Be objective ­- Document your time

From time to time, I observe myself or other people saying phrases like "I invested so much time in this project / work / whatever". But if you ask them or ask yourself: "How much time did you really invest?", there is often no answer.

But Why Should You Document Your Time?

Having an evidence of the time have several benefits depending on your context.

  • You can prove the time you have invested
    e.g. if you expect a payment, if have done a student project which has a time constraint
  • You can calculate your the pay off for your investition
    e.g. if you pursue to start a startup in part-time, you can compare the time you invested and the amount of money you took in
  • You can motivate yourself by seeing how much you actually invested (Which is more often much lower than you think). It is also a good motivator if you force yourself always to write done the time because you need to look exactly how long you have done a specific work and do not (hopefully) loose the focus

How to Document?

Tech people (like me) tend to put too much time into looking for the 'perfect' solution. There won't be one (Well, actually there might be one, but it either takes too much time to creating the solution or too much money to pay for). So be pragmatic (As you should always be). 

However, there are several constraints which you should take into consideration:

  • Are you looking for a solution for yourself or does a group of people need to document their time?
  • Are their constraints regarding access possibilites? Online/Offline, Desktop/Smartphone/Table, etc.
  • Do you need any additional features? Exports, charts, reports, etc.
My Solution: Microsoft Excel

I use Microsoft Excel in conjunction with Dropbox. I have several excel files, e.g. for my master thesis, blogging, work and so on. I choose Excel and not any other solutions (or cloud services) because

  • I am flexible. If I need something special, I just do it quick&dirty. For example, I can write tailored formulas or charts.
  • I own the data. Using a cloud service can always mean that they will shut down their service one day or charge their service (Mostly, as soon as they discovered, that a free service does not generate money)
  • It's free (Except Excel, but you could also use OpenOffice or any other free software)

Download Template

Well, you could just create this template by yourself in less than five minutes. But if you are pragmatic, you just download it and use it. 

Summary

Force yourself to do it. You can always argue against any stakeholder, how much time you really have put in. And almost more important, you do not loose the focus while working on something (Because you always should try to determine the correct time and therefore should not let any interference occur)

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