If You Aren’t Tracking Your Time You’re Leaving Money On The Table
While business is about so much more than money, if your business isn’t making money, it’s an expensive hobby and not a busines. As a Solopreneur or small business owner, if you aren’t tracking your time you’re leaving money on the table. This article explores why time tracking is important in business and life, and how you can make sure that you are being paid for all of the work you do.
Losing track of time is a hazard of working in our zone of genius and doing what we love.
If you utilize a pricing model that includes retainer fees, this can start to feel like your undoing. The clients retainer hours get eaten up without your realizing it. This often leads to feelings of guilt, fear, and more. Guilt possibly because we feel like we wasted our clients’ time and money (even though we know this ISN’T true, we often fight our own processes wishing they didn’t take so long). Fear of possibly being considered unprofessional when we report back their hours for the month are gone already and it’s only the 6th. These feelings often result in not charging your clients for research, prep time and/or work done because of how it made you feel. We project our feelings on to customers without even consulting them to find out how they do feel about the situation.
It’s no different if you charge hourly or by the project. It’s often too late that you realize you have spent far more time than you allowed for in your quote. Enter feelings of guilt, fear and more. Fear of looking unprofessional. Fear or having to go back to your client to say the actual cost is going to exceed the quoted cost, why and by how much. Instead many business owners choose to eat the cost, vowing next time to quote better.
Except it isn’t that simple, when the cause is an inaccurate perception of time.
Have you done your due diligence at a minimum of twice a year, every year and tracked your time for at least two weeks?
If you haven’t, when you are quoting your clients you’re likely to be quoting them based on feelings as opposed to facts. You feel it is a simple job and quote accordingly. You feel it should only take two hours and you quote accordingly. Shoulds have no place in business or life, and the word only minimizes everything that comes after it. Ideally our decisions are a combination of facts and feelings.
Too many business owners look at the results of their time tracking in disbelief. It’s often an eye opening exercise when we now have facts to base decisions on. For many it’s easy to see why, where and how they are losing money when you are looking at the cold hard facts before you.
You work too hard, to not be paid for all you do.
We consistently underestimate how much we can accomplish in an hour, a morning, a day, a week and in a month.
This impacts our quotes and billing the same as above but it also impacts our income in other more indirect ways.
When we cannot live up to our own expectations, it impacts our self-esteem.
Self-esteem is made of our: self confidence (confidence in our own abilities), self worth (our perception/beliefs in relation to our own value), self image (how we perceive our abilities, appearance), self-concept (which is our perceived self; what we think we are, what we think we can achieve, what we think others think of us, and what we would like to become) which of course impacts our internal dialogue (thoughts, feelings, self talk).
Notice the phrasing, I said ”We cannot live up to our own expectations.” It’s important to note that it is a can’t and not a won’t. It isn’t that we aren’t focused enough, or that we don’t want it enough.
Our inaccurate perception of time causes numerous problems. The most obvious are not knowing what we can accomplish in a given period of time, setting unrealistic expectations and not accurately charging. The not so obvious are the self-esteem and mindset issues that can result. The internal dialogue of thoughts and feelings impact our business at every level. They often prevent us from taking the necessary risks (where growth occurs). Thus we get stuck both personally and professionally.
The Answer Is both simple and complex for most Squirrels.
We need to track our time. We need to know how long things truly take so that we can charge accordingly and actually get paid for our time.
Note: Two weeks can provide the minimum data needed, but four weeks tends to be more precise. In fact if you can make this a habit, that is best. Then you can make adjustments on the fly because you always have data available for analysis.
If you simply hate time tracking, won’t commit to making it a habit, and your business does not require you to track actual time spent then complete this exercise as needed. The biggest reason I recommend this is life and business change (stress levels,children’s needs change, relationships, difference in the number of active clients you now have etc.). Time tracking is key for: scheduling your time, quoting, billing, get paid for all the work you do, not to mention it’s an important part of the equation for setting prices.
How To Tell Time Tracking Is Required:
1. Your quotes are off and it’s consistently taking longer to do things than it did when you tracked your time last.
2. Your to-do list items are being moved from one day/week to the next.
Squirrels and traditional time tracking apps often run into problems. While no App is perfect, PayDirt App is the closest this Squirrel has found to Squirrel Proof.
paydirtapp.com was built with Squirrels in mind and is Drunk Squirrel Approved!
PayDirt App Includes:
A built in Chrome extension for intelligent reminders: just to make sure your still working on the same project.
One click time tracking: it allows us to start tracking time 5, 10, 20, 30 or 60 minutes in the past because we forgot to start the timer.
They offer a free trial of all their plans: the plans for $8 and $16 per month are more than enough for Solopreneurs and Small Business Owners.
Time For Analysis
We can also use this data to analyze what tasks take the most of our time. Often tasks that take the longest are the ones we dislike the most!
Questions you’ll want to ask yourself:
Do I love this task?
Is it directly or indirectly related to a product or service that I offer? If I don’t love it and it’s part of my products or services why am I offering it? Can it be delegated or outsourced?
Example: If I were a copywriter, I may look at the four blog posts I wrote during my two weeks of tracking. The first post took 2 hours, the second 45 minutes, the third took 3.25 hours and the fourth took 1.75 hours.
The first question I need answered is around the 45 minute post. Why only 45 minutes? Turns out I know the subject matter well, and it was only 500 words as opposed to my 1,000 word usual posts. With that information I can remove it from my calculations.
3 blog posts at 2.00+3.25+1.75 = 7 hours, 7 hours divided by 3 = 2.33 hours. My average 1000 word blog posts takes on average 2.5 hours.
This allows me to use that information for knowing how much time to block out when writing a blog post. It’s part of the info needed for determining accurate pricing and quotes. I may realize I hate writing blog posts, and they take up a lot of my time. Which means I would reassess why I offer blog posts as part of my services. If it’s because others do, or I should … remove it from your services and packages …now. It’s not doing you any favours!
Take It A Step Further
Don’t stop at tracking your time only for business, track your time from wake up to bedtime. Learn where your actions say your priorities are.
How are you choosing to spend your time?
Who are you spending it with, doing what?
So many of us built our businesses to allow us the flexibility they provide in order to accommodate our priorities and values. These priorities are often: children, spouses, family, friends, ourselves (health, wellness, happiness). Too often the way we actually spend our time does not reflect these values and priorities.
Tracking your time allows you the insight into how you choose to spend your time in business and in our personal lives. Once know the facts, we have the ability to adjust if necessary.
Have you ever completed time tracking in your business and/or personal life? Did it hold any surprises? Did you make changes as a result? I’d love to hear your experience!