DonnaM » Blog Archive » Insights from time tracking

Insights from time tracking

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!).

7 Responses to “Insights from time tracking”

  1. Lou Rosenfeld Says:

    Well hey, you’ve made Lou’s day! :-)

  2. Ben Says:

    I always found lecturing or tutoring wiped my day out too.

  3. Kay Says:

    Hey Donna – I always had to track my time at my previous employer, but found when I started working for myself I had to be more brutally honest about what I was actually doing at all times! Coffee, blog reading and eBay aren’t *really* “research for internal projects” :)

    Having a good tool to track your time is really helpful. We’ve been using 88miles.net – because it’s good and because it was developed locally :)

  4. Donna Maurer Says:

    I don’t switch off the timer to make coffee – whoever happens to be on the clock at the time can pay for me to get a drink (and I only have to walk to the kitchen and back) – after all, that’s how it would be if I were in-house. But yes, I don’t record email and shopping!

  5. Perry Says:

    The time tracking made a huge difference for me when I started about five years back. It’s easy to over- and underestimate the time tasks can take, but for me the biggest win was understanding utilization rates for myself and the folks I work with. Being able to predict utilization to a degree informs the time we can dedicate to internal work (such as evaluating new work tools), speaking, writing, etc.

  6. Pat Says:

    I too am a metaphorical skipper. I always suspected ADHD or something worse, but maybe it has more to do with having a had a TV remote control from a very early age :)

    Whadayathink?

  7. Donna Maurer Says:

    Pat – in seriousness, I think skipping is a way of fitting a lot in. I get tired when working on one thing for too long, so do something that uses a different set of brain skills.

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