Time tracking is a highly effective practice for recording, analyzing, and improving your team’s efforts. It’s an indispensable component in delivering projects on time and under budget. There are plenty of good reasons why project management should include time tracking, but we won’t go into them. We’re assuming you’ve already made the decision to track time. If that’s the case, here’s how to get started with tracking time on your next project.
1) Choose the right tool
The first step is to find the tool that best fits the way you work. This will most likely be time tracking software, but spreadsheets and paper timesheets are also an option. We recommend using software that includes timers that make it easier for your team to track time. We also recommend the software have good reporting features so you can make sense of the data.
2) Get your team on board
Time tracking doesn’t work unless everyone is involved. If your team is already at capacity, asking them to take on one more responsibility, like tracking their time, may overwhelm them. Expect pushback, but also be patient and reassure your team that time tracking will help them work less in the long run. While this may seem like a catch-22 situation (how does taking on more work equal less work?), we’ll address how this initial hurdle can be overcome in the next step.
3) Manage one project end to end
Before time tracking can become an integral part of your company-wide project management practices, it needs to be vetted. The initial setup will need to be refined and any kinks worked out. The most effective way to do this is for your team to track their time on one project, from beginning to end. How your time tracking tools are configured will have the biggest impact on the benefits you get from them, so start with one project, then tune and scale from there.
5) Analyze your time
Once your team has started recording their time the reports will become invaluable. Plus, the more data you accumulate, the more you will learn from analyzing your time. An important part of the project management process is cutting out waste and becoming more lean. Time tracking software with good reporting features will help you do just that. Analyze your team’s time to find out exactly where it’s going, and whether it’s being spent effectively or wastefully.
6) Repeat the process again, and again
Now that you’ve seen how the project management process can benefit from time tracking, it’s time to repeat the exercise. First, however, take what you learned the first time around and make any workflow adjustments necessary. Then continue tracking your time on the next project, and the next one, and the one after that. By applying what you’ve learned from your time tracking data, each new project will increasingly become more profitable. Plus, your team will become more efficient while working less hours.