I’d always heard that time tracking is a good idea, but I’ve never really done it before (except when I was a consultant and even that was only for client work and quite approximate).
But in my new-found goal to be more professional, I decided to give it a try and record my time for anything work-related.
So now I understand why people suggest you do it. I was under the false impression that I worked really hard. That I spent all my time working. But now I know just how much I actually work, and I had better pick up my game. My whole persona is shattered – I’m not actually an overworked martyr after all.
But seriously, this really has been a good thing to do. It has given me some insights into how much I work, my patterns of work and how external things affect my work.
I learned that in the last month, I have few consistent patterns. In the past 4 weeks I’ve billed 70%, 60%, 35% and 70%. I’ve worked between 32 & 47 hours a week. Seemingly-little things affect my available time – in my first week I gave a lecture at university which, although it was an hour lecture, wiped out half my day. Scheduling client meetings efficiently is important – although I have found some good places to work between meetings, gaps are gaps.
I also learned that I skip around a lot (metaphorically – I tend to walk in the house). In a normal day I work on a couple of projects, some free work and some admin. I do like it that way – I find working on one thing very tiring. It is like how regular people work in bursts, but I fill my between-times with a different version of work.
Tracking my time has helped me be more aware of what I do and how I can best use my time. I am starting to think more strategically about my time, not to maximise money, but to re-gain the balance I’ve lost in the past few years. I am still going to do plenty of community work, but I’m not going to do free work unless it is for something that means a lot to me. Of course, that means I’ll still do lots for my communities, but I won’t say yes just because I’m flattered to be asked.
And if nothing else, time tracking lets me tell Lou that I’ve spent 24 hours on my book in the past month (5 hours today!).