Time management cannot work if you aren’t fully aware of your time (it’s right in the name!). Therefore, the first logical step to successful time management is being aware of your work habits. This entails understanding your work rhythm above all.
In other words, time tracking is the foundation of successful time management. You cannot plan, time block, or use basically any of the most popular time management techniques without knowing how much time any given task takes.
So, let’s see just how deep does the connection between time tracking and time management go.
What Does Time Tracking Entail?
There are many different ways to track time. Some companies (mostly those with field teams) have a simple clock-in and clock-out policy. Others rely on different systems, ranging from pen and paper to biometric identification.
However, these details aren’t as important for time management as they are for administrative reasons. Time management is more focused on the results of an employee’s daily work and the time it took for them to finish specific tasks. These specific tasks are the building blocks of any project, and make up its overall completion.
Simply put, it is important to understand how you spend your time during your workdays. It is the starting point for identifying the problems you will need to focus on. therefore, it is also the starting point of finding the solution for them.
Which Method to Use?
If you want to obtain a better understanding of your time, you can use either an electronic timesheet or a time tracking system that monitors your activity.
An electronic timesheet is a document you fill in with your daily activities. It contains the specific tasks you’ve worked on, as well as the time you spent working on them. Some time tracking solutions (Time Analytics being one of them) offer an automatic timer that will allow you to simply start and stop measuring the time you spend working on a task. Once you stop the timer, the data will be transferred into the document automatically.
Of course, you can also manually track your time or make changes in case you forget to start or stop the stopwatch (hey, it happens to everyone).
The second option – automatic monitoring systems – capture user activity in different ways. They can track keyboard and mouse activity, take note of the websites and applications the employees use during their working hours or even take screenshots of their devices. While timesheets allow for more freedom, monitoring systems supply complete accuracy. However, the feeling of being watched isn’t very popular with the employees, so the employers using these types of systems can face an increased turnover.
What Do You Solve by Using Time Tracking?
There are a plethora of different elements of employee daily routines. Being more aware of the time needed for each of these elements is the first step in time management. That is to say, the bulk of time management techniques can only be useful if you combine them with time tracking.
However, time tracking in and of itself can solve some time management issues. We are going to list just two basic examples – utilizing time tracking data and preventing multitasking
Contrary to popular belief, time tracking’s purpose isn’t (or shouldn’t be) to overlook a team member’s every move. Quite the opposite, the employers can focus on the bigger picture – finding productivity tools that will help their teams work more efficiently, helping the employees suffering from overworking and burnout, and overlooking the key performance indicators of their business.
The employees, on the other hand, should use the systems to recognize their biggest distractions, most active and productive periods, and the areas that could use some improvement when it comes to their own work habits.
Time wasting and many work mistakes occur due to misunderstanding the way a person spends their time at work. We are not inclined to perceive time objectively, and (as per Einstein’s law of relativity) tend to see time spent actively working as slower-passing than the time we take to browse social media or chat with our colleagues.
Tracking time accurately may be a cold shower to many, as they will understand just how long they are scrolling through social media, for example. It will also show that our lunch breaks often take a lot longer than we expect. However, most importantly, the companies themselves should take notice of the biggest time-wasters – daily meetings and lengthy phone calls and email exchanges.
Time Tracking vs Multitasking
Multitasking is one of the biggest hurdles to productivity. The common misconception sees doing more than one thing as a positive business habit. However, human brains don’t work well when focusing on two separate things.
Here is what happens when you multitask: you need to stop working on your current task, stop focusing on it to be able to focus on the other thing you need to do for a while, and repeat the process multiple times. This leaves you with a whole lot of focusing and refocusing without actually being able to do some deep work.
Many people don’t even notice they are multitasking (and reducing their productivity). So, once they become aware of their work habits, they can be more mindful about the way they divide their time. in other words, they will be able to finish tasks faster and with a better focus. Hence, they will both increase the quality and quantity of their work without sacrificing their breaks and socialization time.
