How To Use Time Tracking To Beat the 9-to-5 Grind and Work Fewer Hours
Conventional wisdom has told us that working from 9 to 5 is how you support yourself and your family, build wealth, and save for retirement. But things have changed.
Younger workers, especially millennials, are looking for more out of their occupations than a steady income and a 401k. People want work-life balance, flexibility, and jobs that combine skill, passion, and purpose.
With the advent of digital nomadism and cloud-based systems, working when you want and where you want is more common than ever. In fact, by 2027, freelancers are anticipated to make up a majority of the U.S. workforce (!)
In theory, freelancers have the ability to mold their own schedules, pursue their own clients, and work exactly where they want — whether that’s on their living room couch, at a local coffee shop, or heck, at a downtown brewery.
That all sounds heavenly to us. But is it realistic to work as a freelancer, and still work fewer than 8 hours a day?
In this article, we’re taking a look at how freelancers can use time tracking to help them shorten their working hours, while still achieving the same high-quality work and building careers they love.
The Case for Working Fewer Hours
Before we dive into time-tracking, let’s consider the burning question that some of you may be asking: Is working fewer than eight hours a day a good idea?
While a 40-hour workweek has long been accepted as the most logical way to accomplish a job productively, studies have shown us a different reality.
In fact, research has shown that over the course of an eight-hour workday, the average worker spends only two hours and 53 minutes actually working. Yikes!
Other research shows that people who work for 35 hours a week are half as productive as people who work for 20 hours.
Conclusion? The 9-to-5 grind is far from being optimal for producing good, efficient work.
On the contrary, workers who have the freedom and flexibility to work when and where they want are potentially able to accomplish more than they ever could in an office — in fewer hours.
But in order to get to this sweet spot, freelancers need to be strategic with their most valuable resource: time.
Time Tracking: The Key to Increased Productivity, Efficiency, and Freedom
What are the secrets to achieving a shorter, more flexible workweek?
The answer lies in increasing your productivity and efficiency, helping you to get the same amount of work done in less time — and to potentially make room for more profitable activities and income streams.
But in order to reach this goal, you’ll need a tool to help you measure your time usage.
Using Time Tracking to Gain Insight Into Your Time Usage
One of the most valuable aspects of a time-tracking tool is that it gives you accurate insight into how many hours and minutes you’re actually spending on specific projects or clients. Time tracking also lets you know how long you really require to complete certain tasks.
Let’s say you are a freelance copywriter, and you create and deploy a weekly newsletter for one client. Your rough deadline is 5 PM on Tuesday evening.
By using time-tracking, you may notice that one week, the newsletter takes you the whole day to write, format, and deploy. But the next week, you’ve spent the morning working on a different project, and you only have the afternoon to complete the newsletter.
And yet, you are still able to create killer copy and efficiently and effectively send that baby out.
This insight teaches a valuable lesson: The newsletter takes you as long as it needs to. If you have the whole day to work on something, you’ll take the whole darn day. And you might be checking social media, email, and chatting with friends in between.
But if you’ve only got the afternoon to complete a task, then you’re going to remain laser-focused and hyper-efficient in order to get it done — and still deliver the excellent results your client expects.
Or, perhaps you’re a social media manager. A time-tracking tool can help you to see that one particular client seems to drain a good portion of your workweek. Let’s say that this client isn’t particularly high-return (read: high pay). Is this client worth keeping? Alternatively, how can you reduce time spent on needless communication, or automate tasks required for this client?
Timing is a time-tracking tool that gives you an end-of-day overview of exactly where you spent your minutes and hours, so that you can gain these kinds of valuable insights. Using Timing, you can even view your week, month, or year to give you a larger-scale picture of your time usage.
In any case, Timing can help you improve your speed or efficiency at certain tasks. With more time in your schedule, you can take on more clients, develop another income stream, or spend time on a hobby. Timing will also help you to see how your time usage for specific clients or projects stacks up against the related income, thus giving you deeper insight into how you might increase your overall revenue.
Time Tracking Can Help You to Monitor Your Personal Productivity
Timing will help you to see how productive you’ve remained throughout your workday, in turn helping you to identify time frames where you are more susceptible to distraction.
Timing’s Overview tab shows you the hours during which you were most productively engaged. In other words, you’ll notice when you were focused on high-value tasks. For example, if you find that you are more productive in the mornings, then you may want to adjust your schedule and start working early. Doing so can ultimately help you get more done, more efficiently.
Using Timing, you can also view your most productive workdays. For example, if you find that you are most productive on Tuesdays — and less productive on Fridays — then you may want to choose Tuesdays to complete difficult tasks… and leave Fridays for rest and relaxation.
Time Tracking Can Help You To Stay on Task
One less conventional usage of an automatic time-tracking tool like Timing is to use a start-and-stop timer for specific projects. Timing’s “Create a Task” feature will allow you to set a timer for a new task, helping you to focus on the project at hand so that you can finish in a timely manner.
Finally, Timing helps you to remain focused and accountable because it tracks all of your hours and minutes. In other words, if you spend two hours catching up on the news instead of working, Timing won’t let you forget about that misstep. When you check your “Overview” tab at the end of the day, you’ll see your poor use of time displayed right alongside your more productive working hours.
Timing For Non-Freelancers
Let’s say you are still a full-time office employee, but you’re dying to work remotely (and potentially work fewer hours).
Good news! Time tracking is for you too.
Timing allows you to export your time usage in detailed reports that can be used as leverage with your management. Showing proof that you are working efficiently and productively can help you to make a fair case for working remotely. Click To Tweet At the very least, your boss may allow you to go remote at least a few days a week.
Or, if you work at a company with more flexible hours, time-tracking can simply help you get your work done faster, so that you can leave earlier or come later.
A Better Work-Life Balance and Higher Income
Regardless of where you work, time tracking can help you become significantly more productive and efficient. By using this tool strategically, you’ll maximize your effort, focus, and income-making ability, with the added perk of having more quality use of life’s most precious commodity: time.