Today I published a post on my other blog, http://www.Solowingnow.com. It was about journaling, and it got me to thinking about how I have started keeping data on my work life also. I learned – way back in the day – about billable hours, and believe me, I was more than happy to give up daily time sheets when I started working for government! But the habit has stayed with me to a degree, and I have found it very useful to keep at least a work-in-progress log. A journal isn’t quite the way to do this, so I got creative, calling on my past experience as a paralegal to fulfill my now-need to bill out my time.
As I get this new business up and running, there are a couple of lessons from those good old days. One is that it is important to know if I am pricing my services appropriately. This means I want a way to keep track of how much time I am spending on a given job.
Another is that I want to know if I am spending my time on the right things, in priority, as I have more time than paying work still. I know I have to invest my time marketing, for example, but I am not sure if I am doing enough or not enough, and if what else I spend my time on is productive at all.
A third reason I want to track my time is to make sure I am getting done what I need to get done, be where I am supposed to be when I am supposed to be there, and look for ways I can save time or get double value from what I do. A calendar, obviously, and who wants multiple places to look for info.
I have tried various digital and analog planner systems, from Day Timer to Covey to Gillio and FiloFax. Thanks to my friend Karine Tovmassian at plannerology.com, I am getting closer to my ideal calendar/ planner/journal/notes collection method. She showed me several ways she keeps up with her own appointments etc., and although I haven’t found what I wanted, I was inspired to create my own system, at least for now.
John Maxwell says that you can tell a lot about a person by looking at their calendar or appointment book, and their checkbook. His question to himself is “have I spent my time and my money on things I have said are important?” So for business purposes, I decided I wanted to answer this for myself.
I designed my Time Tracker as a snapshot of where I am spending my two most valuable resources: time and money. In the order I think I should be allocating my time as a start-up business, I have chunked out my primary work areas: administrative stuff, marketing and sales, professional development, billable work, and personal and home tasks. Billable is in the bottom third because I’m just getting going. Marketing is near the top because I know I must spend more time there than on most other things. Professional development is in the middle, partly because it is where I would love to spend my time but where I have to be careful about not becoming a seminar-junkie. Besides, it costs more money to attend workshops and conferences than it does to develop my content right now, thus Marketing is a higher priority.
A sample of my time tracker master can be found here. If you have something that works better for you and you want to share it, I’d love to see it. My results for the past two weeks show that I am spending about 9-10 hours per day on work-related business, and of that, about 3 hours are spent on administrative work, about 2 are spent on marketing (NOT enough), 5 are on prof development, and 0 billable work done. The reason I need to look at it over a period of time is because last week was Thanksgiving, and the week before that I attended a District Toastmasters conference, at which I was a contestant in a speech contest, the purpose of which was to increase my visibility (read: marketing) in this District. Uff-da!
So all in all, my homegrown time tracking system is off to a good start. I may not like what it’s telling me right now, but I will bet that the influence on me will be positive as time goes on, and as I eventually shift from being a start-up business to an emerging one.