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Aug 16

How to Improve Project Management Using Time Tracking Tools

Reading Time: 6 mins

”How quickly can you deliver this?” ”Can we have it by yesterday?” ”What do you need from us, and by when?”

Anyone who has ever had to manage a project, knows that some questions can seem impossible to answer. Project management is where it all comes together: people, creativity, budget, resources and goals. What weaves them together is time. Keeping them on the same track, so they arrive at the same destination before the deadline hits.

But learning how to manage time better is difficult. Every project is different. It’s hard to know what things will take more time upfront.

While you can’t predict the future, you can learn from the past. With time tracking tools, you’ll be able to do that.

By understanding how and when to use these tools, you can more easily stay on top of deadlines, budget restrictions, and other important aspects of any project.

Let’s start by looking at some popular time tracking tools to give you a better idea of the possibilities, before diving into some time-tracking best practices.

What time tracking tool is right for me?

There are a few different types of time tracking tools available, so it’s important to choose one that will work best for your needs. For businesses, there are many great options that can help you keep track of employee hours, project deadlines, and more. For freelancers, time tracking can be a great way to keep tabs on your own productivity and progress. This means there’s no time tracking tool for everyone, but there are tons of great options out there. Let’s look at some!

Agendrix Time Clock Telephone Timesheets

If it’s important to you that your employees fill out their timesheets, but you don’t want to add an unnecessary extra tool to their workday, consider Agendrix! It solves the time tracking challenge by connecting any phone line or mobile device and its software to seamlessly record work hours.

Clockify

Clockify is one of the most popular time tracking tools out there, thanks to its simplicity. With a simple plugin, you can always start and end tasks in your browser and give a quick description. It’s also connected to tools like Trello and Asana, to keep tabs on which project you’re working on.

My Hours

With My Hours you get detailed reporting on the tasks that have been keeping you busy, and it will really transform the way you budget for projects. You can connect tasks and tracked time directly to your rates and other things, to see how much money you’re making each minute.

Toggl Track

Famous for its simplicity and straight-forward features, Toggl Track is a great choice for freelancers or businesses who want to get started with time tracking in a employee-friendly way. Remember: the best time tracking tools, take up the least of your time.

How to choose the right time tracking tool

You’ll quickly find that there are more time tracking tools on the market than you’ll ever need. Here’s how to filter through them:

  • Features: what’s nice to have for you and your team, and what’s absolutely crucial? Cross off any tools that don’t hit the bare minimum, no matter how many ‘fun’ features they have.
  • Ease of use: you want your time tracker to fit into your day seamlessly. Go for one that has an interface you can quickly do the things you need to do in.
  • Integration with other tools: chances are you are using other tools, from Slack to Monday and everything in between. Switching between them to make sure time tracking is on will only slow you down, so look for a tool that is integrated with your favorite tools.
  • Price: there are many free time trackers on the market, luckily. But if you’re looking to use time tracking in a super serious way, you might need access to premium or paid features. Set a budget for yourself and keep in mind that if your company grows in size, you might need to pay more.
  • Reporting: it needs to be just as easy to see where time has gone, as it is to track it. Have a look at what the reporting features look like in a tool before getting started to see if it makes sense to you.

What do we mean with time tracking?

Time tracking isn’t just about who’s clocking in and out. It’s about keeping tabs on what’s happening within working hours. Sometimes even to an extremely detailed level, depending on your goals.

The time tracking we’ll be talking about in this article zooms in on how long you spend on a certain task on a day, a certain project or within a certain program you use.

This information will help businesses and freelancers alike to get a better idea of what takes up the most time (often, you’ll be surprised). That has some major benefits.

What are the benefits of time tracking?

It might sound an awful lot like micromanaging, but time tracking can actually be a valuable asset in any project, when used correctly.

Time tracking helps your future projects run smoothly

Time tracking doesn’t just help you stay on top of the project you’re working on now: it’s a great way to perform better in future projects, too. Time tracking is a way to help you stay on top of the budget and resources for your project. You can use time trackers to understand how much time different parts of the project take, and then plan future projects better based on that information.

Time tracking can increase profitability

Time tracking also helps you send out more realistic quotes and thus make more money. You’ll learn better how long certain tasks actually take, which will prevent you from underquoting a certain type of project.

In the same way, time tracking can help you get a better idea of what tasks are costing you money and where a lot of your time and resources are going, so you can improve on that.

Time tracking can improve productivity

Time tracking can also save you time. It can show weaknesses in your daily workflow and help improve them. It can also serve as a major wake-up call, if you see in the tool how much money you actually spend on things like meetings or media websites to ”catch up”.

Time tracking can help you communicate better

Whether you’re a freelancer talking to clients, or a manager having a sit down with your employees: time tracking data can help make the conversation more productive. You simply have data to back up what you’re trying to explain.

Let’s say you want to have a chat with an employee on their productivity. Diving into their time tracking tools together will make the talk more actionable and less vague. You can set clear goals and come back later to see if any progress has been made.

Point out to employees that time tracking is not a way of surveillance to keep tabs on whether or not they’re working hard enough. Make sure they understand it’s a tool to help everyone work more effectively, and could potentially even lead to shorter work, by cutting out what isn’t necessary.

Time tracking also helps you communicate about deadlines or progress. If you see in your time tracking tool that you’re losing time on certain tasks, maybe because a client didn’t deliver content on a set day, you can explain this and find a solution using your time tracking data.

When should you be time tracking?

As a freelancer, it could be interesting to track everything you do in a working day for a while. It will help you see how much time you spend on each client, on admin, on growing your business and scrolling through memes. 

This information will help you set the right rates for your billable hours, allows you to set goals and might even give your concentration levels a much needed big boost.

For companies and agencies it might not be a smart idea to ask their employees to track everything they do during the day. So, set up clear boundaries as for when it is required to track time, and how detailed it should be. 

Between clocking in and clocking out, you could ask employees to focus on the time they actually consider productive work (aka: not during meetings or chats with coworkers) and see how they use their time on a project.

If time tracking is done often enough over a long enough period of time, you get to spot trends and adjust and make plans accordingly.

Time to start tracking

If you haven’t been consistent with your time tracking habits or simply have never given it a second thought, try it for at least two weeks to see if you can spot any patterns or unexpected time-eaters. Even if it shows you how to save only one hour a week, it’ll come down to 52 hours a year: more than a full workweek!

Disclaimer: MoneyMagpie is not a licensed financial advisor and therefore information found here including opinions, commentary, suggestions or strategies are for informational, entertainment or educational purposes only. This should not be considered as financial advice. Anyone thinking of investing should conduct their own due diligence. 

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