As a freelancer, effectively tracking your time is key to delivering on time and on budget in order to impress clients. The thing is, we all come across time management and productivity issues from time to time. We’d all love to know all the secrets of time tracking and how to achieve maximum productivity.
But let me give you a little spoiler: there is no big secret.
We often search for miraculous ways of managing our time and grand gestures that we hope will massively improve our productivity. The truth is that it might only take a few small steps and make slight changes to get full control of your time.
But first, what is time tracking?
Briefly put, time tracking refers to the measurement and recording of your worked hours. Time tracking is an ideal tool when it comes to discovering recurrent problems in your management of work, nurturing the quality of your results, and removing all worries from the project development and delivery process.
Time tracking tips
Create reports to monitor your work
Time reports resume the time you spent working on a task and can show you all the necessary details on how you spent your time, budget, and other resources while working.
A time report contains all the information that contributed to the development of your project in one place. Time reporting is a simple method of analyzing your project’s status. It will also help you save valuable time that you would otherwise spent on administrative tasks such as collecting time-related data from other places and adding everything to endless spreadsheets.
Use past time reports to make better estimates for future projects
Making an accurate time estimates for clients is essential and can be more complicated than you think. However, it’s much easier if you already have time reports from your past projects. This is because they can give you a guideline for how long a certain kind of activity or project has taken you in the past.
Add up all related tasks and your hourly rates and you’ll obtain a valid estimate to share with your clients. And you’ve got proof from your other previous projects too in case you ever need to validate your results.
Use recorded data to invoice your clients
Rigorously tracking each minute of your work day might feel excessive at first but will be well worth it if you need to justify your rates whenever a client needs validation. They’ll be able to see just exactly how much value and time they’re getting for the money they’re spending on the project.
This is why time tracking and reporting are critical tools these days, especially when it comes to hourly-rate projects. Having proof that you’ve put in required hours for each project gives you the security that you can challenge clients who question you on the delivery of the project. It can also keep you safe from clients who might want to use this as an excuse to avoid paying you for your work.
Automate your time tracking efforts
When you’re busy with tasks it’s easy to forget to turn on and off your time tracker each day. This is where automatic time tracking solutions come in.
All you need to do is activate the timer at the beginning and end of your work day and everything you do for a client will be recorded automatically.
Use the right tool
Today, freelancers prefer to work digitally with time tracking software. Yet, most freelancers need help with accounting, task management, or other tasks too. That’s why a popular alternative to the classic time tracker is a project management tool.
Some of these complete project management platforms offer time tracking features in addition to task and client management, reporting, invoicing, scheduling, and more. Having all of these features grouped in a single service can really help you organize your work more effectively.
What time tracking is truly like
Getting real results takes patience
Don’t expect to see results from the first day you start tracking your time. You need to track every second you spend on your daily tasks for at least a few days before you can start using the time reports to create estimates or bill your clients.
The best way to ensure your estimates are fair is to record the time you spent on an entire project first and then use the time reports to create estimates for your future work. It’s important to have a considerable amount of tracked working hours before you can really start to predict how long tasks will take you. So expect to record at least a few days of work before you get usable information.
You might forget to turn your time tracker on
Picture this: You get a task you’re excited about and you start working right away. Next thing you know, you’re halfway through the task but you forgot to turn on your timer. Happens to everyone.
But you might fail to turn it off as well. You end your work day but forget to stop your timer. The next day you find 10+ hours on a task. This is why it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on the clock.
Luckily, some time tracking tools allow you to manually remove or add hours if you want to fix a mistake you’ve made.
Overall, tracking your time has endless benefits.
If you’re patient when it comes to seeing results, time tracking can be highly advantageous to your work.
Here are just a few of the time tracking benefits you might be looking for:
- Helps you identify non-essential activities that can be replaced with more important ones
- Keeps you on track with your final objectives
- Helps you create better time estimates to send to your clients
- Makes you more productive by showing you where you’re slacking
- It’s easy to do regularly, especially when it’s done digitally
- Shows your exact efforts so you can get paid fairly
- Helps you prioritize your tasks so you can finish a project on time
- Shows your progress in time to help you further improve your work
Ways of tracking your time
A time tracker is a digital instrument that is used to measure the time spent on a project or activity. You can use a time tracker by simply clicking on the play button when you want to start or end your work on a task.
Time trackers are usually part of a time tracking or project management tool. Here’s an example of a time tracker from Paymo that you can use to track your time on a specific task with a single click on the stopwatch:
You can record time straight from your web browser with this timer. All your entries will be saved with their exact start and end times so you can make use of the accurate time reports.
If you’d rather use an app outside of your browser, you can try the Paymo desktop widget that allows you to either record your work time with a stopwatch or add it manually in bulk.
Automatic time tracking
Automatic time tracking helps you record and manage everything you’re working on while the timer is on, without having to worry about forgetting to press the the play button. It’s a good choice for people who like to multitask, work on multiple projects, or for those of you who’ve already tried time trackers but always forgot to turn on or off their timers.
A great example of this is PaymoPlus, an automatic tool that tracks every second you’re spending working, whether that’s within a file, browser tab, website, or online tool.
Many freelancers work remotely and are constantly on the go. If this sounds like you then don’t fret, You can now track your time even when you’re not at your laptop or connected to the Internet. You might be writing your next article on a notebook on the beach or taking some photos in the wilderness.
There are dozens of time tracking and project management tools that offer mobile apps to help you track time regardless of where you are.
No need to worry about losing your recorded data anymore. Worked hours will be automatically synced with your online platform.
And you won’t be tied to your desk anymore. You’ll have time to escape your office and live life on your terms.
There is no big secret to properly tracking your time. All you need is patience to gather and use your data to make estimates and stay productive. Time tracking can put an end to your work chaos, declutter your task list by helping you identify the most important activities and remove any distraction.
So next time you’re looking for a way of improving your productivity while keeping your work’s status in check, try time tracking. Test an online time tracking tool for your next project to maximize your efficiency and the value of your work.
Try Paymo to keep track of your work, generate accurate time reports, and get paid fairly.
How do you keep track of time – with or without a digital tool – when working? Drop us a line if you have any other helpful tips and tricks when it comes to tracking your time. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below!