The biggest problems with time tracking

Written 07 December, 2017, 4 minutes to read

Time tracking sucks! It’s killing our culture! Such an arbitrary measure of productivity! Just trust me to do my job! Sound familiar? These responses are a sure sign that your team has massively misunderstood the point of time tracking. This article breaks down some of the most common time tracking problems employees face to help you restart the conversation.

The purpose of time tracking

Time tracking isn’t about spying on people or setting an unrealistic pace for productivity, and it shouldn’t make you feel bad. It’s simply about getting more from the single resource we all share.

As William Penn said, “time is what we want most, but what we use worst”; tracking it simply enables you to get more quality from it. It offers a super powerful opportunity to make real positive change – you just need to communicate that approach effectively.

Biggest problems with time tracking

Having problems time tracking? Help even your most sceptical colleague reconsider their position on it, by addressing these common concerns:

“My timesheet doesn’t reflect what I actually do.”

Who is saying your value stems solely from your timesheet? Whilst time tracking gives an overview of how you’ve spent your time, it doesn’t offer a fully formed metric to assess your performance.

It’s actually more of a discovery tool. Ok, you spent longer than expected on a task: perhaps that was because it wasn’t scoped properly at the beginning. Or maybe it needed more resources to complete it on-time. Also, weren't you were dividing your time between two massive high-priority tasks? Only time tracking can accurately fill in these gaps and, ultimately, help you solve the problem.

“I always forget to do it anyway – it’s an unnatural way of thinking.”

Time tracking is pointless if it doesn’t accurately represent what happened, and logging time after the fact is a big contributor to this.

So just automate it. A bunch of apps exist to track time for you. Timely, for example, logs everything – from calls you made, to where you worked and meetings you attended – so you don’t have to ever waste time tracking time again. Time tracking simply becomes an action you don’t ever have to consciously do.

“Tracking time makes me feel policed and watched.”

Time tracking doesn’t exist so your employer can breathe down your neck or make wild evaluations of your entire professional performance. Since time efficiency doesn’t translate easily from task to task or person to person, you can’t make blanket assumptions from it anyway – each project has to be viewed in its unique context.

“Let’s just sell our client weeks instead of hours.”

Great, whatever works. But you’re still selling your value as an increment of time. Time tracking doesn’t have to be at a minute level, but it’s still helpful to understand how you spend the time you commit to a task – whatever the measure.

“Time tracking isn’t for me anyway – it’s made for my employer.”

Actually, if you’re given access to your own data, there’s a ton you can get out of time tracking:

  • Identify inefficiencies in your workflow
  • See where you need more support
  • Ensure you’re working to your priorities
  • Capture more productive time
  • Represent time spent in meetings and traveling for work
  • Understand your own working habits and behaviours
  • See where you waste time
  • Estimate future projects more accurately

It’s a great way of making your own time accountable. Once you’re aware of how you’re spending time, you can use it better, get more focused, and ultimately get more value. This goes for downtime as well as productive time.

“Let's just decide together what we’ll do each week and feed back on how we're doing.”

This is a really nice approach in theory, but in practice it’s just going to mean wasting more time on process and talking about time. Saturating your week with ad hoc updates itself can also be pretty disruptive to people’s working styles – especially if you’re trying to increase your ability to work for longer periods of deep concentration.

How to get your employees to track time

Whatever you do, don’t charge in making big changes. Before committing to any time tracking tool, get your team to trial it for a period and make sure they’re comfortable with it.

Once they can see the value, you’re pretty much set. Try sharing your own tracked activity to set the standard for open communication around time.

Thinking about treats? Remember that time tracking shouldn’t be a burden people need to be rewarded for being put through. It’s a super powerful tool which can help us develop our thinking, actions and outlook – and you don’t even need to lift a finger to do it.

Preaching over. (Can you tell we love time tracking?)


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