Your Quick-Start Guide to Time Tracking

Your day is over and you have no idea where the time went. This frustrating feeling can be a thing of the past if you use a smart little activity called Time Tracking.

Time Tracking is a simple but valuable time management practice of recording your activities for every minute you work.

It gives you a clear picture of where your time goes, perfect for anyone who wants to increase work productivity. It’s also a valuable resource for hourly-paid consultants and freelancers.

Here’s a quick-start guide for making Time Tracking work for you:

Keep it simple, use your planner

There are many web-based programs and mobile apps you can use, but the most effective system is the one that doesn’t require lengthy boot-up, log-in, or otherwise start-up. The Diary and Work Record page in your paper planner is a perfect location.

Start a new Time Log each day. Whenever you start a new activity, flip open to the Time Log in your planner and jot down the following information:

  • Task
  • Category/client
  • Time in/out
  • Hours spent (round off to nearest 15 minutes)

Here’s a sample Time Log for a half-day of work:

Create a weekly, or project based Time Summary

At week’s end, you can create a separate sheet to be used as your Time Summary. Simply count up the hours spent in each category or project client, including:

  • email
  • breaks (include meals, restroom stops, personal calls)
  • project tasks
  • phone calls
  • procrastination (yes, you have to record that too!)

It’s useful info for evaluating the quality of your time usage, and if necessary can easily be plugged into an Excel spreadsheet, a timesheet or invoice.

10 Reasons you should Time Track

Whether you do it every day or just once a month, Time Tracking requires so little effort for such a huge benefit. It’s a no brainer!

Here are 10 reasons you should Time Track:

  1. Maintain an accountable record for billing your clients
  2. Recognize ways to better budget your time
  3. Speed-up timesheet creation
  4. Keep valuable proof in the event of client invoice disputes
  5. Identify productivity traps you may unwittingly be falling into, like random internet browsing and redundant activities such as email checking
  6. Teach yourself to string together productive blocks of time that focus on the top priorities each day
  7. Become aware of wasteful start-stop-start task interruptions
  8. Record your activities for a promotion or job review
  9. Evaluate client fees projects – important for freelancers or contract workers
  10. Stay motivated – your time log is a visible reminder to avoid procrastination
[photo by Naomi Ibuki]
Day-Timer Spokesperson Jeff Doubek can be reached at [email protected]

2 thoughts on “Your Quick-Start Guide to Time Tracking

  1. Hi Jeff,

    Nice post and I can relate to your solution. No one loves time tracking so keeping it simple is the way forward. We offer a time and project tracking solution (free for freelancers and small business) where we attempt to do just that.

    We have done a few thinks to make the process as seamless and quick as possible.

    – Calendar based time tracking. Just drag the time slot in your calendar to indicate when you did what.
    – Sync with your own calendar. Have your planned items from Google calendar, iCal or Outlook automatically appear and convert them to worked time.
    – Keep a simple status update though the day. These will also appear in your calendar and can be converted to worked time at the end of the day.

    By doing just this you will gain valuable progress insight on your work and projects and you can generate a multitude of reports to help you get a better grip on your work. You can even create an invoice directly from your time entries.

    You might like to check us out at

    Joost Schouten
    Yanomo – Time tracking and invoicing.

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