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Dissecting a Workday… Every 15 Minutes

9 February 2024 at 9:00 am
Jenny Nicholls
I’m sure you’ve been there. You get caught up in the whirlwind of the daily grind, only to get to the end of the day, look at your to-do list that’s still a mile long, and wonder… “what did I DO all day?”

Jenny Nicholls | 9 February 2024 at 9:00 am


Dissecting a Workday… Every 15 Minutes
9 February 2024 at 9:00 am

Here we explore what happened when my workday was dissected into 15-minute increments.

Recently, several team members performed a Time Audit on our work weeks. I enthusiastically dove in, ready to see exactly what my day and week looked like in terms of tasks and meetings, and how long they took. The idea was not only to view the week as a whole, but also to review the nitty-gritty of what takes up our work hours.

An example of what the Time Audit could look like.


This involved having a document ready to fill in first thing Monday morning. In this case, it was an Excel document, split into each workday, and each day split into 15-minute segments. Part of preparing this sheet was to only include the hours I work, and grey-ing out everything else. That way I had a visual of the slots that made up each day, and wasn’t staring at a lot of blank space that didn’t actually need to be filled in.

The second part of prepping was a mental shift. I had to ready myself for being aware of what I was doing and being intentional about recording the activity.


The actual ‘doing’ simply involved recording what I did, at approximately the time I did it. If it took longer than 15 minutes – which many things did – I left the slots blank until I could record my next activity. Doing this intentionally didn’t mean I remembered to fill in every slot in a timely manner. But I tried to go back and fill them in as soon as I realised I had forgotten.


Doing this activity for an entire week was really interesting. No doubt, another week could look very different. And there are fascinating rabbit holes we can easily fall down when looking into things like best practice productivity or online tests to decipher your most focused time of the day.

These were my five observations based on this one week.

  • 9am Productiveness

In my role, there are a group of tasks that I do every Monday. Getting those done and dusted first thing gave me a boost, feeling like I was nailing productivity and checking a bunch of things off my task list (I love crossing things off!).

One possible pitfall is the slight lull after getting those regular things done. I’ve just had a rush of activity… now what do I do?!

  • To-Do Lists Focus Tasks

Taking a moment to plan out what I wanted my week to look like was so helpful. I only spent one 15-minute segment on this, but wow, what a difference it made. Knowing what tasks I wanted to achieve and working out priorities and deadlines really gave shape to my week. It also helped me avoid the pitfall mentioned in point 1.

  • Checking Emails Intentionally

This one is something I learned many years and several roles ago… set times in the day to check emails and try to stick to them as much as possible. Many days, checking and/or responding to emails first things in the morning and again after lunch will do the trick. This avoids dwelling for too long in your inbox. It also helps to maintain focus on your main task instead of serving as an interruption and time zap to your day.

I will add, this one can be easier said than done. It’s ok to race over to your inbox when you hear the ‘ding’ if you’re awaiting something urgent or that will assist you in getting something done. I realise this is not always practical. However, I’ve found that when I check my emails more intentionally, I stay more focused and generally get more done.

  • Meetings

Again, this one is about being intentional. Meetings should ideally cover what they were meant to cover, in the timeframe they were scheduled for. Being intentional about the number and length of meetings can help to give you a bit of time back in your day. And of course, that to-do list of priorities will help you get important things done outside of your meetings.

  • Multitasking

I am so guilty of this one – trying to do a bunch of tasks at once or getting distracted halfway through one task and beginning another, only to go back and forth between them, and effectively ruining my focus and productivity.

Entering in my tasks on the Time Audit sheet made me much more aware of what items I was doing. And that awareness went a long way toward getting me back on task and focus. Entering in tasks one by one made it obvious when I was focused and when I was trying to do too much all at once.

When too many things were swimming around my head, making me want to jump into more items, referring to my to-do list really helped – even if I needed to add to it, at least I could get them onto paper and out of my brain, allowing me to go back to the task at hand.


If you often get to the end of your workday and wonder where the time went, or what you really accomplished, I challenge you to give the Time Audit a go. It’s simple to create your own spreadsheet or find a template online. Feel free to use whatever time segment you are comfortable with, though 15 or 30 minutes are probably the most efficient. It doesn’t take long to fill in – a few words are all it takes to remind you what you did.

The above were just my experiences and observations dissecting one work week using a Time Audit. Along with the above five key points, I really believe this exercise helped me work smarter and to make each 15 minutes count.

This article was originally published at

Jenny Nicholls  |  @ProBonoNews

Marketing & Communications Manager at Gembridge Recruitment & Executive Search.

Tags : working hours,


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