I hate time sheets and I’m 100% sure you do too. I once had a job where we had the worst time-tracking system ever. It might as well have been tracking on Excel sheets… or post-its. It was plain useless. The saddest part is knowing that most business who ask their employees to track their time, use similar systems.
What’s the point of time tracking, anyway? To control employee productivity? Is it a back up for client fees? Are you getting fired if you’re not logging enough time? Can I log this as a working lunch if I answered a couple emails midway through this tasty burger, or…?
I try to look at it from a different perspective. As some of you may
be tired of hearing about already know, I’m a (part time, worse than amateur) road cyclist. And in cycling, as in most sports, data matters. A lot. In fact, we cyclists are data freaks. Obsessed with speed, heart rate, cadence, power. We measure everything up to ridiculous amounts of detail. All for one single purpose: brag about it analyze every ride and identify areas of improvement. Small changes that will make us faster and one day may help us win a race or two.
Did I lose you there? Ok, hold on. We’re going straight back to work and time tracking. My point is work and productivity can also be analyzed and improved like sports performance. All you need is data.
Client feedback is data.
To-do lists are data.
Payments are data.
And so is time.
Think of this scenario, client feedback says your work quality has decreased, while an infinite to-do list shows there’s too much left undone. So you realize you must hire help, but whether you can afford it or not will depend on how much money each project represents. If you don’t track these things right, you could end up losing clients, failing at projects or hiring help you can’t pay. That’s why data is key.
So, how does all this apply to time? I’ll tell you what I do, and you can then figure out your own strategy for it.
I track all my working time using a simple, yet precise online tracker. I break it down by task and then group the tasks by client. I review the data weekly, every other week, and monthly; crossing all that information with travel schedules, personal commitments and (of course) cycling frequency. This is why I know that riding more than a certain weekly distance starts decreasing my productivity. Or that if I hop on a morning flight/train, I can still have a decent, productive day. I know the exact time that I should start working because starting earlier gets me bored too soon and slack the entire afternoon, but starting later becomes stressful and overwhelming. I can set goals. I can threshold minimums and maximums for the working hours. In short, I have a lot more control over my productivity.
Like on the bike, data allows me to reason the way I work and look for things to improve. It helps me move forward and reduce friction, which is kind of our mantra here at Movanti. So yeah, time tracking is cool.