, e.g. if you have a chronic disability, substantial care-taking obligations, medical or family crises, etc. In these circumstances, just reduce the hours or up the leave days to whatever feels right to you.)

The semester breakdown tab is loosely based on this 5-Year Plan template from The Professor Is In and reflects the advice on goal-setting, time management, and daily writing from the blogs listed over here.

For pre-tenure folks, I also recommend putting together a hypothetical CV around year 3. Include your published work and a medium-optimistic take on what you expect to happen with projects in the pipeline. Then use this imaginary C.V. to help map out the years and set your priorities.

How I use these sheets:

    1. At the beginning of the year, when my teaching schedule is set, I update the "Semester Break-Down" sheet. At the start of each term, I update my primary research goals for the semester.

    2. Once a month, I revisit the project list & monthly goals page to update the status of projects and outline priorities for the month.

    3. With those goals in mind, each Friday afternoon (or Monday morning), I build a weekly schedule, drawing tasks from a master research, teaching, and service to-do list (managed online through workflowy) and my calendar for the week.

    4. When I start & end of working on each new to-do item, I enter in the time on the Daily Hours Log. (You can also log # of pomodoros instead if that works better for you.) At the end of each week I compile those hours in the Weekly Hours Log.

    5. At the end of each year, I analyze the Weekly Hours Log to see how my time was spent. This helps to make sure my time is balanced and lets me track things like how many hours a paper takes, what percentage of research time is in the summer, etc. I then create a new spreadsheets for the following year.

Happy spreadsheeting!

Projects Spreadsheet & Planning Template Revised 2019