We’re told not to multitask at work, and it’s really good advice.
You may, therefore, be wondering why this blog appears to suggest that’s exactly what you should be doing. Thankfully, that’s not the case.
We’re here today to talk bout how to track time and, more importantly, how to manage your time.
Depending on the industry you work in and your role, the former might be a concept with which you’re unfamiliar. That’s absolutely fine, but it doesn’t mean time tracking isn’t for you.
The big myth about time tracking: debunked
If you’re looking for an effective time management strategy that will enable you to get more done while ensuring your clients each receive their deserved hours, you’re a freelancer, right?
Or, perhaps, you’re a marketing agency that bills by the hour. Or maybe an accountants (for the same reason as those marketing agencies, of course).
Not so. Just as time management is a universal skill, so too is the ability to track one’s time. It doesn’t have to be for billing purposes or to prove to clients or your boss that you’re actually getting lots of stuff done, either – time tracking is a tool that will help you become more productive and better at your job.
Why should you track your time?
We should all treat time like money, because just like the latter, there is a finite amount of it to play with.
Just as you’d track the money going in and out of your bank account, you should do the same with your time. If you don’t, it’ll wither away and disappear faster than your decreasing bank balance after a heavy night out.
When you think about it, time is one of the three key resources we have as humans, and joins energy and money in the things we need in order to live happy, productive, healthy lives. And, just like the fact you don’t need a lot of money to be happy, the same goes with time.
You just need to know how to use what you have available, effectively.
What is time blocking and how can it help?
One of the first things you need to learn when working out how to track time is the methods by which you can block time out.
Time blocking is the simple process of setting aside specific minutes and hours in the day to get specific tasks done. This guide to Pomodoro technique offers a perfect insight into a time blocking strategy that anyone can adopt.
Quick-fire time management tips
Need some quick time management tips? Here’s a few we rely on, day-in, day-out:
- always work from a daily plan or to-do list;
- use a calendar (even if it’s an old-fashioned one!);
- assign a time limit and definitive finish date for each task;
- be comfortable with your deadlines, and amend them if you’re not;
- always target an early finish;
- make sure a clock is always visible by your desk;
- get rid of every distraction (yes, that’s you, email); and
- work where you feel most productive, even if that means switching it up occasionally.
Now we know the reasons tracking your time is so important, here’s how to do so for multiple projects.
How to track your time
We all work on multiple projects of some sort, and the following five tips will help you track your progress with them consistently and in a way that doesn’t get in the way of the tasks themselves.
1. Make it a habit
Just like going to the gym, time tracking will quickly fall by the wayside if you fail to make it a habit.
That means starting your timer as soon as you begin or continue a project. Make sure you accurately label each task on your time tracking app and choose the right one for the task in hand.
After a week or two, it’ll simply become something you do without thinking, we promise.
2. Find the best tool
Good news: there are literally hundreds of time tracking apps out there, which means you’ll definitely be able to find one that suits yourself.
When it comes to running multiple timers, there’s a lot to be said for the MultiTimer app by Sergey Astakhov, which can be found on the Apple App Store, here.
3. Make sure the rest of the team does the same
If you work within a team (either in-house or remotely), it’s important you all follow the same time tracking rules.
When it comes to client billing purposes, this is of course vital, but group time tracking is also a way to ensure it becomes a habit for you all. Equally, if you all work on different parts of multiple projects at once, apps like the one mentioned above will help you track them easily and with virtually zero admin.
4. Schedule regular reviews of time tracking reports
Most time tracking apps include some form of reporting that enables you to review your progress on multiple projects.
This is a boon for client billing, as you can normally see the costs associated with each project and block of time, but it’s also a great way to work out where you’re expelling most of your effort.
You might be surprised, too. Projects you thought you were nailing might be receiving very little attention, while others that don’t quite deserve your constant input could be taking up a lot of your time.
Those reports are very revealing – make sure you use them regularly.
5. Track the little stuff, too
Track everything you do at work – not just the project stuff.
If you need to do some invoicing, admin or office tidying, make sure you categorise and time those activities, too. It’ll help you remain in the time tracking habit and make those aforementioned reports all the more revealing.
One of the biggest challenges you’ll face when trying to introduce time tracking into your daily routine is the prospect of keeping it up.
At first, it might seem like a pain in the you-know-what, but the trick really does lie in making it a habit. Once you’ve done that, you’ll actually grow to enjoy it and kick yourself if you fail to start the timer.
When time tracking ‘clicks’, you’ll be more productive that you ever thought possible.