I remember when I first met my Financial Advisor. At our initial meeting he told me to write down everything I spent my money on for the next month. It was a revelation – simply by becoming aware of where your money is going, you start to realise how much of it you are spending on things that really aren’t important to you. And then you can consciously start to do something about it.Tracking Time can work in exactly the same way.
Some years later my boss (Martyn Christian – that would be you!) had a healthy fixation on how his reporting managers were spending their time. In our monthly review meetings he would ask me to talk through how I had spent my time in the previous 4 weeks against specific categories (Coaching, Skills Development, Administration, Projects, etc). Every month I would look retrospectively at the meetings from my calendar and assign each one against a different category. I would then add them up and put them onto a slide for our review. This exercise was cumbersome, but worthwhile – as a result I started to become aware of planning my time much more intentionally.
From time to time I still find it useful to track my time, even if only for a few days – have I got the balance right between servicing clients and developing new ones? Am I spending more time on email than I would like? Should I reward myself with some time in the garden? But these days I do that with a tool – Toggl. I have no affiliation with Toggl – I just love what they do!
Toggl is a simple (and free) app that works on your laptop or smartphone. On my Mac it pops up every 20 minutes (set by me) to ask me what I’m doing. Besides using it to track whether I’ve got my time balanced healthily, I also use it as my bedrock for producing my timesheets for client projects. Here’s some of the key features that I find particularly useful:
- Always there. So long as I have a phone or laptop with me, I can record my time. If there’s no network connection it will record the time offline and sync automatically when a connection becomes available.
- Create/Update past entries. A call comes in and then unexpectedly goes on for an hour. No problem – you can simply create a new entry for any time in the past.
- Simple Categorisation/Customisation. You can assign work against specific projects/sub-projects or against individual clients. You can even define tasks as being billable and assign an individual hour-rate to them.
- Reporting. As part of my weekly review it’s easy to filter the data so that I can produce attractive graphical reports or exports for Excel that I can include them as backup for my monthly invoicing.
There’s a premium version as well, but I find the free version is absolutely rich enough for my needs.
It’s the simplest way I know to track my time with the minimum effort. By the way, this post took me 46 minutes to complete and is not billable 🙂