The Purpose of Time Tracking

I started tracking my time. Every minute I spend working is nicely administrated, aggregated and analyzed with a simple tool (Time Recording for Android) on my smartphone. Reading, writing, emailing, traveling, preparing presentations, scheduling courses… even the packing of my bags does not escape the scrutiny of my personal time sheet.


Well, I did not start tracking time because I needed time calculations.

I started tracking my time because I want to improve my behaviors.

“What gets measured gets managed.”

– Peter Drucker

As soon as we measure things, people start paying attention. I want to pay better attention to what I’m doing.

  • Why am I still doing things I should delegate to others?
  • Why am I doing things in inefficient and ineffective ways?
  • Why am I carelessly wasting time with task-switching?
  • Why am I committing to work that will bring little value?

Paying better attention to what I’m doing should enable me to increase the value I can generate for others and for myself. And tracking my time should help me to pay better attention to what I’m doing.

“The purpose of time tracking is not to track time. The purpose is to improve the work.”

– me

It’s just a trick, really.

Jerry Weinberg suggested to start the habit of writing a journal, to help you reflect on your own behaviors. But, because I love numbers and statistics, tracking my time comes more natural to me than writing a journal. Maybe for you it is a memo-recorder, or a webcam, or a very observant and critical spouse.

“Continuous self-reflection is hard. Better to piggyback it onto another habit that comes easy to you.”

– me, again

After a few weeks or so I’m sure I will not be able to resist the temptation to calculate the average time per day I spend on reading, writing, traveling, etc. But I also track the minutes I spend (or waste) on administration and statistics. And I made sure one of the categories in my time recorder is called “Narcissism”.

p.s. I spent exactly 60 minutes writing, preparing and publishing this blog post.

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  • ReneMT

    I salute you for your consequence 🙂 For myself I’m happy to be able to reflect about “What do I do currently? How much value is in this? Should I do something more important and could anybody else take over this task?” It was a great experience to reach this point.
    But tracking all time to get indicators for optimizing my behaviour sounds somehow… high-level 🙂 I’m looking forward to hear how it’s going.

  • Fernando Poblete Arrau

    Two months ago I did the same exercise you did (even though I used just a spreadsheet instead of an Android tool and I did it just for the time I spend at the office).
    For two weeks I registered every task and activity I did no matter how short it was. After those two weeks I had 330 tasks with a short description and a category. Then I calculated the total and percent for each category.
    This was great for me because I realized I was spending too much time on one category and too little time on another one. This documentation also allowed me to go to my boss and show to him that I didn’t have enough time for doing all the things I wanted to do (and the things the company asks me to do) and that we needed another scrum master (currently I’m the scrum master for two teams).
    We still don’t have a new scrum master but at least now everybody knows what the situation is (and hopefully we’ll find someone else next year).
    Great blog, Jurgen.

  • Michael Harrington

    Ironically, the post right above this one in my RSS feeds: “how i kicked my time management habit and became exceedingly more productive, profitable and thrilled”

  • Zain Chaput

    Zain Chaput

    I really liked your blog.Really thank you! Will read on…

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