The Benefits of Time Tracking
24 June 2021
10 Benefits of Time Tracking in the COVID Era
Time, as we all know, is the most precious resource. In this ever-changing and fast-paced world, it’s difficult to keep up with all commitments and responsibilities. This has been amplified by the Covid-19 pandemic, increasing the number of employees now working from home, many for the first time.
Working remotely can be great. When managed properly it offers tremendous flexibility and unmatched levels of work-life balance. Employees can actually gain valuable hours that would otherwise go into long and tiring commutes. This allows the opportunity to channel that time and energy towards a hobby, cooking healthy meals, or simply spending time with friends and family. To thrive from the flexibility and advantages of working from home though, employees need to possess several essential skills—chief of which is time management.
Without good time management strategies, it’s more than likely that employees will find themselves in an anxious mess: spending more time than ever on video meetings with the feeling that they are getting less actual work done. Haven’t we all faced ‘Zoom fatigue’ during the pandemic?
The cost of not managing your time well can be more than just missed deadlines. It can lead to overwork and, subsequently, burnout. The good news is that this can be mitigated by tracking and analyzing where your time is spent. The benefits of time tracking don’t just relate to increased productivity, or meeting goals and deadlines. Proper use of time management tools or online tracking software can make a real contribution to workplace well-being. Here are ten benefits of time tracking to help remote workers stay productive and happy!
Identify goals and stick to them
Identifying your work goals, both large and small, can give you a clearer understanding of where and how to focus your time each day. For example, if the goal is to complete a project by the end of the week, you might write the overall goal and then smaller goals, which will lead to the completion of the project on time. You can then track whether or not you’re able to meet goals. If not, it will help you identify what may be causing you to go off track. If this is caused by personal reasons or poor use of time, you can take steps to deal with any issues. If the problem is task-related, you will be better placed to ask for help from line managers or other team members.
Prioritize projects and tasks
When employees work from the office, it’s easier for colleagues and bosses to have a perspective on how work is progressing. Physical presence makes progress more transparent, enabling colleagues to give advice and insights on progress and productivity. Often you’ll be working on tasks and projects together, discussing updates throughout the day or week that can help you prioritize or re-prioritize aspects of your work.
The physical isolation of working from home can make this more difficult. It means being more accountable to yourself and to your team, especially as everyone starts to adapt to things like asynchronous working or flexible arrangements. Because of this, you must be able to prioritize which tasks or projects deserve more time or energy. Time tracking can help you check whether you’ve prioritized the right tasks during their day, week, or duration of the task/project.
Deliver work on time
When you’re working from the office, it’s easier to follow a set and predictable timetable. For example, if you have a train to catch or need to leave for daycare pickup, you set targets to get work done in good time. But with many people now working remotely because of the pandemic, many for the first time, these routines have gone. At home it’s often too easy to let time slip, causing us to rush tasks at the last minute, or miss deadlines altogether. Using a time tracking tool can help re-wire the brain, making it easier to time-box tasks and accomplish activities within the desired time-frame.
Identify unproductive time
There are numerous factors that are to blame for time wasting – such as unproductive meetings or too many back and forth emails. With time tracking, employees can more easily identify the time they spend on bureaucratic work that doesn’t drive their objectives forward – like email, meetings, project management, task coordination, admin and expenses. They can figure out which projects involved too many meetings or an objective that took much longer because they were trying to multitask. With effective tracking techniques, they can identify where they are spending idle time, and cut down on areas which are impacting their productivity.
Cut down distractions
When employees aren’t in the same workspace as their managers or co-workers, it’s far too easy to be distracted by what’s going on at home. It becomes easier to succumb to the lure of social media apps or even entertainment sites like Netflix or Amazon Prime. Because there may be little risk of being seen wasting work time, it’s far too easy to give in to temptation.
With fewer safeguards in place to set clear work-life boundaries, it can be difficult to ensure you’re committing to quality work during the workday. This can lead to short-term pleasure but long-term stress, as we use our own or family time to catch up on missed deadlines. When employees know they are tracking their time, it’s far easier to stay away from such distractions. Regular or routine use can also create a positive habit, automatically re-wiring the brain to work when we should, then enjoy our own leisure time guilt free!
Transparency into work processes
Time tracking offers unique insights into tasks and projects in real-time, so you can analyze how long projects are taking to complete. Additionally, you can start to better understand which activities are being constantly put on the back burner, helping you prioritize you work much more effectively. Eventually, time tracking tools can also provide the bigger picture for employees. They are able to look back at their workloads and optimize productivity where needed, while also keeping tabs on what others in the team have been doing.
Take regular breaks
Productivity isn’t all about making and meeting deadlines. It’s also about ensuring you maintain the quality of your work. When working from the office, employees naturally take breaks in between tasks – engaging in a casual conversation with a colleague, or stepping out for lunch. Informal ‘water-cooler’ conversations can be good for work insights and building team spirit, but they can also be critical stress relievers. Today, much more conversation is happening online, via Zoom or Teams calls, and we are missing out on those casual interactions and breaks. Taking short breaks throughout your workday can help keep you refreshed. Scheduling in short calls to colleagues can help us keep the benefits of team engagement and cameraderie. Both will help you stay motivated and productive.
Determine when you’re most productive
Another of the benefits of time tracking is in helping employees understand when they are most productive. Are you a morning person or a night owl? When you feel awake, it can help boost your productivity. For example, if you love quiet mornings and feel focused on solitude, you should try working on more challenging tasks at the start of their day. If you feel tired after lunch as the afternoon hours hit, that might be a good time to catch up on emails or phone calls.
Increase transparency between employees and managers
Just like employees, many managers are experiencing remote work for the first time. They will be learning new skills required to manage remote teams, just as the teams will be getting used to the new normal themselves. In the office it’s easy for them to check in anytime, recognising good engagement but helping to deal with any performance issues. However, a remote setting can suddenly bring in opacity. This can potentially lead to questions about how well employees are coping, or even if they are working at all, especially if they seem to be struggling with deadlines. Time tracking is a great way to ensure transparency between employees and their managers, taking the pressure off both!
More Time for Oneself
When employees track time, they are more productive and get work done faster. This means more free time in their day to spend on the recreational activities that make them happy! Ultimately this helps employees to balance their life by working hard and having a reward at the end of the day or work week. It helps employees to keep their work schedule ordered and effective. And to keep their home and work-lives balanced and separate.
In the era of COVID, perhaps these benefits of time tracking are an employee’s best shield against burnout, work-life imbalance, and poor performance. Those who’ve had their schedules dictated by forces other than themselves, will find it incredibly tough to muster the discipline to follow a schedule or set up a routine from scratch. But once they get the knack of being in charge of their time, they will benefit from the fruits it can bear. Managing time is not an easy skill to learn. But as with any new habits, it begins with (very doable!) baby steps. For many, tracking time is a great first step.
More time management insights and tools
There is a wide range of time management resources in our store, including some great tools. Our e-guide: Managing Time and Priority is packed with practical tools, tested ideas and a dash of radical thinking. It will will help you master two critical skills: managing time and priority. The guide will help you to:
- Assess your time priorities and manage your actions.
- Develop coping strategies to avoid the limitations of “busyness”.
- Manage the impact of other people’s demands on your time.
- Develop approaches to “getting things done”.
- Apply practical tools to managing priorities and time, to get the right things done.
- Help others to manage their time.
Tool 1: Commitments summary
Tool 2: Time log
Tool 3:Time analysis
Tool 4: Time planning with task filters
Tool 5: Task priorities