Time tracking gets a bad rap, conjuring up images of workplaces where the clock takes precedence over the individual employee and doing more in fewer hours, no matter the toll on workers, is of paramount importance. Once you’re able to get past any knee-jerk negative associations, however, there is real value in time tracking, especially for leaders of creative teams. Knowing exactly how long your team is spending on each aspect of a project is rich data that, when analyzed correctly, can help you work smarter instead of harder.
For example, time tracking helps you quote and charge jobs more accurately. It takes the ambiguity out of what could otherwise be an imprecise and potentially frustrating (what is our work worth?) process. If you’re tracking time, you have the data to know that a given type of project typically takes your team 100 hours, and that of those 100 hours, 40 of them will be design, 30 will be development, 20 will be content and 10 will be project management. You can then multiply those estimates by the hourly rate for each of these functions to arrive at the final quote painlessly.
Does your team often find itself taking on more assignments than you can comfortably juggle? Part of being a good leader is understanding your team’s limits and effectively managing team members’ workloads so that employees feel challenged, but not overwhelmed. Time tracking can help you strike that balance. Having an accurate understanding of how long a specific type of assignment takes removes the guesswork from project planning and the temptation to overcommit. Knowing your numbers means you can make an informed, data-driven decision about how much you can reasonably take on before your team risks burning out or letting work quality slip. Framing time tracking as part of your effort to gatekeep your creative team’s energy and focus (and not as a tool of micro-management) helps to encourage buy-in.
Your team’s productivity depends on understanding and optimizing your workflow. Unsurprisingly, time tracking has a key role to play in helping you plan your required resources more effectively. It can allow you to see where your process is running smoothly and where it’s hitting bottlenecks. In turn, you can add or reallocate resources as needed and course-correct mid-project. You might find that the 40 hours you’d initially estimated for design didn’t factor in the other projects on the designer’s agenda and the productivity lost to task switching. Once you spot this issue, you could opt to bring on a second designer to keep the project on track or re-assign some of the original designer’s other work to another team member to reduce that task switching time bleed.
Whether you’re working in-house or at an agency, for creative leads, tracking the hours and minutes your team spends on specific project tasks is simply time well spent.