TRACKING WORK TIMES
In this article I talk about the importance of tracking our working time using time trackers and I will show you some online time tracker tools that you can use
“What is not defined cannot be measured. What is not measured can not be improved. What is not improved, is always degraded”William Thomson Kelvin (Lord Kelvin), British mathematician and physicist (1824 – 1907)
So, this is the information I will cover in this article:
– Benefits of tracking work times
–The importance of measuring time
–Our time is a finite resource
–Online tracking tools
–My custom Google Sheets Time Tracker for Creatives
–Getting into the routine of using time trackers
BENEFITS OF TRACKING WORK TIMES
1. INCREASE YOUR PRODUCTIVITY
When we generate a daily routine of tracking time, we will make our work more productive.
Personally, I try very hard to improve my working productivity every day (you can check my previous post about Gantt Template Charts for creatives) because being a freelancer on your own and working from home greatly predisposes you to procrastinate and waste too much time.
If this is also your situation, just relax, continue reading to know how this can be changed!
2. REDUCE ANXIETY
Thinking that we are not being productive enough or that our work is not efficient is considerably reduced when we use a time tracker.
You are a hard worker, remember it!
3. MENTAL SATISFACTION
Let’s be honest: completing tasks is mentally rewarding!
And we all deserve to experience this feeling more often!
4. AVOID “TEMPORARY HOLES” IN YOUR TIME
By keeping track of time we can track, for example, how many interruptions we are having and the reasons for those interruptions and it can help us to know where to focus on to make better decisions.
For instance, if there is an outage that happens very often we will be able to take steps to fix it.
This will be translated into a better optimization of your working time and therefore in a better mood! Come on!
5. DETECT DEMANDING CUSTOMERS
We can also know what actions are absorbing us a greater amount of time and the accumulation of each task over time.
These measurements are also very interesting because they will allow you to know if a client is absorbing more time than you initially planned in your estimated workload and therefore, take action on it.
What about charging them more? Your time is very valuable (don’t forget it!) and time trackers will help you to optimize it.
6. REDUCE “ANT TIMES”
In domestic economy, “ant expenses” are those small expenses (normally less than one euro/dollar), that we all have here or there in our day to day, which apparently do not affect our economy, but that if they are summarized totally they would represent a good amount in our monthly or yearly budget.
When referring time, there are also “Ant Times” (as I like to call them)
For example, replying to a whatsapp message from a client, or from a friend; a call from your mother; your cat asking you for affection; the washing machine that has finished washing and you have to hang out the clothes; checking Instagram for a little while because you have received a notification and then you stay there wasting valuable time, etc.
All of these are what I call Ant Times, small distractions which take your time away without you hardly noticing every day, but which in the monthly accumulated represent a significant amount.
So, by tracking our time we will be able to detect which tasks are having a negative impact on our productivity.
THE IMPORTANCE OF MEASURING TIME WITH TIME TRACKERS
If you work from home, I am almost sure that you have had the same feeling many times of not having control over your working time.
That frustrating feeling of seeing that some days your hours lengthen to infinity or others that disappear because some spontaneous issues arise that have nothing to do with your creative business.
For this reason, I decided to solve it by establishing a time control to see where I was really spending my time and therefore, I started tracking everything and set myself a clear goal: to be 100% focused on accomplishing each task whilst working.
So the fundamental idea here is to know how your working hours are split, because if you don’t measure them, (as William Thomson Kelvin said), you can’t know how to improve them.
With this idea in mind, I have started to measure absolutely everything that is considered as productive time.
By doing this, I can see which projects take more time and also I can give a proper value to every task.
OUR TIME IS A FINITE RESOURCE
Please, bear in mind that all the “extra time” that you dedicate to any task will affect the rest of your planning, since your time is a finite resource.
This means that for every “extra time” you will have to make adjustments in the rest of your tasks to reach optimal planning.
Where should we then take time away to balance the extra time dedicated to tasks? from family, friends, hours of sleep?
This cannot happen and in order to avoid it, the first step is to measure.
