The Study Skills Initiative: The Jolly Librarian Keeps a Time Log

I have written of the advantages of keeping a time log to find the pockets where time is wasted and where we can substitute more productive activities. So I decided to try it myself. For the past two days, I’ve kept a log of  my daily activities. I set my phone to ring at certain intervals and then checked what I was doing. Honesty Alert:I was actually a little more productive than usual. The fact that I knew I was tracking my time and going to write about it made me slightly more conscientious.

While here are many ways to do this to keep a time log; I decided to do a rough check every thirty minutes or so.


Anyway, here are some samples from today:

7:00– Alarm went off. I listened to the “old school phone” sound for ten minutes before getting up.

7:30–Eating breakfast and reading the newspaper.

8:00–Still drinking breakfast tea and reading devotionals.

8:30–Making my bed and catching up on Words with Friends.

9:00–Taking my shower.

9:30–Dressing, getting ready for work.

10:00–Leave house to go to dentist.

Noon–  Checking emails.

12:30– Answering LiveChat Question.

1:00–  At Circ desk–checking out Macbook to student

1:30– Still at circ desk, checking email again

2:00– Discussing schedule for rest of week with staff.

2:30– Looking at materials for meeting.

3:00–In boss’s office hearing bad news.

3:30–Still in boss’s office.

4:00–Signing papers.

4:30–Helping students fax

5:00–Typing blog.

Three things pop out at me about today’s log. One, today seemed to be filled with interruptions. I had to go to the endodontist, which took a good part of the morning. Also this week, we’ve had quite a few library staff members taking leave for one reason or another, which has put me at the circulation desk more than usual. (I don’t mind this; I like the chance to work with students.)

Two, I seem to be a lingerer in the mornings. Most people are through with breakfasts, showers, and transportation to the office by the time that I finish up my reading over tea and cereal.

Three, I am one boring person!

The idea of the time log is to accurately measure your time and to see if you are putting the necessary energy into the most important tasks. The exercise, however, doesn’t do much good if you don’t put what you find into action.

So here’s my action plan:

  1. There is no need to take this much time over breakfast. I will plan to turn off my computer so that I’m not tempted to check emails or search the web while I’m eating. This should save enough time so that I can get to work earlier (and leave earlier) or exercise before coming to work.
  2. I really enjoy helping students at the circulation desk, so I’m going to manage to spend some time there each day. It helps to know the students personally and get a real sense of how they perceive the library. (Notice the purpose of the time log is not to simply find time wasters. You may also find activities that add value to your days and will need to find an opportunity to do more of them.)
  3. I didn’t go through my evening hours because I knew what I would find. After I come home and work out, I often just plop down on the sofa and watch television until bedtime. (I mix this up with some snacking, playing Words with Friends, and doing DuoLingo lessons in French.)  Now, while I need time alone more than most people, I also need to get out more. So I think I may move my exercising to mornings and then plan socializing activities before going home.

Since the semester is soon ending, I will not do any major changes to my schedule right now. But I will experiment with being more efficient in the mornings. If this works, I’ll take the period between semesters to experiment with exercising before work. And I will definitely start spending more time at the circulation desk starting tomorrow.

Basically here are the three steps to using a time log:

1. Log your activities for a representative period.

2. Check where your weaknesses lie.

3. Start experimenting on improvements.

Good luck!


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