If you feel that time tracking is only for corporate drones that does it for their manager’s sake, be prepared for a shock. Even if you’re a solo freelancer that doesn’t need to answer your time to anybody else, you can benefit by tracking your own time and see how you’ve been spending it.
Why would you want to keep tabs of your own time? When you keep track of things you will develop affinity of them. Likewise when you consciously track your time, your sub-conscious will start to value more of it. You will develop a feeling of urgency and makes you feel guilty if you procrastinate unnecessarily.
Remember when you were just a little kid? The time when your parents have to pester you to do your own homework? What is you’re not pestered? Would you do your homework?
Now that you’re an adult you need to take on responsibility for your own homework, that is your time. Sometimes when nobody’s watching we get into “lazy mode” and procrastinate. There is a constant battle in ourselves – the lazy self and the diligent self or as Sigmund Freud puts it, the struggle between the id and super-ego.
One way you can discipline yourself is by using the Podomoro technique. You divide the time into small pieces of 25-minutes work time followed by 5 minutes break time. That way you explicitly allocate break times and yet not let yourself fall into the abyss of laziness by ever-expanding break times. If you’re working on your own without a boss to watch your shoulder, this could be familiar to you.
Another benefit of timekeeping is to help you show where your priorities lie. That is are you putting your efforts on things that really matter or are you just getting bogged down with many insignificant minutiae. Looking at how you spend your time in the past week will give you a good guideline how should you plan for the coming week.
How often do you get interrupted with phone calls, ad-hoc meetings, and people bringing you issues that they say it’s urgent? Do you know that these minutiae can add up? If you don’t keep tabs on it, you could be losing a lot of precious time.
On the other hand if you track how much time are taken up by these things, you’ll be in the right direction to minimize distractions. Furthermore it will help you see on which areas you need to really focus your efforts on. Get a bird’s eye view on where your life is going and whether that really fits your goals.
In summary tracking time has two benefits even if you don’t need to report it to anybody else. One benefit is as a self-control mechanism to keep you focused on doing your work. The other advantage is as a way to control from getting carried away on doing things that you don’t originally intend to do.
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