ONLINE TIME TRACKERS
(ANOTHER ESSENTIAL TOOLS FOR US)
Well if you google around, you will find loads of different Time tracking tools. I have selected some to show you here:
Clockify free version measures work time perfectly, although it is in the paid version where you can get the best possibilities to get KPIs from more precise measurements.
The paid version includes more advanced functionalities for equipment control, with the option to monitor the time of each employee.
You can define the types of tasks that we usually do and we can also include the clients we work with according to the projects we have defined.
Clockify has also an extension that allows you to easily use the program without being on the web.
Harvest has a free 30-day version, in which you can try the tool with all the functionalities. I really like the option of being able to invoice directly according to the number of hours worked.
Desk Time is a very complete tool in obtaining very precise information in the form of graphs about productive time, effectiveness, time spent at work, applications that you have used and that are productive or unproductive, etc.
You can try Desk Time for free for 14 days
CUSTOM TIME TRACKING TOOL WITH GOOGLE SHEETS
If you know me a bit, you already know that I am a total fan of Sheets and that I enjoy creating my own working tools to be as independent as possible from third companies.
Another fundamental reason that has pushed me to create my own tool is that I always try to:
–Avoid a new learning curve
–Skip out of continuously entering data on any platform, because in the end, what I try is to save time and not waste it.
–Use a tool that is as automated as possible. Something like “click-click” and done, if you know what I mean!
In this way I have developed a specific Time tracker for creatives in Google Sheets with the only purpose of making our life easier.
Besides the time tracker, the tool includes a standard monthly calendar, where you can plan pre-entered tasks to make your plan much quicker and effective.
There are also included more cool features, such as a Dashboard with detailed information about the time dedicated/task over the months and a Billing Tab that will give you accurate information about the total time dedicated to clients or projects in order to invoice accordingly.
In the following video I dive into my custom Time Tracker tool made with Google Sheets, showing you its potential to make your time more productive.
DIVING INTO THE TIME TRACKER SPREADSHEETS
When you open the time tracker you will see the TRACKER TAB, where you can directly select any of the tasks that you have planned for the month and start tracking them easily.
To simplify the process, you only need to enter data in the yellow cells, relative to time and working hours and the rest of the information will automatically display. Easy, right?
Into this tab, you will get very useful information about your monthly progress against your initial plan.
Inside this tab, you will find some pre-entered tasks classified by department and activities, that you can do in your day-to-day work as a Creative.
You can modify them according to your own needs and enter some new ones if needed.
A standard duration of half an hour has been applied to productive tasks, whilst unproductive tasks (such as coffee breaks or holidays) have a duration of 0 (as we don’t want to count them as work time).
In this tab you can also add the value/hour to some of the tasks, such as commission works or projects for clients from which you will receive an income.
This will be transformed directly in the TRACKER tab as current value depending on the exact time that you have dedicated to those tasks.
Into this tab, you will find a complete standard monthly calendar, where you can select effortless and easily the tasks that you are planning to work on.
The total working hours planned for the day will come up at the bottom of every day.
The total weekly and monthly hours planned will also be displayed, so you can have a precise information about the time that you are booking.
You can plan the calendar just on the go, daily, weekly or however you prefer to fill in. Whenever you include a new task, this will be automatically reflected into the Monthly Plan List in the TRACKER TAB.
The BILLING TAB is very useful, as it allows you to find the exact amount of time that you have worked in a project or for a client, in a specific month or year and invoice accordingly.
GETTING INTO THE ROUTINE OF USING TIME TRACKERS
I know it is going to be hard at the beginning, simply because you are not used to manage a time tracker tool in your creative business, but as everything in life, you can just start and making it part of your daily routine.
Remember that your creative business needs also allocated time for “everything else” apart from just drawing/designing, in order to running it correctly.
Even if you forget to click the clock some times at the beginning of using it, don’t feel discouraged and continue.
I am sure you will be very thankful once you get the habit of using a time tracker tool. Please, feel free to leave me a comment with your thoughts about time trackers and if you find this blog post interesting for you.
Also if you are already using a time tracker tool, let me know it in the comments.
PREMIUM CONTENT FOR SUBSCRIBERS
My custom Time Tracker tool is available to download for premium users, including more detailed instructions about how to use it.