As an effective professional, you know that it’s important to keep track of your own time. Whether you track to bill clients or optimize your productivity, your time tracking app is a critical part of your daily software stack. It’s a powerful tool to stay organized, focused, and productive while you work.
But like all software applications, your time tracking app is only effective if you use it properly. If it doesn’t have the right features for your needs, or if you fail to use its features properly, you won’t receive the tool’s total benefits.
According to one survey, 38% of people who track their time still use manual processes like paper time cards and spreadsheets. Only 25% use a dedicated time tracking app. And many of those apps are simple timers that require constant maintenance.
This means that you’re likely making regular errors that disrupt your time tracking efforts. These errors can throw your productivity and client billing into confusion.
Like all software applications, your time tracking app is only effective if you use it properly. Click To Tweet
6 Reasons You’re Failing with Time Tracking Apps
First, let’s point out that it’s good that you’re using a time tracking app. Don’t stop tracking your time just because you haven’t found the perfect system yet. Instead, choose a better tool and/or optimize your workflow to enjoy the full range of benefits of time tracking.
Let’s go over the top reasons you’re struggling with your time tracking app. If you’re like most professionals, you’ve undoubtedly experienced these problems at some point. We’ll also offer a solution for each challenge.
1. You’re juggling multiple projects at the same time
You’re grinding through a task for Client A, but you come to an obstacle, so you email the client for feedback and instructions. While you wait for their reply, you start working on Client B’s project. Eventually Client A replies to your query, so you switch back to their project. Later, Client C interrupts you with an emergency request, so you handle that real quick.
Whether you’re a freelancer or work for an agency, you’re undoubtedly familiar with this kind of workflow. In order to be productive, you have to juggle multiple projects at the same time.
Your time tracking app doesn’t recognize these switches between different projects. Sure, it’s counting your hours, but it doesn’t know what you’re working on. It forces you to either…
- Manually record when you switch projects and for how long. But if you have to keep your own record, why are you using the time tracking app in the first place?
- Remember how your time was divided at the end of the day. Obviously this is prone to errors and miscalculations that could cost you money or over-bill your clients.
If you decide not to track your time while multitasking, your productivity will fall by 45%. So a time tracking app is essential.
One solution is to stop multitasking. Work on one project at a time, without allowing yourself to be interrupted by other matters. Start a project and work straight to the end without even glancing at your email.
Obviously, that’s not very realistic. What happens if you have to consult with the client before moving forward? Or if you’re waiting on someone else to provide their portion of the project? What happens if you just need a break from one task?
The only feasible alternative is to use a time tracking app like Timing that automatically logs everything you do on a second-by-second basis. At the end of the day, you can look back through your log to see how much time you spent in each application.
Furthermore, Timing will automatically determine what projects and filters an app activity belongs to once you set up some rules. For instance, you could assign any instance of using Illustrator to your design client and any instance of using Zoom to your coaching client. You could switch back and forth as much as you like and Timing will keep tabs on your time
2. You forget to turn the app on or off
It’s just about time to break for lunch. You tab over to your time tracking app to turn it off for your break, only to realize you never turned the app on in the first place! You spent the whole morning working on various projects without tracking your time.
So you smash the “on” button and get back to work. The end of the day comes and with a satisfied sigh, you push away from your desk and embark on your other responsibilities. Next morning, you sit at your desk and (remembering yesterday’s error) go to toggle your time tracking app on, only to realize it’s been running all night! What time did you quit yesterday?
If you forget to turn your time tracking app on or off at the right times, you lose the ability to accurately track your time. Now you’ll never know exactly how much time you spent on each project, how much to bill your clients, and whether you were as productive as you could have been. You’ve just defeated the purpose of using a time tracking app!
Naturally, time tracking apps can’t provide any benefits if they aren’t running or if they’re running when you aren’t working. Toggling the app on and off is one of the biggest failure points for freelancers and productivity-seekers.
In fact, employers who instruct their teams to use time tracking software struggle with this as well. You can’t track someone’s time if they aren’t using the tracker properly.
You could set reminders, alarms, and notes for yourself to remember to toggle the app on or off, but that’s just one more thing to do. But what if you forget to set the reminder? Relying on your ability to remember leaves you vulnerable to mistakes.
The solution, therefore, is to use a time tracking app like Timing that doesn’t require you to do anything to track your time. It’s always running in the background, quietly logging everything you do. The dashboard keeps you informed as to how you spend your time, even on non-work tasks.
This means you can safely work at any time without worrying about your time tracking software. And you’ll always be able to look back to examine your activity for any time period.
3. You forget to clock missing hours at the end of work
You’re exhausted after working a long day. When it’s time to quit, you close your Mac and leave your desk. The next morning, you review the previous day’s activity. Oh no! Your time tracking app only recorded six hours. What happened to the other two? Did you start it too late? Did you mistakenly turn it off at some point during the day?
In cases like these, it’s a struggle to retroactively catalog your activity, especially if you’re trying to remember what you did the previous day. Were you on a phone call? Did you zone out while writing code? Were you distracted by your Facebook feed?
Even worse, this can happen at the end of the week, leaving you completely oblivious to how you spent your time. Imagine logging off at the end of Friday with only 32 hours you can account for. Frustrating!
These instances aren’t just frustrating. They create confusion in your time tracking efforts. Your options are either:
A. Don’t track the time. This makes it hard to accurately optimize your productivity. It also means you can’t reliably bill clients for the time.
