The Benefits of Time Tracking

Vasil Enchev
May 4, 2017
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Lost Time is Never Found Again Benjamin Franklin

Time is money. It’s a cliché I know, but that doesn’t make it less true. Not keeping account of your time is exactly like not keeping account of your money. You don’t know what you are spending it for. You can only hope for the best. So why then don’t everybody track their time? Is it laziness, privacy? And what are the benefits of tracking your time?

Summary:

  1. The Benefits, why track it?
  2. Why doesn't everyone want to track their time?
  3. How to motivate your team to track time and productivity?

The Benefits

Overall Intelligence

In war knowing your enemy is essential. The more you know, the better you can react. Tracking your time could be your secret weapon to fight against procrastination, poor management and badly spent time. Once you track time on different task you can identify where it is wisely spent and where it is lost. The difference between knowing and not knowing what each task takes is like living in the dark and flipping the light switch.

Knowing what everybody is doing

See task status at a glance. You don’t need to ask “What’s the status?” anymore. Tracking time adds a whole new dimension to your project or business. Whether your team is tracking time on a single project or multiple you will immediately have the answer what is each project costing and even what is each task costing.

Client billing

An obvious reason, if you are freelancing or billing clients hourly tracking your time is not optional, it’s essential. If you track time you will be able to bill your clients for exactly what work has been done.

Keep track of contractors

It works the other way around too. When you are employing freelancers or other contractors, you need to keep an eye on them and the things they are doing. And it also will enable you to keep track of the performance of different contractors so you can allocate work to the right people.

Better estimation and quotes

Using data from tracked time on different task will ensure you make a better estimation on future work. You can easily see what time did a similar task took. And knowing what time something is going to take is extremely important. It’s how you can better calculate sprints, milestones, and deadlines.

Review team performance

When an annual performance review approaches the more data you have the better. While time is not everything and it should not be used to judge everything, it might be a helpful factor. Just make sure not to forget quality of the work and delivering value to your business or clients.

Raise your rates

Is your team doing more than you expected for the number of hours they are tracking?Perhaps it’s time to give them a raise and to raise your client rates as well.

It presents a professional face

Clients love to ask questions. What’s the status? Who is working on it? Time tracking will help you answer those questions in a precise manner. Or even better just invite them in the project and let them watch the process.

Compare projects over time

Once you have the time tracked it opens a lot of new statistics and reports that you can use to compare projects, tasks, and even team members.

Fix unreasonable demands

If a manager or someone else makes unreasonable demands of your time like wants a task done for yesterday, you can explain why this is not possible and you will even have proof.

Explaining why it’s taking so long

Braking work in tasks and then tracking each one of them will help everyone understand why this is taking so much time.

Better workflow and motivation

It’s not just good for management, time tracking will give all teammates a better understanding of the project. Once you track your time you see how productive you are. Seeing other teammates tracking time will answer to most commonly asked question “What is everybody doing right now?” It could also motivate you to take action.

Less distraction and better focus

When you start a timer you feel an obligation to work on that task that you are tracking. This means it is unlikely you will do other things and more likely you will work on the task you are tracking. After all, if a task is taking too long you will have to explain why it is taking so long.

Eliminates non-essential tasks

Seeing how you spent time on low-priority tasks will help you eliminate them. Time-tracking will help you spend time more wisely.

Self-Improvement

When you are recording time on different activities you can analyze where you are slow and what is the reason.

It’s easy to do

Keeping track of your time has become extremely easy to do. It’s literary as easy as pushing a button. There are hundreds of tools for that where you just push “Start” and then a “Stop” button on an already existing task. It’s definitely worth the effort considering all the benefits from it.

Why doesn’t everyone want to track their time?

“It’s too cumbersome.”
"It slow us down.”
"It’s annoying.”
“I don’t want to be spied upon."

These are some of the reasons you will hear against time tracking. Let’s dig deeper and see what are some cons and some concerns people will have with time tracking.

