Kayla Matthews, a productivity-obsessed writer from Pittsburgh, has been writing for nearly a decade about self-improvement and business efficiency. You can see her articles on sites like MakeUseOf, Inc.com, Information Age, and her blog, ProductivityTheory.com.
When you wake up every day, you know what you can expect based on your schedule. You might need to take notes at meetings or present to your team. Blocking off time for big events is easy, but how good are you when it comes to narrowing down what you’ll do in shorter periods?
Imagine you have two hours to work on assignments before your next meeting. You might tackle your duties by jumping in and not stopping for breaks, but then time slips by. Before you know it, you’ve barely accomplished anything and you have to leave.
This is one of the common ways people realize they aren’t as productive as they’d like to be. If you think that might be you, here are 10 signs that prove you need to start tracking your time. Once you try a few of these tips and start tracking time, you’ll breeze through your daily schedule and accomplish more than ever before.
1. You Feel Like Time Slips Away
Maybe you’ve always been told you’re someone who works hard and doesn’t give up until you finish a project. Thanks to your incredible work ethic, you dive into your work right away every morning.
Before you know it, you have to clock out and you’ve finished a major assignment, but you also meant to get started on a few others. While you’re focused, time slips away from you.
You might be used to getting into what’s known as “deep work.” It’s an incredibly productive state of mind, but it’s easy to get lost in what you do. Tracking your time will be your way of interrupting yourself after periods of deep work so you come up for air and look at your schedule.
You can block off time for different activities or adjust those blocks as needed every time you pause to put your work down. Time tracking will give you back the hours that would normally fly by, so you can keep your concentration and your productivity at an all-time high.
2. You Feel Unfocused
Busy people know that when you have too much on your plate, you can feel unfocused. Being overwhelmed makes it easy for your brain to check out and cruise on autopilot, which doesn’t help your productivity. Instead, retrain your thought patterns to respond to a block schedule based on time-tracking instead of notifications. Mute your phone for a bit of extra help and put it out of sight so you’re not tempted to flip through emails or social media feeds.
3. You Miss Deadlines
When you feel rushed or pressured with a heavy workload, you may miss deadlines because the time estimates for everything you have on your plate right now are way off. Time-tracking will get you started on a plan to get everything done on time, so you can trust your schedule and not worry about the ticking clock.
4. You Never Have a Weekly Plan
Some people prefer to walk into work without a weekly plan. You might tell people you work better under pressure, but do you really? Operating with an unplanned schedule doesn’t give you a great idea of what you need to accomplish and what’s coming up. When you time-track, you’ll learn which kinds of work take longer than others, so you can quickly form a weekly plan that helps you thrive.
5. You Want Accountability
Every day for you might start with a plan and the best intentions, but you never follow through. If that sounds like you, consider boosting your accountability by tracking your time. Write everything down on a paper calendar or try a dedicated time-tracking app to see how you spend your days and where you can make positive changes to increase productivity.
6. You Struggle With Billing Clients
Many different professions bill clients by the hour, but it’s hard to do that if you’re not sure how you spend your time. Time-tracking will record your work by the number of hours, minutes and even seconds you used for a project. Your clients will appreciate the exact accounting of your time, and you’ll earn more because every minute of work gets billed.
7. You’re Always Chasing Profitable Projects
Freelancers often feel like they could be working on something more significant, if only they had the time. Before you start juggling projects for the day, figure out how you’d like to track your time to decide which projects aren’t profitable. In the coming weeks, you can narrow your focus down to what makes you enough money to pay your bills and leave room for professional growth.
8. You Don’t Have a Record
If you interact with your clients when it comes time for payment, you must keep a record of your work. Time-tracking will show them exactly how you spent your time and prove they’re paying for the work you claim to have accomplished. It will also come in handy if you receive an audit request. You’ll already have detailed records waiting in saved files or folders. Match your tracked timesheets with those kept through your payment system for easy coordinating and reporting.
9. You Need Self-Care Opportunities
As you look over your calendar and begin your day, you already feel like you’ve worked a full load. What you’re feeling is called burnout, which means you’ve spent too much time on work and not enough on yourself.
After you get in the habit of figuring out how you spend your time, you’ll pinpoint the best moments to take breaks. An easy way to get into the habit of taking time for yourself is to split up your schedule using the Pomodoro technique.
This practice encourages people to take a five-minute break every 25 minutes. The 30-minute chunks are called Pomodoros. After four of these, you take a 15 to 20 minute break. It’s been proven to enhance energy levels and productivity to help people recover from burnout without keeping them away from their work.
Finding short breaks will give you time for the self-care that’s part of achieving work-life balance. Once you know how to do that, you can chase your educational dreams through online courses or use your extra time to develop your career without pushing past your limits.
10. You Want to Improve
It’s smart to always look at how you can improve. Review your time-tracking data to discover where your strengths and weaknesses lie. You might spend too much of your day daydreaming and not enough on developing your skills.
Organizing your schedule by reviewing it will immediately begin your professional improvement and make you a stronger person.
Give Time Tracking a Try
Time-tracking is easy for anyone to start. Use online software, written schedule or even a time-tracking app to get an accurate picture of how you spend your day. You’ll begin to enjoy things like greater productivity, better client relationships and improved self-care habits.
Try tracking your time and see how it can help you, without requiring more effort or focus than you already need for your busy life.