Here’s a riddle for you:
Until I am measured
I am not known,
Yet how you miss me
When I have flown.
The answer is Time, and it really is of the essence. When we all share the same 24h in a day, how is it that some of us can make Lemonade and others struggle to get one thing done on their to-do list?
When it comes to work, Toggl is an excellent way to not just track your time, but understand how you use it. At Splash Effect, we use Toggl to help keep track of time spent on client work, which in turn helps us to allocate and distribute resources, as well as identify any pain points along the way. Does tackling your inbox take up 50+% of your time? Do some tasks take way longer than expected? Toggl can help get to the bottom of these burning questions that often get in the way of productive work days. Toggl has been a great help at Splash Effect to help us streamline our workflow for optimal output.
“It might surprise you to discover that many of those who are considered highly successful all rank the same [asset they have] at number one: time.” – Kevin Kruse, Forbes
If time is a top asset of successful people, then shouldn’t we take the few fleeting seconds in a day to push a button and track it? Sounds easy, but you know as well as I do that incorporating time tracking into your daily habits can be challenging; it’s certainly something that the Splash Effect crew has struggled with in the year since we began using Toggl to track our time. Some of the biggest challenges we’ve come up against are the following:
Tracking short, simple tasks
Forgetting to use the time tracker, and
Identifying billable vs. non-billable tasks
Let’s dive in.
TRACKING SHORT, SIMPLE TASKS AND IDENTIFYING BILLABLE VS. NON-BILLABLE TASKS
“I religiously practice something I call ‘The 2-Minute Rule’ – if a task takes 2 minutes or less to do, I don’t bother processing (ie. adding it to Asana, categorizing it, tagging it, etc.) – I just do it right then and there. The challenge is that if it’s not in Asana, I forget to log it in Toggl. And those 2 minutes…man, they add up. And in a time-billable agency, that’s a no-no.” – Hamza Khan
Emails are a perfect example of the notorious “short asks” that comprise a mix of billable (asks to tasks) and non-billable time.
Let’s look at Gmail. Through the Chrome extension for Toggl, you can start the timer on an individual email. I evaluate and tag the email task based on the following criteria:
- ACTION ITEMS: Tag a Project
- NON-ACTION ITEMS: Tag an Account Plan
At Splash Effect we categorize tasks by Account Plan or by Project. Your organization might take a different approach, but we find this the best way to keep track of the time we spend on major client projects. The Account Plan captures administrative tasks of the project i.e. general emails, calls, etc. (generally non-billable, but this may be built into the contract so it’s important to track). Whereas Projects capture the core deliverables (billable). Our Toggl is linked to our Asana projects to make tracking easy. You can learn more about how Splash Effect uses Asana here. If you’re not using Asana to manage projects, there are a number of other platform integrations available. You can also add projects manually to Toggl.
QUICK TIP: As you plough through your inbox, You don’t need to “stop the timer” every time you move onto a new task. Just Toggl the next item and go and Toggl will work out that you’ve finished your previous task and moved onto a new one.
“Great,” you say, “but how do I remember how to turn on the timer in the first place?”
REMEMBERING TO TOGGL
We all process information differently. For those who are visual learners, the “presence” of the tab itself is an added level of accountability. While I’m not necessarily looking for the Toggl button on every page (via browser extension), I do frequently look to the top of my screen to see any notifications (inbox, Slack etc.). The tab itself is also dynamic. You can see the timer ticking and it often catches my eye. If I’m heads down in work, and resurface to see that I’ve spent an hour on one task, I feel the pinch of the timer and take one of three actions: take a short break, shift gears, or buckle down. It’s a subtle reminder, but it just may very well be the nudge needed to refocus.
If both browser tab and extension options leave you feeling SOL, you can set tracking reminders until the process becomes part of your routine.
“Both the Button extension and the Desktop apps have tracking reminders that let you choose on which days and at what times you want to be reminded about tracking. If Toggl sees you’re not tracking time, you’ll get a friendly pop-up reminder to do so.” – Melissa Sepp
If you tick, “remind me to track,” you can select your typical work schedule (i.e. 9am-5pm) so you’re not bothered during off hours. You can also set a reminder to go out if you haven’t tracked anything for X minutes since your last entry. Boom. No more forgetting.
QUICK TIP: If you simply forget to Toggl, despite your best efforts, you can always go back and add the time and project manually.
The little effort we take to track our time — 5-10 seconds with one to two clicks max — will help to understand how we spend our time, provide insights on how to better manage or improve our performance, and add a level of accountability to our work that would otherwise be lost in the 9-5 grind.