B. Guess how your time was spent. With this approach, there’s a good chance you’ll pollute your productivity data with inaccuracies. If you track your time to bill clients, there’s a good chance you’ll bill them incorrectly, which may cost you those relationships.
Keeping your time tracking app accurate is hard if you’re forced to rely on your own memory. You need a tool that tracks your activity automatically; something that doesn’t require you to toggle it on or off. That’s exactly what you get with Timing.
Furthermore, Timing’s timeline gives you a complete overview of your day, letting you quickly see what you worked on at what times. You can assign activities to certain projects to keep your work organized. Timing will even make automatic suggestions to help you assign whole blocks to specific projects.
Furthermore, you can set a notification in Timing to remind you to review your day the next morning. This forces you to assess your previous day before too much time passes. This way, if there are any corrections to make, you’ll still have enough memory to make them.
4. You neglect to track small tasks
A client asks you to perform a small task. “This should only take 10 minutes,” you think to yourself. “I won’t bother to track this.” When all is said and done, it took 20 minutes, but you aren’t concerned about the time.
Later in the day, you’re interrupted by another small task that’s “not worth tracking.” This one should only take five minutes, but it actually required 15. At the end of the day, you decide to spend 15 minutes preparing for the morning. Again, you neglect to track it. By the end of the day, you spent 50 minutes on unaccounted work.
It’s easy to dismiss little tasks as unimportant, especially if you can’t predict how many you’ll have to deal with in a given day. They can add up to a serious amount of time that can disrupt your time tracking. Most professionals spend about 28% of their time just checking and answering email. We spend up to four hours a week on unproductive tasks.
Consider the scenario above: If you bill clients, that’s nearly an hour of work you won’t be paid for. If you track time to optimize your own productivity, that unaccounted time will make you appear less productive than you really are. Most importantly, you’ll never feel like you’re earning your potential.
Naturally, the only way to account for everything you do during the day is to log everything you do, but that’s a huge pain to do manually. Are you really going to make a note for every little thing you do during the day? Won’t that add a lot of work to your day?
In this case, you need to use a time tracking that accounts for every single second of your day, even if you quickly swap to small tasks. It should record everything, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, because it all adds up to time and money.
Timing’s automatic time tracking is the best solution here. It records everything you do, even if you only do it for a few seconds. At the end of the day (or week or month) you get a complete picture of your work. You can review the timeline at any point to see how many small tasks you handled throughout the day.
5. You forget to switch your tracking when moving to the next task
“Hmm,” you say to yourself one day. “I don’t think I spent six hours on that design project. Why did my time tracking app record so much?”
This happens all the time to people who use time tracking apps that require them to manually manually record their tasks. You’re in the groove, working at a comfortable and productive pace. You’re so focused, in fact, that you move from one task to the other without logging the change in your time tracking app. When you check the record, the first task appears to have taken far longer than it did and the second task was forgotten entirely.
The root of the cause here isn’t your own forgetfulness. No one wants to think about logging their time as they work. That’s an unnecessary distraction. The issue is that your time tracking app doesn’t doesn’t identify the changes in your work on its own.
For instance, let’s say you’re working on a new design in Photoshop. You finish the design and send it off to the client. Then you move to your next task: Editing a video file. With most time tracking apps, it’s your responsibility to notify the app that you’re finished with your design work and starting your video work. But if you forget to make the change, the app has no idea what you’re actually working on.
You need a time tracking app that logs exactly what happens on your Mac at all times. This helps you distinguish the different types of work you perform. Timing’s smart timeline shows you exactly what you did at any given time, including which app, document, or website you were using.
6. You don’t collect enough detail about how you spend your time
You’re browsing your time tracking app to review how you spent your week. On Monday, you spent 45 minutes in Google Analytics, but you neglected to document which client you were working for. Or perhaps your time tracking software doesn’t give the option to assign blocks of time to a project or client.
On Tuesday, you spent four hours on the “Acme Inc project,” but that’s a big block of time. How was it broken up? How much time did the slide deck take to build? How long did it take to send emails to stakeholders? You just don’t have enough information!
Failing to document enough detail about how you spend your time never feels like a mistake at the time. You may assume you’ll remember everything later. Or you might think a short and simple note will be enough to jog your memory. Or you may not realize some detail is important at the time.
Like many of the challenges on this list, this issue comes down to confusion. Without accurate information, you don’t really know how you spent your time. Maybe a brief note is enough to bill the right client, but you’ll never be able to evaluate yourself. Did you work at a reasonable pace? Did you spend the same amount of time on one task as you did on similar tasks?
The solution is to simply record more information about each block of time you spend working. You could do this on a scrap of paper near your computer, an open Google Doc, or by adding lots of notes to your time tracking software.
But what about the two minutes you broke off work to check Facebook? Or the minute you spent reading a non-work news article? Should you make a note for every instance like this? If so, it would add a lot of time to your work day.
Naturally, the best course is to use time tracking software that collects all of this information for you. Timing monitors everything you do on your computer, including every app and every website. That “Acme Inc project” wouldn’t be a nebulous block of time. You would know exactly how long you spent on the slide deck and emailing those stakeholders.
The Right Time Tracking App for You
Tracking your time is important, whether you do it to bill clients appropriately or to optimize your own schedule. The problems we outlined above make tracking your time challenging, so be sure to implement our recommended solutions, which includes using the right time tracking app.
You need a tool that works for you, running quietly in the background all the time, monitoring your activity so you always have as much information as you need to make smart decisions.
Timing is a simple way to stay on top of your time without timers. Whether you work from home or in an office, review how you spend your time and how productive you are. Download Timing today.