You’re tracking time in the hope of staying productive. However, there are things that can ruin anyone’s time tracking efforts. Many of them we do subconsciously.
Let’s take a look at the top five time tracking baddies and some solutions to make time tracking for you easier and more effective. The five bad habits and five good solutions to the problems caused by those bad habits are:
Problem: People have always been trying to choose the easy way out. Rather than tackling the most difficult and time consuming task of the day, they start by making a cup of coffee, then a cup of tea, reading the daily news, checking and answering emails, and checking their social networks all in the hope that the huge scary task or problem will just go away if ignored long enough. The worst thing is, the more rational you are, the better the excuses as to why you should postpone your work are.
Solution: Give yourself deadlines but not just any deadlines. Be strict enough to put yourself under slight pressure to get the job done as soon as possible. This way you are leaving yourself very little room for browsing social networks or reading articles online. What is not scheduled is never going to get done. You can go a step further. You can tell your boss or a colleague that you will accomplish the task at a or by a certain time. This would motivate you not to keep your promise.
Problem: Having tasks written on bits of paper and generally all over the place—or worse yet, not having them written anywhere—is a big problem. People are in a hurry and stressed, and it’s the perfect breeding ground for becoming disorganized. And what do their time sheets look like? They’re filled with incomplete and confusing information because they can’t remember what they did during the day when frantically trying to fill out their time sheet at the end of it. But this is only a symptom. The real disease is a lack of quantitative information about real billable hours and productivity. Disorganized time tracking is like pouring money down the drain.
Solution: Create a really detailed to-do list. The best way to get brutally organized is to write one to-do list at the end of your workday so all the tasks, meetings and deadlines are still fresh in your mind. Put the most difficult and lengthy tasks first in your to do list and the easier ones towards the end. If necessary, write extra notes (and deadlines) to specify every item in the list. This will be extremely helpful when you come back to them later. If you’re not sure how to prioritize, use the Pareto principle. Find (approximately) 20% of the activities that bring you to 80% of your desired outcomes.
3. Social Networks
Problem: Social networks are a massive problem. One minute of distraction and you need another ten minutes to get your full concentration back. Checking social networks isn’t a bad thing by itself. But people then spend more time getting back to “operational temperature” than actually working. Not only does your company’s productivity keep plummeting, but the quality of information in time tracking reports is negatively affected, too, because the difference between spending time on a task and actual concentrated work is huge.
Solution: Limit your social media activities. Set boundaries for yourself. For example, if you like to check Facebook in the mornings, set a task for yourself that you have to finish, and as a reward, allow yourself to be on Facebook for 10 minutes afterwards. But make sure those 10 minutes really are 10 minutes! You could set a timer in your time tracking tool and track yourself to make sure you are being productive and not allowing your old bad habits to slip back into your workday.
4. Online Shopping
Problem: You want to save time, so rather than going to the grocery store after work, you decide to do your food shopping online and during your lunch break. You may think what a brilliant and time saving idea this is, but that’s where the danger lies. Simply said, online shopping is hardly ever a fast thing to do. You may end up “browsing the aisles” for much longer than you originally intended to and forget that you are actually meant to be working. And getting your brain back into work mode and concentration to where it was before will seem like an impossible task.
Solution: Block these sites from your work computer. There are plenty of browser plugins that won’t let you do online window shopping. Yes, it’s harsh, but it’s also simple and effective. You’ll always browse these sites if you know they’re just a click away, so blocking them completely will get your focus where it needs to be.
5. Office Time Wasters
Problem: Your inbox is filled with emails, calendar chock full of meetings and discussions to attend to, the phone won’t stop ringing, and your desk is filled with work you need to finish by the end of the day. But how can you get things done, when your time tracking tool only shows reports filled with meetings, phone discussions and long email chain conversations that solve nothing.
Solution: You need to prioritize. Take a look at your calendar and only choose meetings that are going to be beneficial to you. Call people instead of emailing them to get an instant answer and organize your emailing sessions into two to three 20 minute blocks. Aside from these windows, don’t open your inbox. Then enter your data into the time tracking system and see the difference. When you’re not sure, use the “2 minutes rule.” If someone has a request, do it only if it takes less than two minutes, otherwise respond that you will do it in a scheduled time.
Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way
Time tracking is a great and beneficial thing if used properly and correctly. And of course, the data entered into your time tracking tool is accurate and precise. Only then can it be a tool that can increase your and your company’s productivity. Implement the recommendations discussed above, and you’ll see the difference in your results.
About the Author
Veronika Shoebridge works for Clevork, a visual time tracking tool that helps teams increase revenue without working additional hours.
Hans Rogier says
Thanks for the tips Veronika! Also very important for accurate time tracking is a good tool, that doesn’t get in the way. The tool should make it as easy as possible to track your time. Personally, I like Saus (http://saus.us). A time tracking tool with a intuitive week dashboard, which makes it very easy to spot gaps in your logs and fill them.
Kevin Peter says
Veronika, do you tackle these habits using a time tracking tool? Any suggestions?
Susan Gunelius says
Kevin, There are so many great tools available. Here are a couple of good round-ups that include some of the most popular options like Timely, Toggl and Harvest:
From Gizmodo: http://fieldguide.gizmodo.com/7-apps-and-sites-to-track-your-time-in-2015-1677057680
From Hubspot: http://blog.hubspot.com/agency/time-tracking-tools