I started using Toggl in the beginning of 2014. Since that time, I’ve:
- Reduced time wasting activities by 46%
- Increased revenue by 27%
- And increased my revenue per hour by 238%
I know this because – thanks to Toggl – I’m able to track all of it.
In this blog post, I’ll show you exactly how to do the same, but first, I want to tell you a story about obese people and diaries…
Tracking Your Meals = Twice as Much Weight Loss
In 2008, the American Journal of Preventive Medicine published a weight loss study of 1,685 overweight or obese U.S. adults.
These people were told to be active, eat healthy, and keep a food diary. In 6 months, this group lost an average of 13 pounds (which is equivalent to a rather large newborn baby).
Turns out the most powerful predictor of weight loss was how many days a week people were tracking their food intake.
“Those who kept food records six days a week — jotting down everything they ate and drank on those days — lost about twice as much weight as those who kept food records one day a week or less, Stevens tells WebMD.” [WebMD]
So why did the act of tracking food intake lead to dramatically improved results relative to the control group?
Dr. Stevens explains it has to do with two major factors:
In other words, by simply tracking our food intake, we’re accounting for all the bad things we put into our bodies, which makes us more aware of eating healthy going forward.
So when it comes to tracking, you know those dozen glazed Krispy Kremes you just stuffed your fat face with? Sorry, you can’t just brush your shame under the rug and pretend it never happened like you did last week. This time, you have to write it down, which will make you feel justifiably awful, which means you’ll be less likely to do it again in the future.
Conversely, you’ll be more apt to eat healthy because recording healthy food items will make you feel better about yourself (carrots and celery now make a lot more sense in the context of your overall health).
This is the magic of meal tracking.
And Toggl is essentially a meal tracker, but for your business.
My Obese Business: Meet Toggl
Like I mentioned before, I’ve only been Toggling my activity for 3 months now.
Before that, I had no way of tracking how much time I actually spent on my businesses except by looking at the clock when I started and when I closed up shop for the day.
The reality is, prior to Toggling, my business was obese – and I knew it.
I was feeding my business with trivial activities that filled my time but didn’t actually sustain me (read: Krispy Kremes), and I avoided real money making activities, like selling, because they were uncomfortable.
So when I found Toggl in January, I knew this would be something that could change my business forever simply by exposing the reality behind how I was using my time…
Here’s a snapshot from January to February in terms of just one particular money-making, core business activity (for me, this is writing):
What’s important to note here isn’t the overall revenue numbers for this particular activity (there’s not much here to write home about), but how much I’ve increased my writing ROI by increasing my efficiency through tracking.
I spent half as much time writing and yet increased my income by over a quarter.
This is a snapshot of just one of my core-business activities, but I can assure you – the rest are similar.
Putting Toggl to Use
Alright, so you can see that Toggl helped shed excess weight from my business.
This alone might be enough of an incentive to start using it yourself (you should). But I wouldn’t think much of myself if I didn’t have some pointers for you on HOW to apply it most effectively to your business to get the same or better results.
Below are the 3 most important techniques for getting the most out of Toggl so you can increase your productivity, decrease your time wasting activities, and ultimately double (or more) your revenue.
1. Don’t Try to Optimize – Just Track
When you’re just starting out, don’t worry about saving time, or trying to increase productivity, or trying to optimize your systems…
Simply tracking your time (including all time wasters like social media, email, whatever) will dramatically increase your productivity.
Because as soon as you are accounting for your time, you’ll be more aware of how you’re spending it. When you’re aware of how you’re spending your time, you’ll automatically begin avoiding the time wasting activities and work harder to maximize the efficiency and impact of your core tasks.*
*Sorry, but flappy birds isn’t one of those core tasks.
2. Streamline Your Task Input
There are a number of ways to structure your Toggl tracking. Some are more effective and detailed than others. If you have the time, you ought to put a lot of thought and energy into doing this right (especially important for those using Toggl with their teams).
