If you go back and look at some of my older posts, you’ll notice that when I first started my bullet journal I kept my daily spreads super simple. I used the basic heading, my rapid logging, a food log and maybe a doodle if I had time. However as I’ve got busier, especially with university work and socialising, time tracking has gradually entered my planning routine.
Time tracking is incredibly useful if you have a busy day and you want to see how your time is broken up, and it’s also really adaptable. I initially just used it to schedule in when I wanted to do housework, go for a walk etc. Then I used it to see how I could group similar tasks together, for example having an hour in the morning just for cleaning rather than splitting it up throughout the day and ending up half-assing a job that could be done better. For studying, a time tracker can be a great tool for easily logging your number of daily studying hours, plus how long your breaks actually were (I am super guilty of taking a two hour Netflix/nap break and calling it “study time”)
My first ever time tracker fitted neatly into a piece of unused space on the right hand side of my daily rapid logging list – this just happened to be the only free space I had at the time, and it worked really well! I cover the period 7am-11pm or sometimes 12am if I draw the line too long (it happens to the best of us!) Some people track the full 24 hours and include sleep, but I’m just too lazy to do this!
Other time trackers can run horizontally along the top or bottom of the page, or you could even dedicate a full spread to a week or month – it’s totally up to you! I found the ladder format most useful for my daily spreads so that I could link tasks with times.
Linking tasks to times
This method is incredibly simple, but it’s a great way of staying on track of the hours in a day. If I have an essential task that must get done by a certain time, I’ll put the bullet for it as close to the time I want and then draw a line and bracket to the time spent on the task.
This can be done both in advance, for example scheduling an hour for driving to the dentist; or you can track hour by hour, for example planning to go for a walk and then indicating how long it took when you get back. It’s ultimately just as adaptable as the tracker itself!
Some people are amazingly minimal and can track time with just the bracket linking I mentioned before, or with monochrome patterns. Not me! I love bright colours and I especially love fineliners and bright pens, so this is the perfect excuse to colour code my day.
Here you can see my key, which I use throughout my bullet journal; not just for time tracking, but also in my Year At A Glance, Future Log and any other important pages. This way I can easily search for a colour just by flipping through my bujo!
Comparing ideal day vs actual day
A new concept that I’ve been trying recently is the Parallel Time Ladder, which is the method that most frequently elicits questions such as “What are those numbers down the side?” when I post my daily spreads on Instagram! This method simply doubles up my existing time tracker ladder, so that I have two trackers side by side.
The night before, when I’m planning my day, I’ll colour the left hand side “ideal day” with what I hope to spend time on the next day and perhaps indicate which tasks need doing and when. Then when I come to do them, I colour in the right hand side “actual day” tracker – this helps me keep totally on track! It means avoiding that to-do list dread of looking at my rapid log and wondering what to do first when I get free time, plus I can compare what tasks worked and what didn’t.
Other time tracking ideas
The number of ways you can track time in a bullet journal are almost as limitless as time itself – the sky’s the limit! I use a simple vertical ladder, but many people also use horizontal ladders. These can be especially useful as page dividers if you like to put multiple days per page. Some time trackers fit better into weekly spreads, or perhaps you like the big picture and prefer to make it into a monthly spread. Circular time trackers are a nice design touch if you have space, or even a spiral design.
You can choose to track only certain aspects of your time – perhaps just number of hours studied per day, or just your sleep. For school or uni it can be nice to only track the hours 7am-7pm and give yourself the evening off, like in the circular time tracker above. If you want to go all out tracking every hour in the day, a horizontal or spiral tracker might be for you!
Tracking all of your time can be exhausting and I would recommend experimenting first. While everyone’s Instagram pictures may look nice, what works for them may not work for you! I know that the linking task to times doesn’t always work for me, aesthetically on paper or practically in my life. You might decide differently!
Remember to start simple and work your way up. Maybe just use 4 colours, and track a few hours each day, to get an idea of how much effort it takes you. You shouldn’t end up tracking your time spent time tracking; it should consume as little time and effort as possible per day!