It’s important to learn early in your career how to account for time and track it. It’s always going to get away from you, and you won’t ever have enough of it. Just about everyone underestimates how long just about everything takes. Most people don't have a clue how much time they spend on routine tasks, their core job responsibilities, or even how long it takes to get to a client meeting on time. They learn time management tips, have time management tools and apps of course, but tracking their time isn't on their to-do list. Is it on yours? Has it been? Even if you don't itemize your hours for client billing, there's value in knowing all of this. Why? I'm glad you asked. Your Office Mom has two good reasons for all you young professionals and entrepreneurs:
1. People will challenge you
Hell yeah they will. “You’re charging me three hours for this?” or “It's not done yet? I don’t understand how it can take you this long to complete this.” If they don’t know how to do what you do, they can’t possibly understand how long it takes you to do it. That’s where data can help. You can explain “Let me review the process and those charges” or “When you look at my regular responsibilities and factor in the hours I’m estimating for this project, this is realistic. Take a look.” In the big triple constraint scenario of project management, this sets things up quite nicely to lobby for more time, a change in scope or more resources. But, that little scenario aside, you sound confident, proficient and like a badass as in Hey, I know what I'm talking about and I can back it up. :)
2. People depend on you
All kinds of people will depend on you for all kinds of reasons during your entire career. You need to know how long it’s going to take you to get your shit done so they know what to expect from you. Proper planning on your part means your action plans, and target dates mean something other than your half-assed attempt to throw spaghetti on the wall to see if it sticks. Missed deadlines wreak havoc on the next person, the team, the client and your credibility. You don’t want a lack of credibility dogging you. It's not pretty, people.
Want more? Related reading:
25 Best productivity Apps Great suggestions, but check #7 Hours!
11 Essential Time Management Tools for Managers and Their Teams
What to do next
Find a time tracking app (see above) that works for you and start using it. Or, if you want to go manual, just take 2 or 3 workdays and track your time. How long does it take to complete your routine and core job tasks, meetings, calls, and reports? Categorize them and keep track. Then, the next time you get an assignment or start a new project, track those hours as if you had to account for every 15-minute segment to get paid for your time. Save the data for both, but remember to add to it when new job responsibilities come up.
The bottom line
You'll find tracking your time and the information it yields, a useful exercise when the boss, team or client come running for your professional expertise. And, it's a lot easier than cleaning pasta off the wall.
I'll have another time management post soon! In the meantime, what's your favorite time tracking app?