Productivity is all about proper allocation of your time. It’s about using your time wisely to work on things that matter and spending less time on the things that don’t.
How can you do that without knowing where your time really goes?
Enter time trackers: the productivity tool that won’t lie to you. Time trackers provide a log of where your hours are going each day and how much time you spend ‘rewarding yourself’ with a flick through Facebook.
If you’re looking to boost your productivity at work, here’s how using a time tracker can help.
1. You’ll know how you spend your time
If a key to productivity is spending your time wisely, first you need to know where your time goes. Most of us have a vague idea of how long it takes us to complete particular tasks or projects, but a time tracker gives you solid proof.
It’s easy to underestimate or overestimate how long it takes to do certain tasks. Menial tasks can feel like a timesucker while more interesting projects feel like they take no time at all. Time trackers help you determine exactly where your hours are going so that you’re better able to manage your workday. Knowing how long each type of task takes will enable you to better schedule deadlines for your work.
If you’re a freelancer, consultant, or small business owner, time trackers can demonstrate how much time you’re spending on particular projects, clients, or administrative tasks. With that knowledge you can give more accurate quotes that reflect the time you put into projects, and know whether you’re spending excessive amounts of time on tasks that don’t bring money back into your business. You can also see if one particular client seems to take more of your time, and make informed decisions about whether to continue working with them, reprice their services, or specialize in industries that come more easily to you.
2. You’ll be more focused on the task at hand
When I was a child, my older sisters used to trick me into getting things for them by saying, “I’ll time you”, and quickly proceeding to call out the seconds while looking at their watch. Even though I was well aware of what they were up to, I couldn’t help myself but start running as soon as those seconds started to rise.
They were onto something. There’s something about knowing you’re being timed that makes people naturally want to commit to the task at hand and have it finished as soon as possible. With a time tracker ticking away on your browser, each time you stray from your task you’ll be gently reminded that you’re not allocating your time as you should be. After a few guilt-ridden flicks through Facebook with the timer running, you’ll find yourself a lot less likely to open that new tab… (For added security, use Freedom to take away the temptation entirely.)
Of course, keeping focus isn’t just about staying away from social media. If you’re the type of person who finds yourself starting a new task before you’ve finished the one you’re working on, a time tracker will also help focus your attention on one thing at a time. This way, you can complete your tasks in order of priority.
A great way to further increase your focus is to set a goal or even simply an estimation for how long you think the task should take. You’ll find yourself trying to prove yourself right or even aiming to get it done in less time.
3. You’ll hold yourself accountable for wasted time
We all deserve a well-earned break in between tasks, but just how much time is scrolling through your newsfeed adding up to at the end of the day?
Time management expert Laura Vanderkam says that most of us tend to underestimate the time we spend checking social media and overestimate the time we spend working. With a timer rolling, you’ll be more aware of spending your time in the way you set out to. Did a task take you 2 hours last week but 5 this week? You can begin to analyze why and make plans to increase your efficiency.
To Vanderkam, time trackers aren’t just about figuring out how much time we waste, but also “making sure we are not telling ourselves stories about our lives that are not actually true.”
Time trackers are there to tell you the cold, hard truth. And if that truth is that you’ve spent 45-minutes scrolling through social media after 20-minutes of solid work, then you’ll be holding yourself accountable for that at the end of each work day.
4. You might discover you have extra time
Want to fit more into your day, but feel like you just don’t have enough time? A time tracker might show you otherwise. With the added focus on tasks at hand and a log of all your hours at the end of a workday, you’ll naturally start trying to be as productive as possible.
Time tracking forces you to reflect on your day’s work and look at what you’ve achieved. There’s nothing more rewarding than looking back at your time log and seeing a bunch of completed tasks. Looking at your time log and seeing a few finished tasks and a lot of time spent on other stuff? Not as rewarding. When you’re feeling less inclined to flick through Facebook and take small breaks throughout your work day, you’ll be faced with a lot more time. Use that time to work towards smaller goals or start those projects you thought you didn’t have the hours for.
By constantly tracking your progress, you’re able to celebrate small wins on a daily or weekly basis. This will help you maintain a healthy mind, stay self-motivated and relieve stress. And as a positive side effect, you can be more confident when it comes to reviewing your performance with a manager or a client, and a more confident negotiator when it’s time to talk money.
How to track your time
The good news is that there’s no need to start entering tasks into a spreadsheet and manually add up the hours you work.
AND CO from Fiverr offers free time tracking software that you can use to keep track of all of your tasks and projects. It works across all your devices and even has a desktop app, so you can quickly access your time tracker while you’re working. The built-in reporting features will give you deeper insights into how you spend your time, so you can start spending it more wisely.