Time-Tracking: A Guide to Boosting Productivity

Time-Tracking: A Guide to Boosting Productivity

Big Ideas

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January 28 2021
Big Ideas

Time-Tracking: A Guide to Boosting Productivity

There are 24 hours in a day, and yet at the end of the day, we often feel there wasn’t enough to complete everything that mattered. What got in the way? Without the ability to add more time to the day (although let’s admit it, we have all wished for that superpower), it’s helpful to understand where you invest your time to be more productive. And although it may seem unnecessary and perhaps a bit trivial, one of the best ways to do that is through time-tracking.

Time management is a common reason for decreased productivity under normal circumstances, but in a world where working remotely has become a reality, it presents additional challenges. More than ever before, teams are utilizing time-tracking as a means to stay focused and optimize their productivity in a space where distractions are at its highest. 

We would even argue that time-tracking is much more than a necessary evil or just another cog in the machine. Instead, it can be incredibly eye-opening, providing critical insight into your business to ensure it is more productive, profitable and catches problems before they happen. 
Check out our guide to the best time-tracking tips and tricks bound to boost your productivity. 
Where to Start
Mentioned in our recent CMO Rule #10: Plan Your Ideal Week post, we suggest starting with recording your time – both work and personal – for two weeks in 15-minute blocks. 
Pick a Method that Works 
Listen, we know time-tracking isn’t the most exciting task, but the best thing you can do is find a quick and efficient method that doesn’t make you (or your team) go crazy. This may mean trying a few different ways before find a system that works best for you – or at least one you can agree to use regularly. Here are a few that we find most effective:
Excel Spreadsheet 
Tracking time with an excel spreadsheet or Google Sheets can be as simple or complex as you want to make it.
We suggest including a column named “category” where you label each 15-minute block using standardized items such as “business development” or “project research.” By cross-referencing similar categories, you will uncover the times of tasks you spend the most time on.
Sherpa Pro-Tip: Use the Google Sheets app on your phone for easy on-the-go tracking. 
Apps
With the increased number of apps on the market, using one to track time has become the method of choice for many workplaces. The best way to increase productivity is to streamline tedious tasks, such as time-tracking, by using ready-made tools that help you do more in less time. 
Many apps are multi-functional with time-tracking, reports, invoicing and team collaboration capabilities built into the program. Adding one of these handy tools to your roster will make life a little easier; we could all use it right now.
We’ve tried a few of the best apps on the market (so you don’t have to) – give them a test drive: 
Toggl 
Harvest 
Clockify 
Time Doctor

Source: Uplabs
Toggl is a time-tracking app that features easy-to-use functions like a timer, team collaboration, and productivity reports that easily fit people’s workflow and work across most interfaces.  

Utilize Timers 
If you are looking to gather precise data on how you utilize your time, using timers – both automatic and manual – is a great option. Although not everyone will enjoy using a timer, it can be an incredible motivator and productivity tool for those who use them to their advantage. 
We are all guilty of multitasking or procrastinating on tasks we dislike. When you know the minutes are counting down, and you only have an hour to finish the task at hand, are you going to stop to talk to your colleagues or browse social media? Most likely not. 
Using a timer keeps you committed and laser-focused on the task at hand, even when you are juggling multiple projects. 
Sherpa Pro-Tip: Remove unneeded stress by rounding your time to 15-minute increments.

Set Reminders
Sometimes we can get swept up in a project, or you are called to put out a fire (figurative, of course, leave the literal fires to the professionals). Before you know it, it’s the end of the day, and you haven’t had a second to catch your breath, let alone tracked your time. 
Set a reminder in your calendar – or time-tracking app – to alert you half an hour before the end of the day to track your time. By completing your time-tracking at the end of the day, you will be more likely to recall your tasks and estimated time they took to complete. In fact, studies show that daily time tracking can decrease productivity leaks by 80%.


Be Honest 
To get an accurate understanding of where your time is spent, it’s essential to be honest. If you spent 15 minutes checking social media, or catching up with your co-workers, track it. 
If you estimated a task would take 10 hours, but it actually took 17 hours, having accurate data will allow you to analyze how you could be more productive. Moreover, being honest with yourself about how much time is spent on a project is important data that could determine whether a project is actually profitable and improve the accuracy of future project projections. 
Sherpa Pro-Tip: Encourage your team to be honest about their time-tracking and assure them it will not be used against their performance. 

Set Time Aside to Analyze 
Once you have tracked your time, it’s time to analyze. Set time aside each month to analyze your timesheet and determine where you may need to re-adjust. Some time-tracking apps even have productivity insights available for easy analysis.
This step is often overlooked because, let’s be honest, we think we are too busy. But by taking the time to analyze now, you are not only understanding where your time was going, but you are also making decisions about how you can be better, faster and stronger in the future – and that’s just smart time-management. 
To evaluate your results, start by asking yourself the following questions:
What was my most time-consuming task?
Did I spend most of my time on priority tasks?
What time of day was I most productive?
Did I complete everything I planned? 
A few things may immediately jump out at you. Maybe you spent a lot of time in internal meetings last month. Were they all necessary? Were all the critical people included in the meetings? Could they be streamlined to make them more productive? 
Let these insights guide you in planning your tasks for the next month and proactively make the changes need to be more productive going forward. Your future self will thank you.
There’s No Time Like the Present 
Our brains are funny places: they often engage in planning fallacies, “a prediction phenomenon, all too familiar to many, wherein people underestimate the time it will take to complete a future task, despite knowledge that previous tasks have generally taken longer than planned.”
In the pursuit of productivity, time-tracking is a tried and tested method that provides critical insight on exactly how long tasks take to complete – informing future decisions about how you could productively use your 24 hours. 
After all, time waits for no one, so you might as well use it to your advantage.  

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