My thoughts on logging time.

Ever since I started my professional career, all I have known is time logging.

I was a contractor in my first post-grad gig. Logging time makes a bit more sense when you are sending the time to the office for your pay.

Way back then, I had to submit every last second of time worked, including using a stopwatch app to start and stop time spent on a given project.

Logging time is becoming more normal

When I got my second job, a salaried role at an agency, I was shocked to see that they ALSO used time logging.

In any subsequent jobs I had, they too had time logging.

I have used so many of these tools that I am now starting jobs where I use tools from a decade ago and become a “company expert.”

I hate logging time

People often consider me part of the problem, but the reality is that I don’t like tracking time, I’m just used to it and know all of the tricks.

In my opinion, logging time is pretty useless, unless your project is quite literally time & materials. If it isn’t you shouldn’t use it.

Making a resource plan and simply resourcing based on allocation is far simpler. Have a developer? Put them on enough projects to max out their time?

If you have two developers full-time on a project, you don’t need time tracking. They are full time on a project. That is it.

Why do companies use time tracking software?

You will see blog posts and resources sing the praises of time tracking for its better insight on how long projects take to complete.

In all of my years, at many organizations, I have never seen time tracking used for any beneficial good of the project or for estimation. In fact, any time I have ever tried to use a similar project effort from time tracking for estimation, management asks people to lower their estimates.

In helping to “manage” time tracking with leaders, including CEOs of companies, this is what I have learned are the two “benefits” of time tracking:

Squeezing every last drop out of a person

Work on a project for 31 out of your 32 billable hours? Get ready for management to breathe down your neck.

I have seen “leaders” go through time sheets to find miniscule amounts of time every week for someone to work on something else.

Two hours free for the next couple of weeks? Here is another project!!

Shifting accountability to the employee

The other big thing is that it shifts resource allocation accountability to the employee. It is a lose-lose scenario for the person delivering the work:

  1. I have only one project to work on: I log all my time to the project, no longer how long I am spending on it. Management gets mad at me for going “over budget on a project”
  2. I only log the time I am spending on the project to it: Management uses it to justify throwing every last project and task my way or, worse, lays me off for not having enough to work on.

What are the time logging tricks?

In general, you should log time at least once a week and be generous with context switching on projects.

If you have 4 different projects to work on, log at least 30 min to an hour per project if you have to do anything, simply for the context switching. Log short breaks and time thinking about the project to the project.

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