Mastering Your Minutes: Conducting a Time Audit for More Efficiency & Joy in Your Business

How long do things really take?

Every business professional, whether a dietitian counseling clients or a copywriter crafting persuasive messages, can magnify their productivity by examining the way they spend their days. 

But you may be wondering how to do a time audit to get this data.

Conducting a time audit can be an eye-opening experience. Some days you’re able to crank through a project much more quickly, other times, you discover just how long the admin side of your business actually takes. 

As a dietitian and nutrition copywriter, I’ve found that tracking my times helps most with the ever-touchy subject of pricing. 

In this blog post, I’ll walk you through my simple way that I track my time using a free tool and then what I actually do with the data that I track. 

What is a time audit?

Let’s start at the beginning; before we discuss how to do a time audit, let’s first explain what this whole thing is. 

A time audit is the process of tracking and categorizing all of the different activities that you do in your workday. 

The goal is to understand how you currently use your time, and if that is working for the development of your dream business and the work-life balance you’re seeking. 

A time audit is particularly helpful for realizing how much “other” time is needed to run all of the aspects of your business. 

For example as a copywriter, writing the actual articles is just one aspect of my weekly work. I also need to communicate with my clients, pitch to new clients, and do my monthly accounting tasks so that I’m ready for taxes each quarter and year, not to mention the continuing education that I need to maintain my license. 

Basically, there are a lot of benefits of having real data about how long it takes you to do all-the-things in your business. 

Benefits of Doing a Time Audit

Having good data about how long it takes you to do the different tasks in your business allows you to make evidence-based decisions (and dang, as dietitians don’t we love evidence-based recommendations)?

  • Identification of time wasters: You can pinpoint activities that absorb significant time without adding value to your work. Your data might help you decide what to delegate or even what to stop doing in your business. 
  • Enhanced work-life balance: By restructuring your time management, you can ensure more time in your personal life without compromising work progress.
  • Opportunities for optimization: A time audit points towards areas where you can streamline or automate processes to save time.
  • Better decision-making: It equips you with data to make intelligent choices about priorities and resource allocation.
  • Guide pricing: as you learn better how long it takes to run your whole business, this will inform you if your pricing is on point, or if you need to make changes there, too.

There are a whole lotta reasons why having time tracking is helpful. Let’s talk about how to do it, now!

Getting Ready to Audit Your Time

Preparation is key. Allocate time in advance to prepare for the time audit, creating a conducive environment that ensures your undivided attention.

Set Your Objectives

Clearly define what you want to achieve through the audit. Whether it’s to increase billable client hours or to carve out more creative time, having a clear goal will give your audit focus and purpose.

Choose Your Tools

Select tools that suit your working style. This might be as simple as pen and paper, a dedicated time-tracking app, or software that integrates with your existing systems to make data collection less intrusive.

Personally, I love a free tool called Toggl. While they do have a paid version, I use the free version and it provides more than enough information for my needs.

Set up your categories

Think it through: what categories do you need in order to have useful information? For example, if you just tracked everything as “work,” that doesn’t help you with making changes to streamline your business. 

As I track my time in Toggl, I have a category for each client. As I’m working on specific projects, I track those. For example, for my clients on retainer, as I do the keyword research, topic discussions with the client, and then all of the writing, I track that. And when I get their feedback, I track the edits there, too. 

BTW – if you’ve never hired a copywriter before (or had an intern write a blog for you), here are 11 tips for how to give constructive feedback on writing projects

Beyond client work, I am also tracking everything else: time spent writing blogs like this one, time spent on social media, listening to podcasts (here are The Best Dietitian Podcasts for 2024, in my opinion), and even my continuing education. 

I also track my time as I mentor my students in The RD Blog Club and in The Writing Course. From hosting writing workshops to crafting new lessons, I track it all!

Tracking Your Time

Tracking your time should be as accurate and detailed as possible. This means categorizing activities by type and purpose.

The first step is to track a normal workday, from the moment you begin until your day is done. 

Note start and end times for each activity – this is super easy with Toggl. 

Be consistent and honest, even if the numbers surprise you sometimes. No one else is going to see this info: it is for your eyes only.

As I’m working, I simply click the button to start tracking and then choose the category. And if I ever forget, Toggl lets you manually enter data as well. 

I always track my time; not just for a specific audit – it empowers my CEO decision-making as I grow my own dream business. 

Making Use of Your Audit Data

The next phase of your time audit is to analyze the data you’ve collected and leverage it to improve your time-management strategies. At the end of the day, they’re just numbers. It is up to you to assign meaning to the results and decide what to do next. 

