Why Is Time Tracking Important and How To Track Your Time
It’s no great secret that understanding how to track your time accurately can help your business and organization see massive improvements in both productivity and profitability. Yet, a few managers are still a bit hesitant to employ time tracking software for fear it will either be too complex to implement or create bad feelings among staff.
In reality, those objections couldn’t be further from the truth.
Far from being authoritarian and stifling creativity, properly implemented time tracking software actually gives teams a greater sense of control.
And as for complex software and IT integrations?
There are hundreds of App and Cloud based solutions that can help businesses accurately track time, but the simplest to implement (and often the most effective) are time tracking “add-ons” that, as the name suggests, can be quickly integrated into software that you already user, for example Microsoft’s ubiquitous Outlook Calendar.
The Advantages of Using Microsoft Outlook to Track Time
In case you hadn’t noticed, Microsoft Outlook is everywhere.
It’s by far the most popular email client and calendar solution, and your staff are almost certainly already familiar with how it works. That gives Outlook a couple of advantages over bespoke time tracking solutions:
- Your staff already use it, so there’s no steep learning curve.
- They’re less likely to forget to input time tracking data, compared to using a standalone app/program.
- You won’t have to pay for expensive software training.
- You won’t interrupt your team’s current workflow or routine.
Why is Time Tracking Important?
OK, so we’ve established that time tracking software doesn’t need to be difficult or costly to implement, so now lets find out why time tracking is important, and the benefits that it can bring to your business and organization:
Improve Your Quotes and Proposals
Decent time tracking add-ons always include the option to collate data from your various departments, teams and projects, and export it into detailed analytical charts and files, as well as of course build-in reports.
Once you know how to track your time, keeping a record of how long your services take to complete and how much they cost is simple. Having this kind of data can be absolutely invaluable during sales pitches and proposals.
First, you will be able to more accurately forecast the real cost of each job. That means that you can provide more competitive quotes. Secondly, prospective clients are more likely to trust a company willing to provide a detailed breakdown of exactly how long a project will take and why it will cost the stated amount.
In short, knowing how to track your time can make your business look more professional.
Provide Extremely Accurate Billing Data
Another great feature offered by a good Outlook time tracking add-in is the ability to assign a price, or hourly rate to a certain type of task (or a specific member of staff). That member of staff can also use the software to accurately track expenses and materials.
That means your staff will never lose track of the time they have spent working on a project, and your company’s billable hours will be super-accurate and completely accountable.
Even if you bill your clients on a per-project basis, reporting your time correctly can give you an extremely accurate breakdown of your profit margins.
Manage Your Project Pipeline More Efficiently
Once you’ve figured out how to track your time and integrated time tracking software into your company workflow, you will begin to gain valuable insights into how different types of projects fit into a busy work schedule.
This type of accurate forecasting means you’ll be able to arrange projects in order of difficulty and even adjust schedules on-the-fly to compensate for upcoming cashflow issues or simply better project management. You’ll also be able to alter deadlines and re-allocate staff hours well before issues actually arise.
Check Your Team’s Progress During a Project
Ever had that feeling that once a job has left your desk or a project has been given the green light, it goes into a Bermuda Triangle where communication is scarce and information eerily lacking?
Knowing how to track your time (and that of your staff!) instantly solves this age-old problem. If team leaders and members are keeping track of their hours and expenses, it’s trivially easy for you to check the data and make your own instant calculations of how close they are to completing and signing off a project.
How To Track Your Time – Set More Realistic Timelines and Deadlines
So why is time tracking important? Clients absolutely hate missed deadlines. That means soured relationships and an unprofessional image.
If you regularly find milestones and deadlines being missed, you need to know how to report your hours more accurately and ensure team leaders and staff follow suit. That does not necessarily mean monitoring your staff and chastising them: As a CEO or manager, you might be being a little over-ambitious with the amount of projects you’re putting into the top of the funnel.
Time tracking is a great way of helping teams understand the time constraints involved in both internal and external projects, making it less likely they will oversell or promise turnaround times that are unrealistic.
Compare Efficiency Over Time
Using data compiled during time tracking to accurately alter schedules and set more realistic timelines is extremely powerful, but it’s actually possible to get even more meta than that when it comes to improved company efficiency.
Once you’ve learned how to track your time and projects accurately, you will not only have accurate data on which types of projects demand the most attention and which ones could use a little improvement, you’ll also be able to track the changes themselves. That effectively means you’ll be able to make decisions based on split-testing different ways of working, ultimately leading to even greater improvements in efficiency.
Raise your Rates and Pick Better Customers
If you run a company that sells products or services for fixed prices, you’ll be well aware of the type of client that always demands a little extra, and constantly phones or emails requesting changes and alterations to their project.
Why is time tracking important in this instance?
Simple: When these difficult clients are “hidden” by inaccurate time tracking, it can be hard to get a handle on just how much time (and money) they’re costing your business.
When you’ve successfully mastered time reporting, it can often be shocking to find out just how many extra hours “Company X” demand from you each and every month. Nobody is suggesting that you fire your own clients, but you will almost certainly be tempted to significantly raise your prices after realizing what they’re doing to your bottom-line.
Put an End to Mission Creep
Mission creep and demanding clients go hand in hand.
Knowing how to track your time not only allows you to deal with those demanding clients, it also allows you to tackle the problem at your own end: It can often be tricky to see exactly which team member is suffering with a huge extra workload due to a poorly thought out decision or difficult client further up the chain.
In some instances, management don’t have a great understanding of the demands they’re putting on staff, especially in some industries. This lack of understanding is usually why projects veer off in strange directions and client expectations aren’t met.
Identify Areas for Improvement
If time tracking hasn’t yielded improvements on a project-by-project basis, it might be time to take a deep dive into the individual team itself and identify which member is struggling with their workload. If certain individuals really stand out as really struggling, it’s possible to use time tracking to analyze where they’re struggling, and even change up job roles or offer training, to achieve a smoother running operation.
Instead of disciplining the entire team, you might actually find that swapping the make-up of certain teams and departments yields massive improvements in efficiency without needing to chastise or embarrass individual employees.
Deal with Client Queries
Clients always like to phone or email to ask about job status updates. Rather than having to resort to avoidance tactics, time tracking enables managers to instantly pull up the data they need to give accurate updates on how far along a project is from completion.
Track Your Real Profits
Time tracking is an excellent tool for visibly checking whether a job is turning a decent profit or not. Do you need to focus on marketing a new type of product? Are you over promising and ploughing time (and money) into jobs that simply don’t pay very well?
Time tracking gives valuable insights about your pricing structure and even the cost of expenses and materials at every stage of your projects.
Keep Track of Your Team Happiness
Why is time tracking important for team happiness?
Because an organized team is a happy team.
Time tracking is not about tracking your staff’s every move. It’s about empowering them to properly plan their own deadlines and workloads, so that you can accurately forecast how long jobs will take and make sure you’re not over (or under!) exerting them.
For project managers within the teams themselves, having detailed time logs can help them assign work to the most capable members of staff and ensure that hard work and overall team performance gets properly rewarded.
Once staff get used to logging time in their Outlook Calendar, you might be surprised to find that they actually enjoy the experience and push themselves to achieve greater productivity.
There’s no doubt that learning how to track your time efficiently using time tracking software can yield enormous improvements in productivity and even profits. With the help of simple add-ons for the popular calendar built into Microsoft Office, time tracking needn’t be costly or difficult to implement either!
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