The Supervision Exchange

& Supervisors' Guild

… With Time Tracking!

Tracking where you spend time throughout the day can be boring, tedious, and seemingly a waste of time; however, there are real benefits to adopting a habit of time tracking and there are some very convenient technology tools that make the process easier. I track my time at work. I don’t love doing it, but I have learned how it can provide me with confidence, a sense of purpose, and insight into my habits and environmental effects. I believe you will also see the benefits of time tracking if you join me in exercising the discipline for 2 weeks. That’s right, 2 weeks straight. Throughout the rest of this article, I’ll give you some guidelines to get started and introduce you to some technology tools that empower you to make the process less of a chore. 

Create Categories

Create coarse categories for yourself that are meaningful to you or your organization. Try to keep coarse categories to a minimum so it is easy to pick which one to choose. Below are some examples of very broad categories you should avoid. 

Try to Avoid Categories Like:

  • Emails
  • Phone Call
  • Projects
  • Meetings
  • Travel
  • Paperwork
  • Filing

The above categories will provide some insight into where you spend your time, but they will likely not help shape a more effective day. Consider using categories that are still broad but relate to a specific purpose: who or what is benefiting from your time, where are you when you spend this time, are there important programs where time is reported to management or funders. 

Use Categories With Purpose:

  • Customer/client support
  • Supervision Meetings
  • Purchasing
  • Client scheduling
  • Office Organization
  • Fund Raising
  • Corporate Sponsors
  • Accounting/Bookkeeping 
  • Event Planning
  • Running Event 

The above categories include a lot of the activities from the previous list, but they also provide a better context. It may not be helpful or meaningful to know how much time you spend using email (sending, reading, organizing, etc…), but how much time you spend supporting your customers helps determine the effectiveness of your organizational systems and the needs of your customers. 

Don’t Try to Remember Your Time

Our brain has limits to what it can accurately recall and our perception of time can be distorted by many environmental factors. If you can accurately remember how your time was spent throughout the day, I commend your ability. You have a gift. Others, myself included, just feel bad that they are unable to remember accurately, don’t see feel the full value if they’re just guessing, and miss out on the rewards. Let other systems take care of the remembering for you. Here are 2 groups of tools to use.

Use a Stop Watch and Paper

Yes, that’s right: any kind of stopwatch, a reasonably sized piece of paper, and a pen or pencil too, I suppose. Write your categories on the first sheet of paper. On the second sheet, write the category and start your stopwatch (timer). When you are done doing what you were doing (even if it was only 5 minutes), stop the timer and write down how much time passed. What if you don’t have a stopwatch? Use a clock. Write down the time you start doing something. Then, write down the time when you stop. Do this deliberately throughout the day. If you are interrupted for some reason when recording time, come back to it once the urgent matter is taken care of, and note the time spent on the urgent matter (accommodate spontaneity). 

Use a Time Tracking Program and App

There are several time tracking applications that specialize in making time tracking more enjoyable. One you can start using today is Clockify®, a web application that allows you to track time individually, as a team, or organization. At the time of writing this article, the core set of time tracking features are free to use. That’s right, free. You can start today by creating your account on the website Clockify.me There are other benefits and premium features offered for a very reasonable cost. These additional features are very helpful for implementing digital employee timesheets and accommodating remote time reporting. 

Another solution for time tracking is ClickUp ®2. ClickUp is an awesome project management, collaboration, and business application that has built-in time tracking features and integrations. At the time of writing this article, ClickUp has a free level that includes time tracking. There are paid subscription levels that include powerful productivity features as well as timesheets. 

Don’t Give Up, It’s Ok if You Forget

Don’t stop the practice of tracking your time just because you forgot to record activity or forgot to start a timer, even if you missed tracking a day or week’s worth of time. The discipline of tracking time is not normal for most of us, so don’t be surprised if you forget now and then, just start being diligent again now and give grace for the past. It’s perseverance that can produce the desired result here.

So You’ve Tracked Your Time, Now What?

Once you have tracked time for two or more weeks, look back over where your time was spent. Ideally, you would review tracked time monthly, quarterly, and annually. Review how much time accumulated in each category and compare that to your goals. Review your time by yourself and share the reports with your management. Bring tracked time reports into an employment review to help conjure constructive discussion. Below are some examples of how to constructively analyze your tracked time. Try to extract insights instead of scrutinizing quantity.

  • Did you spend a significant amount of time in meetings?
    • If your role is to spend time giving guidance and input in meetings, that is great. If not, does your organization need more effective meetings or do you need to be present at all of those meetings?
  • Did you spend a significant amount of time responding to email?
    • If you are providing customer support or coordinating events (for example), this may be normal. However, was email used in place of instant messaging, fragmenting attention? Phone calls can be more efficient than email in many cases. Were emails used to avoid vocal conversations? Was answering emails used to feel like you accomplished a lot of work, generating convenient busy work? 
  • Did you spend enough time planning for events as opposed to running them?
    • Did you spend more time running events than anticipated, addressing last-minute concerns not covered by planning? Were your events not as successful as you hoped? Was there some additional discussion and research normally conducted in planning that would have grown the measure of success?
  • And the list goes on…

In addition to using tracked time for professional growth, the tracked time can be used to provide granulated data to funders and supporters. You can more accurately convey the effectiveness of their contributions to your organization.

Confidence and Reassurance

Now that you have tracked your time, reviewed where time is spent, and compared the measures with your goals, you can start to reap the greater benefits of time tracking. Have you ever wondered if the time you spent during the day was worth it? Have you wondered if you were effective? It can be hard to make those determinations at the end of the day, but did you spend your time in the categories that are deemed most important? Yes? Then you can rest assured that while you were doing your best to address the challenges of the day, making proactive decisions, putting stamps on envelopes, you were spending your time doing what you and your organization value most. Often this means you did your best-serving others that day, since the net result of work can be thought of as people served (directly or indirectly). 

When you have to do something you feel is mundane and boring, you can relax and just enjoy the simplicity of the task since it falls in a category that supports an important cause, program, or project. Rest assured that the time-intensive task is being measured and that you now have a tool to show others how your time is utilized. If you are doing something that is super exciting, new, or creative, you can find invigoration in tracking your speed, effort, and efficiency. Rest assured that your efficiency and hard work spent on a task can be accurately conveyed. 

Conclusion

If this all sounds wonderful to you, awesome! Go forth and track time. If this sounds overwhelming and over-rated, it can be. I understand how you feel. Despite this, please consider trying this exercise and discipline. Big companies and organizations can achieve great things and make smart decisions based on data. They employ different groups of people just to format, review, analyze, report, and act on the results of data. Machine learning computers, algorithms, and programs are designed to leverage the power of data. Why shouldn’t you? Knowing where you spend your time, is data: data that can help you become a wiser professional.  

Please share some of your experiences with time tracking in the comments.

  • What are some of your greatest insights?
  • What has made the experience unpleasant or ineffective in the past?
  • How has time tracking contributed to success for you in the past? 

Written by Evan Gress, CIO & CTO of KovirPage LLC, Founder of Virtual Senior Center Solutions

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  1. Clockify® is a registered trademark of Milanovic, Nenad INDIVIDUAL CROATIA 3505 El Camino Real Palo Alto CALIFORNIA 94306
  2. ClickUp® is a registered trademark of Mango Technologies, Inc. CORPORATION CALIFORNIA 363 5th Avenue, Suite 300 San Diego CALIFORNIA 92101

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