But knowing myself, I recognize that unless something is brainless and automatic, I’ll eventually stop doing it. So I keep my Toggl tracking simple:
Projects = Core Business Tasks
Since I’m a writer, publisher, and small business / startup consultant primarily, I try to break down my Toggl Projects into either (1) particular business projects I’m working on (new products, websites, partnerships, etc.) and (2) time wasters that I can’t get away from (social media / email).
- My websites (this way I can track total time I spend on each website relative to one another and compare income / results at the end of the month)
- Consulting (self-explanatory)
- Individual projects that I’m a partner in or share equity
- Social Media
I break these core business tasks into Toggl Projects because Projects are an easy way to itemize and review your productivity for the month. They are also graphically represented in Toggl’s Dashboard, which means looking at a snapshot of the week or month is incredibly simple and will give you a good indication of whether you’re putting time and energy into the right tasks (or simply taking a break from flappy birds to share Upworthy videos on Facebook).
Here’s an example from my Toggl Dashboard from the first month of my activity tracking.
As you can see, I spent WAY too much time on email.
Simply by tracking, I decreased email usage the next month to 24% of my time. Not stellar, but a start.
Note: I put social media and email on there not because they’re core businesses, but because they’re generally the time wasters that make my businesses obese. I keep them as projects because I want to see in one snapshot how much time I’m spending on these relative to truly important projects.
Description = Task – Purpose – Details
In the military, leaders issue orders with a task and purpose.
There’s good reason for this: the specific task gives the person receiving the order practical, clear steps to take (e.g. fix and destroy the target), and knowing the purpose lets us understand why we’re doing what we’re doing (in case things go wrong and we need to improvise).
For business activity tracking in Toggl, the same rules apply.
It’s important to create a framework for how you itemize tasks because descriptions can be filtered in Toggl and a set order makes things easy to review. For example, I always have the major key activities I’d like to filter at the beginning of the description, followed by the purpose, followed by more details where necessary:
- Consulting – ‘person’s came here’ – prep work
- Consulting – ‘person’s name here’ – call
- Writing – blog post – ‘my website name here’
- Writing – guest post – Toggl – article on productivity so Toggl users can be awesome like me
You get the idea.
This is important because when you go to the Toggl Dashboard and you want to analyze your productivity, you’re going to want to be able to filter and scan items easily. By always having the same basic structure ( task : purpose : details), it will be incredibly easy for you to itemize your time and do analysis now or in the future.
3. Track Your Profit / Loss
Okay, this isn’t something you do in Toggl, per se, but it’s essential if you want to track the actual impact your productivity changes are making to the bottom line of your business.
I know, this stuff is a no-brainer, but it’s worth repeating.
If you have a business, you ought to be itemizing income and expenses and keeping good books. This is an essential business practice (101 level), but it’s even more important when you want to analyze your past months activities and your hour by hour profitability.
Common sense, sure, but a lot of green entrepreneurs I meet don’t do this.
You can get away with it in the beginning (barely), but in a few months’ time, it will come back to bite you, either because (1) your records are terrible and you can’t tell what’s making money and what’s leaking money in your business, or (2) because you haven’t been precise, it’s impossible to see what’s working and what’s not, so you have no idea how to scale (which compounds the first problem above).
Precision tracking allows us to optimize our systems and processes so we can build and scale our businesses the right way.
Without it, you’re just shooting in the dark (you might hit something…but why leave it to chance?).
Alright, so that wraps up my Toggl 101 Crash Course.
There are a lot of additional benefits to tracking your time (like it forces us to avoid multitasking…but that’s another article in and of itself) and even more ways to use Toggl to get the most out of your work day, but I just wanted to give you enough juice to get you started.
If you’re interested, I’ve written a short guide on how to integrate Toggl with several other truly powerful applications in order to streamline your business processes.
Thanks so much for reading. Hope you enjoyed.
Keep calm and Toggl on!