What is time-tracking? The advantages, and learn how to attempt it your self

As I sit right here typing this, I’ve bought a second tab open. Sure, that’s not precisely uncommon, however this tab is completely different to the others – it’s a time-tracker.

Whirring silently away within the background it ticks up steadily for each second I spend engaged on a mission.

So far, collating my analysis and typing this introduction has taken me 31 minutes and 58 seconds – but when I’m trustworthy, the numbers barely register once I’m truly working.

Over the previous few years, time-tracking has bought a nasty rep, seen solely because the protect of overbearing employers and regulation corporations that wish to monitor your bathroom breaks. For me although, it’s been the precise reverse – time-tracking has helped me to know my limits, flip down unhealthy alternatives, and even redefine what I view as work.

I’m not fairly positive what spurred me to attempt time-tracking again on that fateful day of July 7, 2019, however in contrast to each organisation or productiveness hack I’ve ever tried, it caught.

To date, I’ve tracked nearly 3,500 hours of stable work, every categorised and with an outline.

Would you monitor the way you spend each minute of your day? It might pose some severe advantages… (Picture: Getty/

How does time-tracking work?

‘Time-tracking is a great tool to monitor personal productivity,’ agrees Ebony Montague, the founding father of HR Said That, which provides HR recommendation to small companies.

It’s particularly helpful, she says, for individuals working from dwelling, or those that are self-employed.

Time-tracking precisely what it says on the tin. You pop a timer on while you begin a job and maintain it on till you are taking a break. At its easiest all you want is a watch, a pen, and a notepad, however utilizing apps will even make it easier to to classify what you spend your time on, serving to you to zoom out to the larger image.

There are a complete vary of free instruments accessible – I take advantage of a programme referred to as Clockify, which works on each your browser and your app. Other time-tracking followers I spoke to talked about Toggl, whereas Ebony factors to programmes equivalent to Motion and Airtable, which additionally work nicely for individuals who wish to mix time-tracking with the artwork of time blocking.

What are the advantages of time-tracking?

For me, time-tracking works on a number of ranges. My timer can solely time monitor one job at a time, as a result of actually, that’s all we are able to give attention to. Our brains aren’t actually good doing two duties without delay, in actuality, we’re simply shortly switching between the 2 – which is usually hideously inefficient.

Putting a timer on forces me to give attention to the duty in hand – or cease the timer and settle for I have to readjust my priorities and swap it up. But the true advantages of time-tracking come a lot later, when you’ve settled into the behavior and have chilly arduous information to play with.

Myke Hurley is without doubt one of the co-hosts of Cortex, a podcast about working lives, and has an intricate system of time-tracking all the pieces from recording his podcast (465 hours final yr) to dwelling administration (simply 4 hours and 17 minutes).

It’s a pure companion for time-blocking (Picture: Getty/

Every yr, he and his co-host CGP Grey run by a comparability of the three,000 odd hours he’s labored over the previous two years.

‘I look at it and say where do I want to be next time?’ Mike explains to listeners.

By focusing in granular element on his hours, he’s capable of ‘paint a picture’ of the place he’d prefer to be – he lists each a high degree goal of working much less, in addition to pinpointing particular areas of labor to scale down.

But you don’t want to assemble years of information to really feel the distinction from time-tracking. For Winnie Tang, a profession pivot coach and enterprise strategist, time-tracking allowed her to shortly work out her best instances of day.

‘I finally abandoned the idea that the best time to write is first thing in the morning – the common advice out there,’ she tells Winnie might clearly see she was ‘losing a lot of time fiddling around’ and was as an alternative extra productive from mid-morning. As a consequence, she was capable of end writing an e-book in simply three days.

For Holly Close, a digital arts producer, it helps cease procrastination.

‘Sometimes a task can seem much bigger in my head,’ she explains. ‘It makes it easier to [just do it] if you have cold hard data that shows the email you’ve been worrying about for 2 hours will solely take about six minutes to write down and ship.’

Time-tracking may help you get a greater sense of the make-up of your life (Picture: Getty)

Common time-tracking pitfalls and learn how to keep away from them

Much like another productiveness hack, time-tracking requires a little bit of effort and thought to get began.

Cath Shuttlewood, a contract PR, discovered herself struggling to recollect to click on cease on on-line timers, so switched to an old school pen and paper.

‘Find a system that works for you,’ she urges. ‘And the very best tip I may give is to be trustworthy about the way you truly spend your time.

‘You’re not going to have the ability to maintain account each minute of the working day and a few days you’ll shock – or horrify – your self at how little you’ve executed.

‘But as long as you’ve been as correct as doable although, there’s at all times one thing to be learnt.’

Myke additionally recommends accepting you’ll by no means be capable of time-track all the pieces – it’s nearly not possible to account for the time you spend bouncing ideas round in your thoughts, or chatting stuff over with a colleague and a cuppa.

His system, very similar to mine, is probably higher outlined as intentional hours. ‘All that unintentional time you might have in your work day, I don’t log that,’ he notes. This means he sometimes logs about 5 hours of labor a day, ‘because I’m a human’.

He additionally recommends continually refining your classes – usually we find yourself going too broad, that means we don’t have a significant image of what we’ve been engaged on. Generally, if you happen to’re spending greater than 100 hours a yr on one thing, it’s most likely value making a subcategory for that.

There’s additionally an enormous distinction between utilizing time-tracking in your personal means and having it pressured upon you by administration – the latter is one thing Ebony says can ‘harbour distrust’ in addition to result in burnout and overworking.

But, used individually, time-tracking is usually a vastly highly effective device, and over the previous three years has modified how I view and outline my work. I now know precisely how lengthy it takes me to finish common duties, which implies I could make extra practical plans for my work days and confidently say no to issues that don’t slot in.

Time-tracking has taught me what all of us knew within the first place – that eight hours at a desk undoubtedly doesn’t imply eight hours of productiveness.

I now know the distinction between what truly is a slog and what simply looks like one – and with the info behind me, I really feel empowered to really take that stroll or go for a nap. Sure, these would possibly really feel like issues we should always already know, however it’s wonderful how the info makes it occur.

Oh, and because you’re asking, I’m clocking off this timer after three hours and 29 minutes.

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