How Do You Spend Your Time?

Where does your time go? And how can you set better priorities?

Print and fill out the time chart at right to track the way you spend your time over several days.


For each activity, estimate or record the number of hours you spend. If you can think of an activity not listed, enter it in the additional spaces provided at the bottom of the chart.

Once you've done this, ask yourself: How do you really want to spend your time?

Look again at the chart, and as you consider the list of activities, keep these questions in mind:

  • Is anything missing?
  • Is my week balanced the way I really want it?
  • Do I spend enough time with others?
  • Do I spend enough time on myself?
  • Am I trying to do too much? If I had six months to live, is this how I would allocate my time?
  • Are any dreams or projects still not included?
  • Is this really what I want most?

Take another look at your chart and consider ways you can make room for the things that are missing — the things that matter most. Set priorities. Make some promises to yourself and write them down. Then, for the next week:

  • Print out your list of priorities and tape it to your refrigerator to remind yourself.
  • Add items that will help you meet those new priorities to your "to-do" list for the week. Consider each of them an "assignment," like getting the kids to soccer practice or buying a gift for your mother's birthday, and check it off when you do it.
  • As you go through your week, say no to others, wherever possible. If you're saying no to activities that are not priorities or essential, make a note of it! If you're finding that difficult after a week, figure out why you haven't said no and list the reasons.
  • Set rules so you can stick to what you've decided. Stick to your schedule — and your priorities!
  • Involve your family in helping support your priorities, just as you do theirs. Ask your partner to give you a "night off" and stick to it: Fill the tub, pour yourself a glass of something, and pretend you're at a spa. Car-pool to practices so you and other parents can time-share the responsibilities, then use that time for something you enjoy. Assign the kids with a new responsibility — and don't give up if it's not done perfectly the first time.

After your first week, take a look at your chart again to see if your priorities are reflected in the way you spend your time. Then try it again the following week.

Make a habit of scheduling time for the things that mean the most to you. You'll feel better — and you'll be better able to handle all the rest of the things on your plate.