Personal Dissatisfaction

People like their freedom and don’t like things that track their routine and habits. Be prepared for a lack of cooperation and motivation from your team. Instead of forcing them to track time assure them it’s not to track them it’s to track the project and explain all the benefits. Make sure you understand they could not account for 8 hours of time during the day. It’s proven that between 1 and 2 hours a day are simply lost. Some things simply could not be tracked and that is OK. Examples could be making a coffee, going to the bathroom, changing a light bulb or figuring out which task to do next. Also meetings and conversations with colleagues.

Fragile System

If even one person on your team fails to adopt time tracking the entire point of it is useless. What happens often is your team start to do it and then someone stops doing it. He forgot or something. Once that happens, make sure to speak with him or the entire time tracking might fail. One person on your team who does not track time will eventually drag the rest of them. Make sure everyone is aware of its importance or don’t do it at all.

Cumbersome

Yet another administrative task. We get it! It’s annoying to push a button to track your time. Most tools also allow you to add time manually as well so if you don’t want to be pushing buttons you can add your time manually once, twice or more times a day. Thats useful as well when you forget. You might forget a timer on. That's no problem as well you can delete or edit the time entry.
Make sure there are actual benefits that apply to your team and that everyone is aware of them. This is the only way someone will take the extra mile and click a button 2-10 times a day. If tracking time is inside the task management app, it won’t require too much effort since you are already moving tasks, marking them as complete and so on…

Lack of trust

Some employees or contractors will think you don’t trust them. Assure them that is not the case. You just want to track the project. Talk to them before enforcing this workflow. Is tracking time on tasks invasion of privacy? We don’t think so. It’s not like you are tracking keystrokes or time spent on Facebook. This is time on tasks, work that needs to be done.

Too Focused on time

For better or worst, tracking time will get your team more focused on time. Be careful and make sure you stay focused on quality and value as well. Time is valuable, but it’s not everything.

Afraid of negative evaluation

Your team is not sure how time tracking will affect your opinion about them. They don’t want you to be disappointed about the time they are going to track. Make sure you are ready for the lowest time and assure them that they are evaluated not only on the time they spent but also on the value they provide for your team, business or clients. You don’t really want to be tracking them. You want to track the project. It is where most benefits will come from. Furthermore, you need them to track accurately.

Lack of good software

Hardly a reason. There are hundreds of software for tracking time and some really good solutions out there including Ora

How to motivate your team to track their time and productivity?

Time tracking is an important business metric. It requires some effort from everyone, but it provides a lot of benefits. If you decided the benefits are more than the effort needed. Then it is time to convince your team of the same.

Communicate the benefits

Unlike other metrics time tracking isn’t just tracking your business it’s tracking your employees as well. Whether that is your purpose or not you will now what everybody is doing. Trust is extremely important for a successful cooperation. If you force your employees to track time without explaining the benefits they will think you are suspicious and don’t trust them which could only lead to them being suspicious in return.

To avoid that talk with them. Start a conversation about time tracking, what the benefits are going to be and if that is the right thing to do. Make sure everyone understands that you need that time tracking data as a business metric and that both the business and they will benefit from this.

Remember that it’s natural for some time of their work day to be lost according to research it could be up to 1-2 hours a day. Don’t expect all the time to be accounted for and focus on the project.

Make guidelines and standards that everyone could follow

Make sure your team knows how to use the system you choose, help them with the setup and give them instructions which tasks from which projects to track.

Follow up and get feedback

After some time passes and everyone is using the system check your employees. See if they've gotten used to logging time. Ask them how is the experience and if they found and unsuspected benefits of it. Make sure you don’t have someone who stopped logging their hours because that could affect everyone.

Positive reinforcement

Reward your team for accurately tracking their time. Research shows that if you reward desired behavior it is more likely they repeat that behavior in the future. Duh…

Don’t use it against your team

Remember that your team agreed to track their time. Don’t ever use this data against them or you will lose all trust.

This pretty much sums it up. Do you agree with that? Or maybe you know of more pros and cons of time tracking. Add them in the comments below.



This post took 4h 35m to write. I tracked this time in a project called Ora Blog which we use to keep track of blog post ideas. On a task with the same name as the blog post. My team saw this notification in Slack about this and they reacted with 👏