Quantity and quality of work make up the biggest elements of productivity and efficiency. In other words, time tracking in its most basic form reshapes the way your employees utilize their time in favor of higher productivity.
Pros and Cons of Time Tracking
There are many advantages to time tracking, but we cannot overlook some issues the practice imposes on businesses.
- Understanding employee time structure
- Creating positive work habit
- Eliminating multitasking
- Accurate billing and payroll
- Collecting work data and receiving reports
- Planning your next steps
- Users will take some time to get used to tracking their time
- Reminders will be needed
- Mistakes will be made in the beginning
- If the system is complicated, the users will need quite some time to track their time
The Technique at Work
There are two main ways to track time, so we will explore them separately.
Timesheets at Work
Whenever you start working on a task you will have to be mindful of the time. This could mean writing the start time down or starting an automatic time clock. This choice depends on both the system you are using and your preferences. Once you’ve finished the task you either stop the time clock or enter the time you’ve spent working into the timesheet.
This process should be repeated as many times as needed to cover all daily tasks. This leaves us with the problem of constantly switching between stopwatches and adding to the timesheet. This is understandable, and many people resort to making estimations about the time they spend on any given task. This is both easier and more time-saving, which is better for the company overall.
The simplification (aka eyeballing and guesstimations) of the process also means less accuracy. That is why a period of accurate measuring, in the beginning, is crucial. This is usually done by conducting a time audit.
A time audit entails tracking time accurately at short intervals for at least a week (although two weeks is a more useful option in the long run). These intervals can be as short as fifteen minutes for maximum accuracy. So, you set a 15-minute timer and each time it rings you honestly write down what you are doing.
This means you will notice if your short social media session has grown uncontrollably, as well as whether you talk to your coworkers more than you think. This is one of the crucial elements of time tracking, as we have mentioned that being more aware of the way you spend your time at work is one of time tracking’s main goals.
So, you will be completing your tasks (breaks included), and measuring the time they take to complete. In other words, your estimations will become as accurate as possible. Only then you will be able to start tracking time at the end of your workdays with accuracy.
Monitoring computer usage
As we have mentioned, there are numerous ways to monitor employee activity. While the systems that rely on heavy monitoring can be extremely accurate, two problems occur when using them
- The morale drops – the employees feel like their management is micromanaging them (which, in a sense, is true) and feel like their privacy is compromised. Remember – no one can work for eight full hours and be fully productive.
- People find a way to trick the system – with the rise of remote work in the last two years many people have found a way to trick the systems into registering their time as work when it’s been anything but. Hence, the accuracy aspect goes out the window.
Employers can also easily find out who’s been committing time theft by comparing their results to their coworkers’. In other words, an honest approach to time tracking is the best course of action.
Is Time Tracking Enough for Successful Time Management?
We wish we could give you a definitive answer, but the issue isn’t that simple. As we have previously stated, some people are naturally more inclined to good organization. They have their methods. Whether it’s mnemonics or some of the techniques we will be teaching you about, they won’t have to incorporate any new practices into their routine.
On the other hand, some people are naturally forgetful. This isn’t their fault, but it may make them feel like they’re less-than, even though they are giving their best. The frustration coming from this can hinder their work and affect their confidence even more intensely.
If you belong to the second group – don’t fret! We are preparing a series of articles on different time management techniques, including planning, to-do lists, dividing time into smaller portions, etc.
However, you will not be able to commit to any of these other techniques and utilize them completely if you don’t track your time. Simply put, you need to be aware of how you spend your time to manage it. There is no use in setting out two hours for a task if you’re not going to track those two hours.
Time tracking is the first step toward creating healthier work habits. More and more companies are investing in new time tracking systems and reaping the benefits. That is to say, even if you aren’t looking for a way to manage time at the moment, time tracking is a beneficial practice you can implement.
Yet, it is also the basic first step towards better time management. Time management, on the other hand, improves project management overall and boosts a company’s success. Resource and workforce allocation, transparency towards both clients and employees, and more precise time and price estimates are the most important elements of any business and its reputation.
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