guide

The Ultimate Guide To Time Mapping Best Practices

Time mapping is a technique for visualizing your daily activities and assessing whether they contribute to your goals' success. Time mapping is helpful if you don’t seem to have enough time for your most important tasks.

There's a good chance you've heard of time blocking, when you schedule specific tasks for certain times on your calendar. This method ensures you have time for the essential things in your life. So then, what’s time mapping all about?

Time mapping and time blocking are similar time management strategies, but they’re used for different things.

Time blocking creates daily structure.

Time mapping helps you understand how you spend your time and set priorities. It lets you see how you spend your time overall rather than only at the day-to-day level.

Below, we'll talk about the benefits of time mapping and the best ways to use it.

What are the benefits of time mapping?

Time mapping has a lot of great benefits for you, your team, and even after you’ve clocked out of work. Let's closely examine what time mapping can do for you.

Visualize time spent on tasks

Find out where you and your coworkers spend most of your time. You can do this with just a pencil and paper, or you can use time tracking software to create your time map visualization.

Eliminate roadblocks and distractions

Find and eliminate the things that keep you from doing important tasks. You might find pockets of bandwidth and time that you didn’t know was available.

Develop flexibility

Time maps are flexible, making them easy to change as needed. You can change your time maps to fit your needs, whether you want a better work-life balance or you need to sprint and get more done.

Set realistic goals

Set goals and keep track of how well you're doing. With the right metrics, you can see if your productivity is going up over time or if your scheduling practices need to be improved.

Remove time-wasting tasks

Find the things that are wasting your time so you can defer them or optimize your work.

Reduce decision fatigue

Make your schedule more manageable and eliminate decisions you don't need to make to reduce decision fatigue.

Increase your focus

Focus better by writing down your priorities and making a plan to reach them.

Boost productivity

Parkinson's Law says that work will usually grow to fill the time to finish it. So don’t let work have free reign over your calendar!

Because time mapping is all about budgeting time slots for work, it can help improve employee productivity by allocating a set amount of hours for jobs.

Better work-life balance

Schedule your family time throughout your workweek, improve your well-being, and do more with less time.

Time mapping and time blocking are good ways to keep track of your calendar. Now, let’s compare the differences between the two techniques.

Time mapping vs. time blocking

A board with sticky notes where time mapping was planned

Time blocking is more granular than time mapping. At the same time, time mapping can inform your time blocking.

Time mapping is a way to look at how you spend your time from a higher level. It allows you to see the big picture and figure out how to set priorities and manage your time.

Time blocking is a more straightforward way to plan your day-to-day tasks. Over a certain amount of time, you set up time blocks that tell you what you need to do each day.

Time mapping helps you understand where you spend your time, so you can make changes as needed. Time blocking enables you to create structure in your day-to-day schedule and avoid time-consuming activities that cause waste throughout your workday.

Even though time blocking is more specific and time mapping is more general, they are both valuable tools that can help you get more done.

Use the same time map template for similar periods to make it easy to look back and see how your use has changed over time.

Pro tip: using a free time tracking app is a great way to figure out how you spend your time.

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How do I create my own time map?

So, with all that in mind, how do you get started with time mapping?

Here's how to do it:

  1. First, get a piece of paper and write down the different things you do. Include everything, even if it seems like a small thing. It needs to be on your list if you spend time on it.

  2. Now, list your goals and decide what's most important. Find out what tasks you can do at certain times and what "needs to be done" to reach your goals. This simple technique will help you figure out the best way to use your time.

  3. Once you know what's most important to you, it's time to make a time map. Using an app or an online tool is the easiest way. Use different colored blocks of time to plan out durations for each activity.

  4. Once you've created your time map, ensure all the time you've accounted for matches your priorities. You can now start using the colored hourly blocks to determine your time blocking.

Five time mapping best practices

As with any process, there are a few best practices in time mapping. When followed, these practices will lead to better results.

  1. Use blocks of time that work for you

    You may want to use hourly, half-hourly, or even 15-minute blocks, depending on your needs. Choose the block of time that will help you reach your goals without being overly-granular.

    If you pay great attention to details, 15-minute blocks might work best. If you're new to time mapping, you might find that planning your day in blocks less than an hour is too in the weeds.

  2. Focus on your top three to five types of activities

    You don't have to write down everything you do during the day. It might not even be possible. Instead, pay attention to your top 3 to 5 types of activities. These are the things you want to change or get better at.

    For example, if you want to spend more time with your family, you could focus on playtime, teaching skills, and family outings. Keep track of your time exercising, making meals, and resting.

  3. Fill out your time map strategically

    Once you've chosen your top 3 to 5 things to do, you can start filling in your time map. Think about your top priorities. If you need to do certain things at a particular time, ensure those are taken care of first.

    For example, if you have kids, their school schedule will likely stay the same and not change.

    Will you make a separate time map for work and home, or will you put everything on one map? Both could work. Just pick a strategy and stick with it.

  4. Set times to update your time map

    Use the same template every time you change your time map, and keep copies of all the past time maps you've made.

    Update your time map at set intervals to look back and see changes in your priorities. Then, figure out how different amounts of time for each type of activity affected productivity.

  5. Set yourself checkpoints

    Try scheduling 10 to 15 minutes for yourself every few weeks to check in on your time map.

    Are you following it? If not, ask yourself why.

    Did a new priority come up that you had not accounted for in your time blocks?

    Did you find new essential things to do, or did your main goal change?

    Remember that time mapping isn't just about your work life; it's also about your personal life. Ideally, it can help you establish a better work-life balance.

Pro tip: use software and apps that track time to make tracking time automated and more manageable.

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Time mapping with workflow management software

You can create time maps by hand, but using software to track time and manage workflows can take things to a new level.

Workflow management software such as Hubstaff can help you take your time mapping goals and make them a reality. You can see exactly where you spend your time through automated workflows, real-time task tracking, and weekly time reporting.

In addition to managing your work-life balance, Hubstaff’s workflow management platform is an excellent tool for leading remote employees who live and work in different time zones.

It isn't easy to gauge remote employees' productivity levels and task effectiveness on your own. But Hubstaff can help track work hours and weekly time for virtual teams.

In summary: time mapping is a helpful time management technique that helps you keep track of your time, get more done, and find a better balance between work and life. With Hubstaff, you and your employees can plan better and see how well you use your time with task and project management tools.

Not sure whether time tracking software is right for you? Try Hubstaff free for 14 days to see how time tracking and workflow tools can help organize any company's processes and boost employee productivity.

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