Time tracking with Toggl

The pie chart for this XKCD Comic is me all over, and I often feel as though I’m turning into the procrastination monkey

Time tracking is one of those things that I just hate doing for a few different reasons.

  1. I spend more time trying to remember how I spent my time then doing something productive with it
  2. It is often done in the wrong way
  3. I switch between lots of tasks often

The wrong way to do time tracking is making staff time to ensure that they do 37.5 hours a week. It doesn’t work. Ever. They will just time 37.5 hours a week and do work for 15 hours…. or they’ll time 37.5 hours and do 50 hours. The effort of timesheets in this situation is simply adding 7.5 to every day…. pointless.

What you should be doing is not caring if they hit 37.5 hours a week and care that they’re enjoying their work and delivering what you need them to deliver. It they’re not enjoying it, fix that problem or they’ll leave….

Instead timing should be about being better at estimating the amount of time it takes to perform a task. This allows you to

  1. Accurately quote projects; and more importantly
  2. Allocate the right number of tasks to ensure team members only work the time you employee them to work

This means that your team can time the tasks that they are doing while they’re doing them, and if they don’t hit the full week then they have the chance to do some research and improve upon their skills. It also means that if they do hit more than the required time you can take action by reducing their tasks the following week, giving them some time in lieu or other reward.

Here’s where toggl comes in

For me toggl does a wonderful job of tracking what I’m doing even when I forget to set the timer. It looks at what applications I’m using and, seeing as it’s usually a web browser or a word document, it tells me the name of the site/document I was on so that I can easily allocate the time at a later date.

It also provides me with lovely weekly breakdowns so that on Friday afternoon I can add my timesheets for the week in 20 minutes rather than an hour….. which leaves more time for relaxing desk beers.

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