Time recording, also known as time tracking, is one of those necessary evils.  I recently overheard a couple of fellows in a cafe discussing how theytime hated to record their time, that they didn’t understand why they needed to do it and they were planning to “speak to” the boss about stopping – apparently if he wanted to know what they were working on he could just ask. The business owner in me almost interjected to set the record straight – but the former employee in me (and etiquette, it is rude to interrupt strangers in a cafe) reflected on how, without context, time recording was an annoying distraction.

As every business owner knows 100% of our profits come from our customers something that is so very important to remember. In the services business to us time recording is a no-brainer; if you don’t record what you did, you don’t get paid; if you don’t demonstrate value, you don’t get paid etc etc. It doesn’t matter how you are engaged whether it’s a fixed price, time and materials, outcome based, profit sharing or barter system; as the provider of a service measuring the time spent on every activity to understand the effort involved is a requirement – I won’t get started on the good old days of function point analysis.

Product development companies also understand this, what a given feature or function cost to develop, what a new release cost etc etc.

So back to the fellows in the cafe. Why should they record their time? here are 5 reasons to record your time:

  • Getting paid – data for invoicing / billing, data for seeking funding, data for payroll processing, data to demonstrate the effort involved in a project or deliverable, it’s all valuable and links to their ability to get paid
  • Insight – understanding the cost of an activity provides insight for future estimation, ability to drive cost reduction (= everyone gets paid more), ability to price a deliverable effectively when seeking funding for next time, ability to size and resource future projects correctly, measure and control costs of inflight projects – such as tracking against a contract cap – the list goes on and on
  • Additional resources – time recording to activity level demonstrates who is doing what, so when these guys ask for help / additional resources the data is there to back up their request that they are stretched or running out of time to complete their deliverables
  • Reporting – data for customer / compliance reporting, financial reporting, project reporting, business case reporting – time recording data is an invaluable asset in reporting on what happened, metrics to measure KPI’s, too many reporting reasons to list
  • Reducing Stress – time recording puts everyone on the same page, provides visibility of who is putting in the long hours, who is overworked, who is working on the right things (and who isn’t). Detailed activity level time recording helps those doing the planning estimate appropriately (through insight) helps justify additional resources and helps everyone get paid! all reducing stress.

Convinced or not time tracking is part of doing business, private business, government business, public business – everyone needs to record how much time is spent on activities and as I said at the beginning treat this as a necessary evil so just do it. It’s great discipline anyway, helps you keep track of what you have been working on or can trigger reminders of what happened on a given day.

Here are my 3 tips for successful time recording (and making your manager happy):

  • Timeliness is key to accuracy – record your time as you go, daily at worst, if you leave it too long you will forgot what you did in your busy days
  • More is more – add the detail, write notes about what you did, you never know when those notes might be useful
  • Ask for the right code – if in doubt ask, don’t just make it up, fixing your time will take longer than asking for the correct code to use

Now time recording systems are not all created equally but that’s the topic of another blog. Enjoy renewed success through accurate and timely time recording. Vic.