Does your team groan when they hear the words “track time”? Is it an activity that everyone on your team tends to duck and dodge and you’re on a repeat loop every week reminding people to fill in their time sheets?
It’s no secret that there’s a lot of resistance around tracking time among team members, and for a variety of reasons. But what happens when you’re managing a team who needs continual reminders? It gets old!
Managers and workspace owners often complain about the resistance they get from team members around tracking time. They’re often so frustrated that they give in, often saying something like this:
“My team drags their feet, and I don’t blame them. They already have too many administrative tasks to do and I’m on the verge of giving up. Nothing I say or do will make a difference…”
If you can relate to this, I’ll tell you what I always tell our customers: It sounds like it’s time for a new approach!
Let’s take a look at three tips to motivate your team to track time.
1. Don’t tell them to track time, tell them why
Instead of telling your team what to do—“track your time!”—reframe the concept and tell them why logging their progress is so important.
While the top level task is “tracking time,” the outcome and benefit are “logging progress”—and when people can reframe that task into one that shows how far they’ve come, and helps them organize their work, it increases accountability.
This stresses that the benefit belongs to the person doing the time tracking, rather than the person reviewing the time sheet. It’s not about a manager enforcing time tracking, it’s about keeping your projects under control.
There are many benefits to tracking time, which can be broken down into two categories: planning and accountability. When you share these benefits with your team and make these benefits an essential part of how your team works, the resistance of time tracking will begin to ease.
Bottom line: Each individual has to see why and how it matters to them, rather than thinking it’s something that just matters to management. You might even have to spend some time with each of your team members to understand what makes time tracking resonate with them uniquely. This is time well spent.
Here’s how to reframe and rethink time tracking—and get your team motivated using planning and accountability.
2. Tie tracking time back to your main planning process
Everyone wants to minimize administrative tasks in order to spend more time on the actual work and move projects forward. When you’re tracking time, especially in a tool like LiquidPlanner, the process and the data it yields can produce unexpected benefits for you and your team.
If you’re on tight deadlines, you already understand how important smooth, efficient, and accurate planning is to completing projects and deliverables on time. Time tracking can support this goal in many ways, and if everyone’s participating, your team will thrive.
At the end of the day, tracking time will help you become better at your job and boost your career in the following ways:
- Become a better estimator. Learn how to size up the scope of a task right away by basing your estimation on how long it took to complete similar tasks in the past. Estimation is crucial to creating accurate project timelines and stakeholder expectations at the beginning of a project and is a critical skill for managers and contributors.
- Know when to delegate. You can’t do it all. No one can. When you track time, you know that that “ten-minute” task will really take five hours—and you already have a full plate. Don’t make it complicated, and don’t overload yourself with work you can’t do. You can even go a step further, and take advantage of automatic resource leveling to quickly see which team members are available to help.
- Learn to say “no”! If you get in the habit of tracking your time, you will learn how much work you are really capable of accomplishing in any given timeframe and gain a better idea exactly how much to take on at a time. Is that project really worth my time? Is it high enough priority to be worth the time it takes me to complete? You won’t know unless you’ve been tracking time and have a good sense of how long it will take.
- Know when to hire another person. Time tracking is both proof and support of the fact that your project is too big for your current pool of resources. These metrics can be your best ally to hire more people. Also, if you use timesheet data from past projects as a comparison, you can plan more accurately from the get-go.
- Move away from multi-tasking. If you have to account for all of your time, time tracking can help you focus on one thing at once – preventing you from fracturing your attention span and overdoing the multi-tasking.
- Keep the schedule up to date. Even if you’re not tracking time for bookkeeping purposes, it’s important to log progress to your tasks as you work on them. When you log progress, the remaining effort will automatically decrement, and keep your schedule updated. This example only occurs when you’re working with a solution powered by a predictive scheduling engine (like LiquidPlanner).
3. Emphasize increased accountability and growth
In the world of project management, where you have a lot of people working in close synchronization in order to deliver projects on time and under budget, accountability is very important. Here are four ways that tracking time can keep you accountable for your time and your budget:
- Create a record so you can review your work regularly. Think of your timesheet as a work diary. When it comes time for status meetings or periodic reviews, you don’t have to scramble to remember what you were working on. It’s all right there, up to date, in whatever software or system you’re using.
- See where you’re spending your time – and money. You’re probably used to working with a set budget. The reality is, you also have a fixed amount of time – and you’re responsible for spending it wisely. When time and money don’t align, having tracked your time means you have data from which you can make your argument for a bigger budget.
- Measure your efficiency – so you can improve it. The more efficient you become, the more time you have to spend on work you’ve wanted to do for a while, for example: nurturing clients, long-neglected internal projects, or a pet project you’ve wanted to do for months.
- Accurate insight into how long projects take. From start to finish, you’ll know exactly how long each task, phase, and the overall project took, so you can identify what went well and what can be improved. Then, you can share these findings with your team and stakeholders. This isn’t just a great reflection on you, it’s good for the entire business!
We’re big advocates of logging progress on work at LiquidPlanner. Tracking time also happens to be a key part of our Planning Intelligence methodology and predictive scheduling engine. So even if the idea of tracking time still fills you or your team with dread, consider the main benefit of logging progress: an up-to-date schedule and accurate data with which to run reports. And the information it provides can be used as the ultimate career enhancer.
If you can get your team to see how the benefits affect them, they’ll start logging progress in no time!