How many times has it happened that a task took more time than you expected?
Or that you multi-tasked and at the end of the day you realized that you could have been more productive had you mono-tasked?
Or even that while you had a to-do list planned, you got nothing done. Thanks to all the distractions from your phone. Don’t worry! You’re not alone. A study conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor shows that an average employee spends 2 hours per day recovering from distractions.
William Penn said it best-
‘Time is something that what we want most, but what we use worst’
This is why if you are a freelancer, a project manager, a part of multiple project teams or even a homemaker, you need to make use of a time tracking tool.
What does a time tracking tool do?
When it comes to project management, time tracking is used to see how much time is spent on each task. The task assignee clicks on ‘start’ and the tool starts the clock till that assignee ends the task.
This feature is embedded in most project management software. If you are a freelancer or a homemaker, all you need to do is store all your tasks on the software. Click on the start and stop buttons. And voila, now you know which activities take most of your time. And why you end up washing utensils at 11 in the night when you had so less to do on your to-do list for today?
Why you should use a time tracking software?
While the benefits seem obvious, let’s go into detail to understand these five most important advantages time tracking can bring to your life and your team’s work.
1. Get to know the actual time spent on tasks
Most times, I make my to-do lists and set the time limits on my task management software, keeping the ideal scenario in mind. Like I would ideally face no distractions and I will complete this article by 12 p.m.
And it’s 11:30 now and I am not even halfway through it. This happens to most of us. If it doesn’t, please let us in on your secret.
This is where time tracking can help us. It can let us know the actual time that we are spending on tasks. This becomes all the more important if you are working on projects.
Based on this data, you can correctly estimate the duration and set accurate deadlines.
If a task took less time to finish earlier and more time currently, it raises questions. What inefficiencies crept in? Was it distractions or was it because I multi-tasked?
In this way, you can analyze your work and inculcate more productivity and efficiency.
2. Identify your most productive hours
Sometimes, when you get an early start on your day, do you end up satisfied with the way things went at work?
Or do you find that it’s the evening hours where you can tackle most of your pressing work?
If you don’t know your most productive hours, time tracking can help you.
For a week, try completing your important tasks in the morning and track your time. The very next week, change your schedule and align these tasks in the night time.
Compare the results and you’ll find out that there are certain times when you get more done in less time.
Keeping this in mind, arrange your schedule.
For example, you might realize that while the afternoon hours are unproductive, you can still finish some activities like data entry, updating sheets, researching articles, responding to emails and phone calls, etc.
3. Manage scope creep
When you are dealing with projects, sometimes it happens that your client asks you for additional features.
You put that requirement in.
When you have adopted time tracking, you can keep a note of these things.
You realize that there are some clients that always ask to add in some or the other thing later. With time tracking, you can keep a track of the same. How many hours your team spent working for that one additional feature?
You can then bring forward the same to your client’s notice. And add that to your costs.
Scope creep refers to how a project’s requirements increases over time. It refers to how the project scope changes during the project. It could be because of additional costs or it could be because an employee spent too much time working on one task because of which the entire project cycle got delayed.
Time tracking allows you to keep track of all these things and make sure it is corrected and does not happen again.
4. Equitable workloads
If you are a project lead or a manager, this is the most important benefit for you. You can track your team’s hours.
You can see which employee just completed a very big project and thus require some time to loosen off. Or who has too much on his plate and so is taking long to finish individual tasks. Or who is on the verge of burning out?
Keeping a track of this results in equitable allocation of work, proactive support and a motivated team.
You can even see which teammate takes less time to finish the task than usual and know his way of working. This could bring overall efficiency and productivity to the team.
5. Better work-life balance:
At the end of the day, isn’t this our goal? To make our lives better, not to make work our life.
But as a freelancer, those boundaries seem to vanish. You keep on accepting project proposal, one after the other without seeing if you really have the capacity to finish those without getting burned out.
We think we can multitask and work on two or more projects at the same time, but that rarely happens. And even if we are successful in doing that, the quality of the work wouldn’t be up to the mark.
At one time, we can just focus on one thing. And research has proven the same.
Keeping track of your time can let you know if you should make changes, take more breaks or work in the same way.
And what’s more? Time tracking makes sure you finish your task in a better way because that clock on the task won’t stop when you get a distraction or when you think about multitasking.
Less time spent on tasks eventually means you get more time to relax and watch that latest episode of your favourite series on Netflix.