How to Effectively Measure the Amount Of Work You Actually Do

By Abhijeet Mukherjee

May 6, 2011   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

I remember reading somewhere that only a fraction of the work we do every day is productive work. Rest is not actual work; we just fool ourselves to believe that it is.

I think that if each of one us were to take a minute and carefully think about the work accomplished during the last 24 hour period, it won’t be too difficult to not agree with what I said in the first paragraph above. With distractions galore, both online and offline, it is easy to get sucked into a non-work routine which feels like work.

The purpose of this article is to try and measure the real, hardcore work we do every day and to find out ways to eliminate the distractions that stand in our way of accomplishing actual work. Lets check out the methods I suggest, and then you could suggest similar methods in the comments.

What’s Work For You?
It is very important to answer the above question correctly. What’s work for you might not be work for me and vice versa. For example, for a social media manager, spending time on Twitter and Facebook is very much part of actual work. She is doing that to track audience engagement and to promote her client’s site. But that might not be the case at your end.

So you need to have a clear picture of what’s work and what’s fun. I think one way to figure that out is to know if what you are doing makes you money in the short or long term. If it does, it’s work. If it doesn’t, it may or may not be actual work. But it’s definitely something that can be done later.

Using Separate Devices
Once you know what’s work for you, you need to know how much of it you are able to accomplish each day. Seth Godin talked about the two-device solution few days ago. He proposes that you use your computer only for actual work, and a second device – like your iPad – for everything that doesn’t fall in the domain of actual work. It’s definitely an easy way to track the time spent doing actual work every day.

Using a Timer
We just had a post on how a simple timer can go a long way in making you more productive. Yes, timers work. And you can make use of them to measure the amount of work you do.

I’d also take an opportunity to mention one of my previous DLM posts on time management tools and apps. Some of the tools mentioned in the list, like RescueTime, can effectively track the time you spent doing different things on your computer.

Using Separate Logins or User Profiles
This is something I talked about on my personal blog sometime back. I took cue from Seth’s article on using separate devices, and suggested that we create separate user profiles for work and fun. You can also make use of this neat tutorial to track your login and logoff times using scheduled task in Windows. That would tell you exactly the time you spend in a particular user account.

So, what do you think about the above methods? What else do you think can help you track the amount of actual work you are able to complete daily?



Written on 5/6/2011 by Abhijeet Mukherjee. Abhijeet is a blogger and web publisher from India. He loves all things tech as long as it aids in productivity. He edits Guiding Tech, a blog that publishes useful guides, tutorials and tools. Check it out and subscribe to its feed if you like the site. You can also find him on Twitter. Photo Credit: bark


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