Better time tracking on projects

In my line of work, I have to keep track of time. I typically work on several concurrent projects while also leading or participating in multiple sales efforts. My time is further divided between internal and external projects tasks where I may be focused on project strategy, technology leadership, internal employee support, external client support, etc. I love what I do but my only point of frustration is that I spend extremely valuable time reassembling my Swiss cheese of a day in 15 minute increments in our time tracking system — a tasks that many of us have to complete on a daily basis.

Over the past 3 years working for an agency, I have tried out various systems to track time. I was searching for a system that met two (and a half) simple criteria:

  1. Easy to use; no training required!
  2. Can be used to enter time throughout the day regardless of where I’m at (so no special device or connectivity is necessary!)

Lastly, I wanted a system that I could stick to once the one week trial run ended, which is also when the newness typically wears off. Thanks to our very own Andrew Jones I now have a paper-based solution that I love because it makes me more productive! So what is it?

As I chatted with Andrew a few weeks ago, I noticed that he had a Scantron like sheet on his desk which turned out to be his time tracking solution. He explained that while he’s scheduled to complete only a few tasks a day, he’s oftentimes interrupted as he’s asked to provide a status on a project or answer a question about a coding approach. In his own personal search for a solution that tracks the time that “fall in between the cracks,” he came across the Emergent Task Timer by Dave Shea.

There are two types of sheets: an 8 hour day and a 12 hour day version. The way that this system works is that you use one sheet per day. You simply enter your tasks in the left hand column of the sheet and then bubble in the time in 15 minute increments across the horizontal axis of the sheet throughout the day. The real neat thing about the sheet is that you can easily total time for tasks — even ones that are interrupted by time spent on other task. And as an extra bonus, one can immediately determine how many hours you’ve worked by scanning the sheet. It is freaking brilliant!

I’m now well into my third week of using this system and I can’t stop. Below you’ll see a sample of my time entry into the sheet. Please note that while you may become more productive, Emergent Task Timer will not improve your handwriting. Oh well, one out of two isn’t half bad! 😉

Here are the link to download the sheet:

Emergent Taks Timer
Sample Entry into Emergent Task Timer Sheet

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  1. Do you and Andrew use the egg timer too? My gut reaction is that an interruption every 15 minutes would make me want to shove the egg timer down a garbage compactor after about an hour…

    But, I do like the idea of keeping better track of my time.

  2. Not yet. I don’t need an egg timer to track my time since we’re not tracking down to the second mark. And the interruptions are sporadic — some days they’re more frequent than others. Give this thing a try and let me know what you think!

  3. You’ll have to let me know what you think of it. I’ve tried almost everything — an Excel Spreadsheet, recording time in my notebook (in various ways), entering time based on my emails, recording meetings in my Outlook/iCal calendar but NOTHING seemed to have stuck like this one.

  4. Hehehe. I have not thought it does look cool. I’m still using the 2010 version because I don’t like the new layout.

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