Top Reasons to Track Your Time

We believe that regular time tracking solves several problems prevalent in the consulting industry

  1. Imagine being able to show a prospective employer your billable effeciency.
  2. Neither party needs to know the exact scope of a project before beginning.
  3. Tracking time allows for great flexibility as a project proceeds: Estimates that slow down business don’t need to be adjusted when scope changes.
  4. Nobody needs to agree to a fixed fee project, instead we can get started right away and both sides can evaluate progress along the way.
  5. Creates an easy window for ongoing work and small requests can be handled quickly without having to generate a fixed price.
  6. Scope creep isn't a problem any more, instead it is an opportunity to earn more business.
  7. Compare the time attendance and hours of one month against another or use your time logs to create competition among a team of people.
  8. Imagine being able to show a prospective employer your billable efficiency.
  9. When a clock is running it helps you focus on the task at hand. Distractions like chat and web surfing tend to be pushed till later.
  10. If your income depends on billable hours, then a few minutes a day could add up to thousands of dollars a year.
  11. Knowing how long it takes to complete common tasks makes building new estimates that much easier.
  12. Compare the hours of one month against another or use your time logs to create competition among a team of people.

Using your memory to track time is dumb

Quick! Think about what you were eating for lunch a week ago on Monday. I bet you can't remember. That's my point. Time tracking after-the-fact is dumb and totally inaccurate. At best, you'll be able to guess about the chunks of time, but never the detail. You'll forget all of the little things you did, and you'll be forced to fudge the numbers. Use your brain, use a stopwatch.


Making Time Tracking a Habit


Something I hear often from designers and developers is that they can never find the motivation to track their time -- or they never remember to in the first place. An underlying reason is that they simply don't need to track their time in their job. A number of developers I know bill by the project and so there is no urgency to track time. Convincing these people to track their time is nearly impossible, so I won't try. I've put together a list of reasons why you might consider tracking your time if you happen to be one of these people. For those who do need to track time, but dislike the process I suggest trying the following:

  1. Consider tracking time with a stopwatch based time tracking system. Not only will a stopwatch remind you that you're on task, but it should keep you from becoming distracted because you'll know the timer is running. The next time YouTube or Facebook call to you, you'll realize you need to stop the timer.
  2. If a stopwatch isn't your thing, you can always manually log your time after-the-fact. But you should know that your memory will never be perfect. If you forget about 15 minutes of possible billable time per day the lost earnings could cost you dearly.
  3. Track your billable time, and your unbillable time. The reason you want to track your unbillable time is so you can gauge your billable efficiency over time. You'll know whether you're 50% billable, or 75%. Knowing that could mean the difference between success and failure.
  4. Compare notes with coworkers or friends. Tracking time is best enjoyed as a team sport. Share your results with colleagues in your office, or outside.
  5. Don't just log time to projects. Write detailed notes about what you did during that time period. You'll find that the notes help with billing but at the end of the week you will have an at-a-glance report of what you did.

I realize that time tracking isn't for everybody, but if you need to do it as part of your job, I hope these tips help. Feel free to email with any questions you may have about time tracking. I've been tracking my time for over 5 years now, and I love it!

There are a few time tracking apps that will automatically pop up and prompt you to let them know what you are working on. You can set a frequent interval, such as every 15 minutes. This forces you to enter your time constantly through the day.

If you found this interesting, you might be interested in my list of time tracking software or my time tracking software reviews web site where I've been blogging for about 5 years about various time tracking apps, time tracking techniques, and time management.

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