The Benefits of Time Tracking & How To Get Started: tracking your time when running your business can provide you great data to be more productive

Tracking your time in your business can be a great way to evaluate and have a clear picture of exactly how you are spending your minutes and hours. While it seems straightforward, “of course I know where I spend my time”, many of us don’t realize exactly how much time ends up going towards certain activities that drive our business.

Studies show that we are often poor estimators when it comes to time. Most people will over-estimate or under-estimate depending on what the activity is, this is true outside of business tasks too. Tracking your time gives you solid data to work from. If you are struggling with time management it’s a great starting place for you to use to evaluate ways in which to better manage your day.

Benefits

  • Know exactly where your time is being spent throughout the day, to help identify distractions, and areas of low productivity.
  • To confirm if your time is spent on activities that are supporting your current business goals. A simple example of this could be that you want to grow Twitter, but you realize you are spending double your time on Instagram instead.
  • To evaluate effectiveness of time to core business activities. Tracking your time can be a great way to identify areas that you may need to find a better process for, areas you maybe need to delegate to a VA or other team member, or time suck areas where you know it’s not a core business activity but you seem to spend a lot of time doing.
  • Identify patterns in your day. Do you seem to fly through tasks in the morning but then struggle to complete them in the afternoon? Are you switching between a lot of tasks throughout your day, what could you do to help yourself be more focused? Are you spending way more time on social media than you expected or that supports your goals? Tracking your day can help identify areas you may need to work on creating better habits around.
  • Identify products or services that are might be taking more time than you realized to complete. You may realize that it’s not worth the time investment to offer that particular service or product, or that you need to charge more because it is so much more time consuming.

If you are having a hard time fitting it all in, then I highly recommend you start tracking your day for a few weeks or a month. It can be a bit tedious to set up a way to track your day, and I’ve personally have went back and forth on what works.

It is important to track all your working hours to get the full picture. This means even if you are taking a break, you should make note of it. If you really struggle with balancing your work/life activities or you work in a way that is very intermingled with personal activities tracking your whole day may help you more easily identify periods of time where you can work uninterrupted or find areas you may need to ask for extra support around. Emily of My Adaptable Career shares what time tracking did for her in this post, with a somewhat unexpected benefit that I didn’t mention above.

Tools To Track Your Time

Like all tools I recommend, the best tool is the tool you will use. There are advantages and disadvantages to many of these, I still have not figure out what consider the perfect solution to tracking 🙂 We will start from low tech to higher tech.

Tracking On Paper (journal, notebook or print out)

Advantage: It’s easy, you can just jot down what you are doing, and any given time.
Disadvantage: It’ hard to get a big picture of where your time is being spent, no way to calculate it easily. It can be less accurate because you are very unlikely to document the time you slipped onto Facebook for 5 minutes and you have to make sure you are aware of how much time you were actually on Facebook.

Spreadsheet

Advantage: Very customizable, you can track time into any category you want and you can easily add the time to get a complete picture of a day, a week, or month.
Disadvantage: It depends on you to again track and enter how your time is spent.

An App

Advantage: It will be able to track on any device you install it on where you are visiting and how much time you are spending in xyz program. So when you go to Facebook it knows 🙂
Disadvantage: It’s not as good about tracking anything done away from the computer, interruptions, and it only tracks on devices that you install it on, so if you tend to pick up your phone a lot and you aren’t tracking there, that time is not documented.

Below are two apps that I have personally utilized and below that are three articles giving you a ton of additional options.

I like how you can create your own projects, and track via project. It has a fairly simple interface. The disadvantage is that is not as automatic in tracking as other programs, so it requires you to remember to start and stop your time. However, if you can remember the start/stop feature can be beneficial to realizing interruptions.

I like that it automatically tracks your activity on the computer and that you can easily categorize certain sites to fit categories.

Nice clean interface. More project based/client based tracking, but easy to use and has desktop and mobile app. You do have to remember to start and stop per project. Read a full review of Toggl and all of its features from Lewis of the Freelance Effect.

For some other time tracking options here are three great articles:

The Best Time Tracking Apps via Zapier

The 10 Best iOS Time Tracking Apps in 2019

8 Great Time-Tracking Apps for Freelancers

The right solution for me is to use a combination of spreadsheet and app help to document what I’m doing online. The spreadsheet allows me to add some more personal notes, to track how I’m feeling and energy levels, and give me space to track off-line activity. I’m still working out how to best organize my day, so having a more complete picture helps me.

Tracking your time can be a bit daunting at first, but it is really worth it if you are struggling with productivity and time management when it comes to building your business. If you forget to track a day or are not as consistent as you want with tracking, don’t give up, just extend your time for another week. It’s better to get at least a baseline place to work from as opposed to just giving up on tracking your time altogether.

Do you need to be tracking your time continuously?

Personally, I don’t think that is necessary, especially if it is an intrusive process for you. It is really up to you and what your business involves. If you are finding yourself falling out of your routine, or not as motivated or productive as you have been, then you should consider doing another round of time tracking. The advantage of time tracking continuously is it can help you more easily identify areas you may be able to change to get better results in your business.

Have you or do you track your time in your business? If you do or have what benefits did you gain?