It’s only recently that I have begun to appreciate the beauty of mapping my time — personal and (mostly) professional — with productivity apps. What I lack in will power, I make up for it in snazziness through these amazing little tech tools that can help me break down tasks down the very second.
But truth be told, when it comes to a professional setup, time tracking takes on a whole new meaning altogether. There is a lot more importance and weightage given to how much time an individual spends working at a task — especially when you are dealing with clients/associates who charge by the hour. And perhaps it is this compulsiveness to track time across every resource that’s at work that has fuelled development of so many time management apps and web tools today.
But when it comes to the question of productivity, opinion stands divided on whether or not time tracking tools really make you a productive resource. While there is no doubt that tracking how you spend your work day helps chalk about just how efficient you are at the said work, effectiveness is a questions that remains unanswered. After all, how do you really know that spending exactly 3 minutes on a client call will make it an efficient conversation with meaningful outcomes? Or can creative work be squeezed out of precisely the amount of time that’s been allotted to you?
Occupying your mind space to constantly track time is definitely not the best use of your time to begin with. But, if approached right, time tracking may just turn out to be just the productivity hack you were looking for:
When you start enlisting how much time every little activity (which is a part of the bigger task you are working at) will take, you discover one too many thing about your own self and how you tend to function. For instance, I realized I always ended up spending a lot more time collaborating over project details than actually doing my appointed task the first time I tried logging the entire length of the task. This was a revelation of sorts. Two meeting with my team later we managed to figure out a way to make collaboration fast and far more inclusive than before.
If you can measure the amount of time you spend on an activity, you will find ways to improve it.
Logging time for the sake of doing it serves no end.
Time tracking is productive if you don’t end up sending more time tracking an activity than actually doing the activity itself.
Tracking hours is a waste of time without context. Are you trying to understand where most of your work hours are spent? Is the amount of time you spend on a particular project affecting the progress of others? Is your bill-by-the-hour client really doing the time he has agreed to? If you can convincingly answer the “why” it makes all the sense in the world to spend a decent amount of time trying to refigure and recalibrate your time tracking app to serve the end. Otherwise the app will only sap away your time without any results to show for.
A freelancer colleague of mine was trying to figure out a way to manage an extra chunk of project she had taken on recently. After tracking the time she typically spent in a day, she saw that she had some bandwidth to take up the new work on late-evenings on some days — given she could stay true to the convention she’d been following up till now. But the bottom-line underscores the more elusive fact that when you can empirically establish timelines for one task, you can convincingly move on to another or juggle multiple tasks far more swiftly.
In a project-based environment, often too many stakeholders are involved in steering the effort to its needful end. Given the team has the ability to track the time each individual has carved for their bit of work; it becomes easier to prioritize your own deliverables accordingly. Especially if yours is a remote team, life is a lot stress-free when everyone has their accountabilities mapped out and at hand for everyone to know.
As human beings I realize it’s too much to ask of us to physically and empirically keep track of the time that eventually adds up to make our day. Armed with an app that does this, possibly quietly in the background, is a good way to audit your time and that of your team, should the capability exist. Keen awareness of our own time offers the foundation to bring in a lot more efficiency and accountability into your work day, every day.
Meeta Sharma is an independent writing and editing professional from digital marketing domain. Loves marketing and everything about it.