The Many Benefits to Tracking Your Time
As a business owner, you no doubt already have far more administrative work than you would like. You can’t get rid of the bookkeeping and the bill paying, but why on earn would you add the additional burden of tracking your time if you’re not billing by the hour?
A long litany of productivity gurus (Laura Vanderkam recently quite prominent among them) have suggested that tracking your time will be a revelation, exposing just how much time you’re frittering away and offering a chance to reevaluate and better spend the hours you’re currently wasting. Most of these writers are focused on the big picture--one day, long in the future, it is hoped, when you’re reviewing your life, you’ll have fewer regrets--but at startup Grammarly, the case for time tracking is based more on cold, hard business.
"Whether or not a team member is billing by the hour, it is important to understand that time is one of the most valuable (and scarce) resources at any organization," CEO Brad Hoover told Inc.com. "Operating under the assumption that your time is worth money--whether to you or to your client--helps you to prioritize the finite number of hours in your day."
That not only helps you eliminate the office equivalent of mindlessly watching The Real Housewives of Wherever, but it also gives you the information you need to put your limited time and energy to the best use. After all, Hoover points out, "80 percent of a team member's most productive work gets done in 20 percent of that person's total time in the office. Time tracking enables all team members to focus on what matters most and to improve their output."
The Nuts and Bolts
Grammarly stumbled on the benefits of time tracking after testing tools to track consultants’ time, and it became a big fan of the practice. The company doesn’t require all employees to track their time, but it does strongly encourage it. Nor does the startup mandate any particular tool, though it has found one to be particularly useful.
"Some members of our team have found Toggl to be a useful tool," explains Hoover. "They can track work tasks versus personal tasks, specific projects, and any level of granularity in between. When they begin working on a particular project, they need only click Start to begin tracking in the manner that works best for them." Vanderkam, ever present in this space, has rounded up 10 time-tracking apps to try. Most likely, one of them will suit your needs.
Whatever method you choose to keep track of your minutes, the process is going to amount to some additional hassle for you, so the effort better be well rewarded. Was it at Grammarly? It’s not only the boss who claims the practice has been a real benefit for the business.
The startup’s SEO manager, Nikolas Baron, claims that tracking his time has had an immediate and significant impact on not only his productivity but also his focus. "Rather than answering a call, checking email, and then moving back and forth between several tasks that I have in progress," says Baron, "time tracking actually encourages me to focus on one activity for an extended period of time to improve my focus and productivity. Also, time tracking is a great way to remind me to get up and move around every 50 minutes to clear my head and refresh my perspective."
Do you track your time? Should you start?
JESSICA STILLMAN | Columnist
Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.