Review and Classify

Look at the recorded activities and group them into broad categories like client work, administrative tasks, personal time, and any other category of running your business.

Identify Trends and Patterns

Are there recurring themes in how you spend your time? Look for patterns that can point to inefficiencies or opportunities.

Calculate the Time Consumed in Each Category

Quantify the time spent on different activities. This step will usually reveal a few major categories that dominate your time.

Now what? Implementing Changes Based on the Audit

Now that you’ve completed your time audit, it’s time to make decisions and implement changes that will enhance your productivity and quality of work.

Adjust your prices

The first thing that you might be ready to do is to change your pricing once you realize just how much time and energy goes into having a small business. It’s a lot: and you just don’t know what you don’t know.

Pricing can feel scary and overwhelming and can really dial up the imposter syndrome. But, with practice, you’ll discover the pricing that feels good to you.

To help, I have a pricing guide to help you as you determine your pricing, especially if you’re working as a copywriter. Don’t undercharge. This guide will help you to prevent burnout by charging enough to cover the whole gamut of time that it takes to run your business, not just the “official” client work. 

Say no

I know that I’m not the only entrepreneur that can struggle with “shiny object” syndrome. 

But at the end of the day, our time is our most precious resource. Having the time audit data (as well as your income data) can help you to determine what kinds of projects are worth it, and what things you might skip in the future. 

Sometimes saying no to opportunities or ideas is the best decision you can make.

Create a Revised Schedule

Using the data from your audit, craft a new schedule that reflects your goals and priorities. Be realistic and allow for flexibility where necessary.

Test and Learn

Make small changes and test their impact. Continue tracking your time to see how the adjustments affect your productivity and satisfaction.

Tracking time is valuable as I try new things in my business, too. 

For example, I created a mini-course about how to craft a welcome sequence and tracked all of the time it took to make the presentation, create the handouts, set up the course on my website, and promote it. Then, I get to see just how long that whole process took vs. the income that it generated to see if I want to make more of ‘em.  

End-of-the-year review

At the end of the year, I always like to use the reporting features in Toggl to look at the big picture. As a mom of a beautiful two-year-old, the time I have for my business is far less than before he was born. 

Having a bird’s eye view of my business is helpful as I look at the different segments of my business. For example, I can see how much time I spent in total in the year for The RD Blog Club and then compare that to my total revenue. That gives me an average hourly income.

Similarly, I can see how long it takes me to write client blogs on average and determine if I might need to adjust my pricing moving forward. 

There is always more than you’d guess that goes into running a business; keeping track of it all is such useful information if you take the time to look back. 

Dare to delegate

While I firmly believe that you can do absolutely anything, I don’t believe that we can do everything at once (or everything well).

One last benefit of having this time-tracking data is that it can help you decide what is most useful for you to delegate. 

As you track your time and income, you can see how much your average hourly rate is. Compare that to how much it might cost to hire a VA and it might make it seem less scary to start investing in your business to buy back your own time. 

Does it make sense for you to spend time in Canva making ugly posts, or is it time to hire a VA that can make stellar graphics in less time? Sign me up – I’d rather be writing! 

My VA takes care of the parts of my business that I stink at (hey there, Canva tasks) or simply don’t like doing (ahem, social media). By not trying to do it all, I dial up the joy in running this business. I don’t want to do it all, I want to do less. I want more time doing the parts that I actually like and to charge enough that I’m not working myself to the bone. 

For more thoughts on delegating as an entrepreneur and mama, bookmark this post for later:  The Abundant Benefits of Delegation in Your Business.

That’s a wrap!

Conducting a time audit is an investment that pays dividends in the long run. 

As entrepreneurs, knowing how you spend your time matters. 

A time audit is a powerful tool that helps you gain clarity on your working habits, identify areas for improvement, and ultimately, take control of your most precious resource— time. 

By regularly tracking how you spend your working hours and making calculated adjustments, you can transform your business performance and find a renewed sense of balance in your professional and personal life.

Remember Snickerdoodles: the true value of a time audit unfolds in the measures you undertake post-audit. It’s not the data itself that drives change, but the insights gleaned and the actionable steps you take to introduce efficiencies into your business operations.

For support with how much to charge (eeks!), take a peek at my pricing guide. There are no “set” prices, you have to find the pricing strategy that actually feels right for you. This guide will help you find the sweet spot!

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Hi! I’m Holly Larson – registered dietitian and nutrition copywriter and copywriting mentor.

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