Should entrepreneurs track their time?

Should entrepreneurs track their time?

We work a lot, we can work as much as we want, really. To a certain extent the amount of hours entrepreneurs put into their life’s work is disproportionate to what they will ever get out of it. Do you feel like you don’t know where your days went, sometimes?

I sure do. There are so many things I could and probably should be working on. I surely don’t always use my time wisely. But over the years I have gotten better at planning my days – and blocking the time I need for important topics.

Ever now and again, I use a time tracker (like clockify or timely) to check how I spend my days. It really helps me re-focus my attention on the things that count. It is not a daily chore I (can keep up with and) do regularly, but every 3-4 months I track actively use a time tracker to see what I’ve been up to.

Why not use your calendar?

You are right, if I would take care of my calendar well, I could track what I have done, too. Yet, I find it hard to really put all of my activities in my calendar. I basically just have my customer touch points in my calendar and team meetings. Hence, there is a lot missing.

Next to the obvious “I don’t track everything I do in my calendar,” it is not the best tool for reporting. I want an easy and simple tool with a couple of graphs, possibly business values to go with it (billable hours), to see how I am spending my time – wisely or not.

One thing that is also not great about time tracking using your regular calendar is the fact that you cannot always control who puts the topics in your agenda. Some invites come from my colleagues and clients; these are usually not named using my (preferred) naming convention and partially hard to read/make up what it was about 6 months from now.

A diary or calendar can really help – be precise and write down “everything”

What to log

Want to know what you have really been up to? Use a tool such as Timely to really track your daily doings. There is an option that lets you track how much time you have spend on presentations, your emails and even on which client you have been working.

I am sure not all companies allow you do install a software like that on your computer, but when you are a self-starting entrepreneur you should really check it out.

Ideally, you’ll simply log everything. Not just the obvious meetings, but also the work you need to put in before or around it. I sort of know the main big blocks of meetings and presentations I have held, but it is not that easy to pinpoint how much time I have actually spend preparing them.

Prioritize and budget

So a couple of weeks per year, I log every single activity I do. From answering emails to my colleagues (coaching) to preparing presentations for our clients and administrative work – life of a CEO is not always a lot of fun.

This not only helped me understand how long I take for certain tasks, but it also showed me how much time I spend on non-customer related things.

Logging my full days, allowed me to calculate close to perfectly how much support I needed in certain areas (such as accounting and finance) and the amount of time it would free up on my calendar.

Essentially it was more than a prioritization exercise, it was also a (time-)budgeting one. I want and need to know exactly how much help I need and can afford. Furthermore, I found out that there are days in which I spend the best hours of my day with chores that do not always need a lot of mental capacity / or attention.

When you log the time you spend on your days as entrepreneur, you will quickly see trends on how much you work on what and when you do it.

Don’t over-do it

Seriously, life of an entrepreneur is challenging. I would not advise you to track your every single day to try and optimize exactly how you spend it. It is really important to stay creative and flexible as an entrepreneur.

Yet, I would advise you to give it a shot for 2-3x per year to see if you are still doing things right, focus on things that really make a difference and support you in your core business.

You need to be in charge of your day if you want to work efficiently and effectively. Time tracking can help you do so. So take some advise from someone who is used to juggling his time between clients, colleagues, chores and his personal life – sometimes successfully and other times, far from that. Give time tracking a go to see how you are spending your days. It’s work your time to do so ever so often.

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