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Comment about 4HWW Time Audit: Defeating the purpose?

Category : productivity, time management

I received an excellent comment from id_bob on yesterday’s post about my new 4HWW Time Audit worksheet. His comments, which are right on point are: “hey, isn’t this missing the point? You’re task switching too much. You’re being inefficient by even recording the tasks. Will you waste more time in time auditing then recover from focusing.” There’s greater details in the comments, and of course, he’s exactly right!

But that’s missing the point a bit about why I’m doing this (and why I have a feeling other 4HWWs are also trying to audit their time). I’m trying to find out where I’m losing my time. I am nowhere near my 4HWW time goals, and in part that’s because I’m running around doing so many tasks that at the end the day, I wonder where all the time went. The 4HWW Time Audit tool is not meant to be something to be used if you are already time efficient, nor is it meant to be an operational tool… it is a diagnostic / auditing tool only.

The point is that I’m still working 12+ hour days and not getting any closer to my 4HWW goal. Part of the problem is that I’m already doing too much… I’m already task switching, so I’m not making the problem any worse by doing some analysis. Just like a doctor needs to do some tests, perform some scans, or do some blood work to figure out what’s ailing the patient, I need some analysis to figure out what’s ailing my time. The bloodwork / tests aren’t meant to solve the problem — they are purely diagnostic. Similarly, the 4HWW Time Audit is not meant to govern the way you spend your time, but rather audit the way you have been spending it. Once that has been identified enough to determine the patterns and trends… toss the 4hWW audit tool! It’s time to Eliminate, Automate, Outsource, and Repeat.

This is an analysis tool, not a management tool. If you already know where your time is going, then don’t use this sheet! This sheet won’t help you, and in fact, it will be a hindrance For those who are already cramming a hundred tasks into a single day, this 4HWW Time Audit sheet aims to find out what tasks are the time-wasters, which tasks are the ones to accentuate. This is purely an analysis tool, not a tool for running something once you’ve already achieved the efficiency point.

In any case, the question was how much time to spend on this worksheet. The answer: as little as possible. I spent 2 minutes on this spreadsheet first thing this morning assigning tasks and allocating time, and then 30 seconds on this spreadsheet after each task recording how much time it took. No more time than that. No need to put “work on the spreadsheet” in the spreadsheet. I had 10 tasks total for the day. I think 5 minutes aggregate invested in determining my time wasters goes a long way to getting me to 4 hours a day!

Thoughts? Do you agree? Disagree?

Make sense?

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This blog is a personal blog written and edited by me. For questions about this blog, please contact Rex at info [at] fourhourworkweekdiary [dot] com. This blog accepts forms of cash advertising, sponsorship, paid insertions or other forms of compensation. The compensation received may influence the advertising content, topics or posts made in this blog, including the article written above. That content, advertising space or post may not always be identified as paid or sponsored content. The owner(s) of this blog is compensated to provide opinion on products, services, websites and various other topics. Even though the owner(s) of this blog receives compensation for our posts or advertisements, we often give our honest opinions, findings, beliefs, or experiences on those topics or products. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the bloggers' own. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer, provider or party in question. This blog may contain content which might present a conflict of interest. This content may not always be identified.

Comments (5)

You should really just download TimeSnapper Pro from http://www.timesnapper.com for a week and that’ll give you more insight than you could ever want into what you do all day, at least on the computer–it will give you visuals, analysis, and keep track of productivity, etc. It’s an invaluable part of my toolkit and it takes no extra time out of my day to use it.

Thanks! Looks like an interesting tool, altho maybe a bit too much for my purposes. I’d like to keep my time auditing to 5 minutes a day, tops. So, if it takes longer, I might get bogged down. But if I still have trouble figuring out where my time loss is (especially for those “interruptions”), I’ll definitely give this a try!


I see where you are coming from now, and think this is a fantastic way of analyzing where your time is going. I believe I misunderstood your original post.

Even Guru Tim would say this is a good thing. He says in his book that he took a full day to look at what his time wasters were, at work, in his personal life, everywhere. This is what you’re doing as well.

When things are so busy that you can’t really take a day off without the world crumbling, then taking bites out of it like this may be the only route you can take. Though I’d bet the world wouldn’t crumble, we just feel like it would.

At any rate, Rex, great post and I think you’re on to something. Once you’ve spent time recording your time, and analyzing, you can determine where the majority of your time is being spent.

Of course this is more of a reactionary approach then a proactive approach of deciding what is important and doing it, versus having others decide what is important. But of course we don’t all get to decide that, but we CAN decide how to accomplish the end result, which is exactly why we could do in 2 hours what somebody else might spent 2 days on. Tim’s example of calling before and after the ‘gatekeepers’ went home is perfect. It’s that type of thinking, that “don’t follow the herd” mentality that makes you effective.

Let us know how it goes – I’m very interested in seeing what insights you gain from this experiment!


TimeSnapper is a set it and forget it tool. It takes ZERO time for it to track your activities, which should be substantially less than any spreadsheet-oriented tool. The only time you’ll spend with it is in analyzing the numbers, which should also be more accurate than anything entered by hand.


You might also want to check out the open source Personal Task Manager as a low overhead way of tracking time, especially if you spend most of the day working at or near a PC. It uses a periodic polling feature to collect activity/task time and automatically collects computer application usage. I wrote more details on using this software here.

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