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Project management, productivity, change management, and more!


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4 reasons you should track time

The Passage of Time

Photo credit: ToniVC

Time is precious, especially when it comes to using the very little that’s available to do all the work that’s in front of us, or in front of the very limited resources we have for our projects.

So why not try to manage it a little better? Tracking time is a very good start, and just to be clear, I do not mean just tracking how much time you spend on a task, but also track how much time is available while it’s being used. For example, if a developer enters “4h” for a task, that’s great, but it’s even better if he is informed that 10h are left for that task.

Here is why it’s important:

1. Makes us realize the truth

How many time have you heard “in will only take two minutes”? Or maybe you are the one who has a habit of saying that! By tracking your time, you will quickly realize that the “two minutes” needed is actually 10-15 minutes. What if you think it’s 15 minutes? Well it’s probably more 30-45 minutes.

Unless we actually track time and pay attention to the time we spend on our work, no matter the time we think we need each time, we’ll need twice the time in the end, if not more. Tracking time makes us aware of all this. That’s when we can estimate the time we need accurately for our tasks, and that’s when you can really have control over your schedule.

Also, once you and your team know the real time you need for your tasks, your project estimates become more accurate, and that’s when it becomes even more interesting!

2. Gives us clear objectives

The objectives are set when specific amount of time are set for each tasks. It’s important to note that estimates need to be realistic for this to be efficient, or people will stop taking the time available seriously.

By paying  attention to the time left for a task, we have a clear objective of the time we are supposed to spend for a task (To develop a specific module for example).

Clear objectives of time gives you better focus so you will be more efficient and will avoid “stretching” the time you spend on the task. Also, you will make different decisions while executing your work so you can stay within the allocated time.

Furthermore, by knowing right away you should spend 5h on a module, when you thought of spending 20h, will immediately raise questions on your part, and you will be able to validate if you understood the task correctly, or if maybe you were going to gold plate the project. Maybe it’s the other way around, and the time estimated is not enough; the project manager can be informed quicker that way rather than if he finds out when it’s all over. It can then be managed proactively rather than reactively.

3. Gives us valuable information for estimates

When estimating projects, it’s important to be able to validate it by comparing our current estimate with previous estimates for similar projects. It can also be used for quick analogous estimates. By having no time tracked whatsoever, than all estimates are pure guesses, and can have horrible consequences if the projects are signed.

For example, if you estimate a website at 30K, and you compare with a previous similar website done, and realize that you need 50K, you want to know before it’s too late! If you find out at the end of the project, imagine the money lost! Even worst, if you do not track time, you won’t really be able to tell that you went over budget, which is worst.

4. We can analyze results and make important decisions

This is where in can become fun! Once you have accumulated a lot of projects time sheets, you can start to analyze the results. That can be a real eye opener.

For example, you may find out that all our projects were over budget when it comes to design. You can than decide to raise your design budget in general because the work in underestimated, or instead, have the design process optimized to reduce time spent.

You can also find out that all your projects categorized as “Website development” are the ones that have a bigger profit margin. You can than identify “why?” and improve your other types of project. Or maybe you will decide to have a greater percentage of website developement in your portfolio from now on.

There is a lot of information that can be analyzed here, and the more time sheets you gather, the more analyzing you can do.

In conclusion

The very little time it takes to track time will give you more than enough valuable information to make it worth your while.

Tickspot Time Tracking Software

There are many time tracking tools out there, one that I particularly like is Tickspot which also indicates the percentage of time left for each tasks as you enter your time. All the team members can know right away the time left, without having to do anything. It’s also a very fast and easy to use software that includes mobile applications, and a desktop time tracker too.

Do you track your time? How do you use the results?

Meeting


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4 tips for efficient meetings

Meeting

Source: mconnors

Meetings are just as important as they can be considered a waste of time. That is because most meetings are not prepared or not done the way it should be, instead, they become uncontrolled discussions.

Here are some tips to help you have efficient meetings:

1. The right people must attend

By doing so, you are making sure your meeting can be easily controlled, and it will reduce ‘noise’, therefore, help the overall communication throughout your meeting. Only the right people must attend the meeting while additional secondary stakeholders must be avoided.

This will prevent unnecessary talking, and never-ending debates by having more focused discussions. Also, it will prevent using up lots of budget for several people that may not actually listen.

A maximum of 4 to 5 person is best.

2. Have a clear agenda

To make sure your meeting goes through all necessary items, it is important to list everything that must be discussed. Here is how to make a good meeting agenda:

  1. Include meeting duration.
  2. Include a duration for each item listed.
  3. Include the meeting’s objective.
  4. Here are some items that should be considered for almost everything meeting:
    • For a project kickoff, or if any new stakeholders are added to the project, going around the table so everyone can present themselves and explain their role is very important to start with.
    • Explain the purpose of the meeting (Project kickoff to align the project objectives, wireframe review, design review, etc.)
    • If time is left, include a point to review questions or discussions that were previously put on hold.
    • Review next actions: clearly repeat what must be done by who after this meeting and correct/complete anything that may have been missed.
  5. Make sure to send the agenda to the client before the meeting so that he request to have items added to it. This may require you to review the duration, but now you can it instead of doubling your meeting’s duration at the last-minute.

3. Monitor the time used for each point

Remember the time you planned per agenda item? It is important to monitor this during the meeting. Think of it as an equivalent to your project schedule that you must respect.

People will tend to forget the time and continue talking or debate, it is important you politely stop those discussions and explain that we must proceed to the next item in the agenda. Anything unresolved must be noted so that it can be reviewed and discussed at a future moment.

By doing so, you will avoid skipping points of your agenda or going quickly around the last items because you are running out of time. Another advantage is it will prevent your meetings from lasting hours which everyone will appreciate.

4. Send meeting minutes

Meeting minutes are another way of saying a written overview of your meeting. By doing so, everyone as a traceable historic of meetings.

It’s useful as a reminder, but a very good reference in the future.

Therefore, it’s important to have someone be responsible of taking notes and sending the meetings minutes to everyone who attends the meeting within 24-48h of the meeting.

The benefits

Some may underestimate the value of having a well prepared meeting. If you are one of those, consider those benefits:

  • You will give your client a good impression of what is to come while working with you, which can be a great benefit not only for the project, but for the company as well.
  • A more efficient meeting means your project will go forward properly after.
  • It avoids wastes of time for everyone, including your client.