Time Tracking: Quantity vs. Quality

| November 13th, 2008 |

There are plenty of online time tracking tools to help small businesses keep a better record of billable time. It’s as simple as starting a timer and letting it run while you get things done. When the job is completed, apply the time. Run a few reports, generate an invoice, and collect your money. Then start the process all over again the next day.

After you’ve been tracking your time diligently for a few months or a few years you’ll have amassed a healthy amount of data — useful for evaluating past productivity and estimating future projects. At Pelago, we’ve found good time tracking practices to be an essential component to project management.

Incorporating time tracking into your day-to-day workflow will give any small business great quantitative insight into productivity. But what about the quality of that time tracked? Simple distractions like a phone call, an exclamation-pointed email, or a question from a co-worker can deter us from the task at hand. Before we know it, half our time has disappeared into an unrecoverable void.

Understanding the quality of the time we’ve tracked is still beyond the capabilities of any online tool, but perhaps that is where we’ll be headed next. It may not be necessary to analyze time tracking data in this way for business tasks like billing clients and paying freelancers. However, understanding the quality of the time spent can be extremely useful for optimizing business productivity.

Imagine being able to deduce that your web designer is most productive during the mornings, and that your developers crank out the most code in the evenings (yeah, I know, you probably don’t need a computer to tell you that developers stay up late). Qualitative time tracking data could help a project manager schedule tasks during the optimal hours for each resource. How cool would that be? Each industry has their next generation products in the works. Could this be ours?

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A collection of useful tips, tales and opinions based on decades of collective experience designing and developing web sites and web-based applications.

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Intervals is online time, task and project management software built by and for web designers, developers and creatives.
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John Reeve

John is a co-founder, web designer and developer at Pelago. His blog posts are inspired by everyday encounters with designers, developers, creatives and small businesses in general. John is an avid reader and road cyclist.
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Michael Payne

Michael is a co-founder and product architect at Pelago. His contributions stem from experiences managing the development process behind web sites and web-based applications such as Intervals. Michael drives a 1990 Volkswagen Carat with a rebuilt 2.4 liter engine from GoWesty.
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