How to improve your performance with time tracking?

Let’s picture an olimpic sports star like  Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps. They are disciplined. Disciplined enough to wake up before sunrise and make it to the practice every day. They work hard. Their trainers keep careful logs of the time devoted to practice. Let’s imagine a bit further that for some weird reason, those records show the same competition time at the end of each practice, 08:00:00 no matter what they really did. What do you think this would do to their performance? Would it provide therm insights to improve?

As professionals we do not share their outstanding sports level. Something we certainly share is that we come every day to work. We like to find ways to improve what we do and how we do it . Just like them.

As proper tracking of their competition times allows them to push further, our time tracking can also make a difference in our performance. It can prevent us from performing in the same way over and over again. Here are some hints to help you put this habit on your side.

Get a time tracker – Tracking the time you work every day is a good step; it will show how much you work and it will allow billing of your time. Something it can’t do is show how you are spending your time. This becomes an issue if your manager asks something like: -Which task is consuming most of your time?  Or – Give me a break-down of your time efforts – Just like it happened to me time a long time ago. I blushed as I had to start best guessing.

For many of us it would be annoying to write down the hour each time we start something and make sums at the end of the day. You don’t need to do it. You can use a time tracking tool. It is like having a digital trainer or assistant that logs your efforts while you practice.

There are a number of tools available. I’ve been using Grindstone 2 for a few years with cool results More info here. It lets you create tasks, link them to projects and have a recording toolbar. You can start or stop the clock with just a click. It will record the time you devoted to a task and it can also produce reports on how you spend your time among your tasks.

Be flexible – After a couple of weeks of tracking, you will likely be surprised about what the reports say. Do not panic!  If you never did something like this before, don’t expect to be a pro by next week. This would be frustrating and will not really help your performance. Get yourself some time to get used to it and to produce a healthy stress that challenges you to do more, not bad overwhelming stress.

Make it a habit – make a commitment to track for a defined period. Let’s say a month. Try to stick to it during this period. Then you can evaluate your results and take it from there. Remember, this will make a difference if you do it consistently in the long run. This is a challenge if you come from a culture like mine which is not really used to tracking things.

Plan for Action – After this time you will be more on top of your time and your tasks. You will likely waste less time. You won’t blush if your manager asks about your workload or effort breakdown. You can look at the reports and know if you are devoting your time to the right tasks. You can plan to make changes and adjustments. You have a clearer path on how to improve.

- Sergio Calvo.
Weekly Article #1

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