It is a simple fact: if you keep track of how long it takes to complete a task, you can estimate future work more accurately. That’s it — the reason to track your time. So why don’t you do it? I am frequently hired to teach teams how to estimate accurately, they pay me to tell them something they already know, time tracking facilitates accurate estimating! So why don’t you do it? Here are the most common excuses I hear. Which one do you use?
Excuse 1: It takes too much time to track
Keeping track of your time does require a small bit of work, but that is not really what is stopping you. You need discipline. You need to get in the habit of noting when you start and end a task. You need to think about which tasks you want to track. These are not difficult things to do, get a time tracking app. Force yourself to do it for a couple of weeks and form a habit.
Excuse 2: All the work I do is unique
Sometimes we think that everything we do is so unique there is no way to estimate. But the reality is that most of the work you do is similar to something else you have done in the past. If you had a database of time spent on prior tasks, you could use it to estimate your future work. This would allow you to project completion dates with more accuracy and confidence. Wouldn’t that be nice??
Excuse 3: I will be held accountable to my estimates
Aren’t you annoyed when you ask your plumber how long it will take to fix a leak and they don’t know? How do think your stakeholders feel?
Excuse 4: I will be compared to others
Maybe. The length of time it takes to complete a task is only one measure of your competence. Most work is also evaluated on the quality of the deliverable so if it takes you longer to write a document but the document is better at communicating than someone else’s, you will be called upon again to write the next one. If your company only evaluates you on the length of time it takes to complete a task, you may be working for the wrong company.
Excuse 5: Clocking in and out is for manual laborers, not professionals
Most highly compensated professionals track their time, so they can accurately bill their clients – lawyers, doctors (by appointments), accountants, engineers, architects, consultants. Project professionals should do the same thing. Our time is valuable, we should have a good understanding of how long it takes us to complete typical tasks.
Excuse 6: I don’t want Big Brother watching me
Do you want to get paid? If you owned the company, would you want to know how your employees were spending their time? If you want to work remotely, time tracking is a great way to show your management that you are responsible. You may be working in the evenings rather than early mornings, but you are providing the services you were hired to do. Remote workers should behave like consultants, report your time and your deliverables regularly.
Excuse 7: My company does not require time tracking
They should and probably will at some point if they want to be successful. If you get yourself in the habit, it will be easier when tracking becomes mandatory. A true professional takes responsibility for personal development because it makes you more productive and more valuable.
Any other excuses?
Tracking your time is a professional, essential habit to develop. It will enable you to better estimate work on future assignments. It will also help you make sure you are spending your time on the most important activities. It will be easier to ask for more time to complete your next project: “Last time we did this it took four weeks”. If you are attending too many meetings, you will be able to recommend changes to your manager with facts: “For the last two weeks, I’ve averaged 20 hours/week in meetings, this is severely hampering my ability to analyze new tickets and get them ready for design.”
Tracking your time doesn’t have to be difficult or time consuming. There are many apps available which allow you to easily record your work (the photo above is not an endorsement, just a nice example). You can “clock in” and “clock out” as you work on tasks. Or schedule a few minutes at the end of each day to record what you did that day. You don’t have to be exact, use half hour increments to start. It may take a little while for you to get in the habit of tracking but you will see the benefits immediately. You may be surprised at where you are spending your time.
Stop making excuses and start tracking!