Time is a limited resource. This is always true, on a personal level and a business level. On a biological level, each human being is given a finite number of hours on this planet, and it’s up to them to spend it in the best possible way. On a professional, business-minded level, an employee sells his time to the company he works for, and it’s up to the company to use that time as efficiently as possible. Read this article here!
Time management is about logging time spent on things so that there is a level of accountability:
If you know that you are meant to spend 1 hour doing a specific task, you are much less likely to be derailed by distractions. This is a very, very important principle in time management, and it’s a principle of accountability and focus.
If you know where time goes, you will be able to see (often in horror) how much time you end up wasting. Here, by “wasting time” I mean spending time in activities that are neither productive (see: getting something important done) now pleasurable (spending time with family, friends, or doing something that would be considered leisure).
By looking at the “gaps”, or the “unaccounted time”, you will be able to see where your “slack” is. Knowing what your “slack” requires a lot of work, but it’s also really important to do so and to find ways to reduce it. Reducing slack doesn’t necessarily mean working harder: too much slack might come from lack of concentration, but also from overestimating how much work you can get done in one hour or one working day; or, overestimating how much time you can spend in deep concentration on any specific task.
Time management is extremely important; so, choosing the right tools is something that needs to be done with much care.
Online time management
Over the last (very few) years, everything seems to be moving online: not even word processors and spreadsheet programs seem to have been spared, with Zoho Office and Google Documents eating up market share from their desktop competitors (Microsoft Office, or even the open source OpenOffice).
Everything seems to be moving online, and time management seems to have followed suit: there are countless time management solutions that live online today. In many cases, they are bundled with the powerful task and project management solutions.
The reason is that online time management has several advantages. For example:
You can access your timers on the go. Being “online” often means that you will be able to access your program from anywhere with an Internet connection. This is really important for people on the go. There’s more: online time management solutions are often available on several devices, not just desktop computers (or, shall I say, fully-fledged browsers. So, you will be able to access your timers from your iPad, your Android tablet, or even your Internet-enabled phone (most of the time Apple or Android). This is a huge plus if for example you have several meetings in different locations in one day, and you want to keep track of how you spend your time while on the go.
You don’t have to worry about backing up your data, or losing it, as all of the information is on the cloud. While many people feel uneasy about having a huge portion of their personal information online, the benefits are just impossible to ignore: your data is automatically backed up; also, all of your devices are automatically synchronize; finally, you don’t have to worry about downloading software upgrades, etc. since the programs live online too. There is something else to be said about using online software: your data will often end up being online even if you use desktop software: some people feel uneasy about using online software, for example, and then proceed to perform online backups of everything on their disks (!). (Note that even though your data is stored on a secure server, it’s always a good idea to have a local backup on your computer; most online services will allow you to do that).
Team time management
Time management is great, but its real potential is when it’s applied to online projects and when timers are shared among a team.
Whenever you work on a task, you are probably working towards the completion of a specific project. When you log time, it’s totally fine just to write out a description of what you did without any more information. However, online time management only really shines when you end up logging that time against a project (or, better, against a specific task within that project). This will give you the ability to write detailed reports about the amount of time you spent on that specific project; plus, if you had time allocation estimates for tasks, you would be able to check the logged time against the initial estimate, to check that your project is not going overtime (and therefore over budget).
When timers are shared between teams, you can also check — in real time — what other team members have been doing with their time instantaneously. This To go back to what I wrote earlier, for a given task you will be able to see how much time you spent on it, but also how much time everybody else has spent on it.
Where do we go from now?
It’s hard to imagine the world without online applications — and it’s only been a few years since the revolution began. Project and time management have been part of this revolution, acting as a leader in some cases.
So, what is next? If you are happy logging your time on your PDA right now and sharing time sheets in real-time with your colleagues, then you can probably imagine the world where time track itself, depending on the activity you are carrying out.
Scary? Maybe. But so was Google targeted advertising when it first came out