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Team Time Tracking for Every Kind of Team

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Team Time Tracking for Every Kind of Team

Time tracking for teams

Does your company complete 100% of its projects? Then congratulations on belonging to the exceptional 2.5%. But the remaining 97.5% of us are left wondering: How can we make our teams more effective?

Team time tracking is one potential solution. It measures a team’s progress and keeps everyone’s eyes on the ball. Standardizing time management should get everyone on the same page, right? But you may have noticed a problem: not every team is built the same. 

The solution of most time tracking articles is to focus on tools. And obviously, we think tools are great. No one is denying the usefulness of a well-placed software tool. 

But we’re more interested in principles. Why do some teams use time tracking so well, and how can we replicate that more often? Whatever the team’s habits, effective time tracking should empower them to succeed. It shouldn’t be demotivating. This is what most tools don’t address.

“Once employees realize they’re being watched...stress begins to skyrocket,” writes Larry Alton for NBC News. One peer-reviewed study found that a “significant majority of the respondents thought monitoring can harm the privacy of the employees...and decrease the success of the work.”

But the same study also found monitoring can still boost team productivity. Is it possible to have the best of both worlds: minimal employee stress and maximum team productivity?

According to Toggl Track co-founder Krister Haav, the key is employing team time tracking the right way. “When we talk about time tracking we talk about it in terms of benefit to the company rather than just counting the hours.” Haav says good monitoring is not about snooping—it’s about meeting common goals.

Below, we take the focus off of tools and move it to principles. What are the team tracking strategies you can use for different types of teams and which strategy might work best for you? Once you know that, the right time tracking tools will fall right into place.

Time tracking for freelancers or teams of one

Freelancers are often in a unique time tracking situation. If they’re not productive, they don’t get paid. 

The problem is that productivity is difficult to measure. How does one hourly project stand up against a flat fee project? Is one headache-causing client really paying twice as much as the other? Is it worth the time and stress? Freelancers who limit their time tracking to hourly work won’t have any answers. 

The key is to track all time. If a freelancer can learn exactly how much time they spent on each project—including those off-the-books phone calls and emails the freelancers aren’t charging for—they can discover which clients are truly offering the best opportunities.

Freelancers may have to do a review with the Pareto principle in mind. This refers to the idea that 80% of business results stem from 20% of the causes. Which 20% of a freelancer’s clients are causing the biggest headaches? Which 20% are providing a majority of the revenue?

A Pareto analysis won’t work unless a freelancer can whittle down each project to a single variable: time spent. This is the time to bust out the tools. There is a free version of Toggl Track that can help freelancers with all of that.

The tracker can use time tracking for invoices, sure. But it can also track other non-billed time on flat-fee projects so freelancers can see how much their hourly rate really is.

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Time tracking for small teams

Back in the early days of Amazon, founder Jeff Bezos instituted a rule: if a team could not be fed by two pizzas, it was too large. The “two-pizza” rule isn’t a hard and fast one. But it does help you remember why you prefer small teams in the first place: simplicity.

Does that mean a project will succeed because a team is small? Hardly. But it is easier for a smaller team to handle communication and engagement. One report showed that companies with 10 employees or fewer averaged 42% engagement. At larger companies? 30% engagement. 

Another study gave large and small teams the task of completing a LEGO kit. The team of two did it in 36 minutes; the team of four took nearly an hour. Turns out, there is such a thing as too many cooks in the kitchen.

But small teams will require more than a Pareto analysis. To get everyone on the same page, communication is just as important. Freelancers don’t have to worry about communicating with themselves, after all. Small businesses do need to do some extra work to ensure everyone’s on the same page.

These are the team time tracking features that make communication more effective:

  • Time tracking reports: When everyone on the team can see where the company is spending time, it makes quick work of communication. In Toggl Track’s Starter plan for small teams, for example, it’s easier to generate team-wide reports that demonstrate exactly what’s going on.
  • Organizing and sorting tasks: A small team is efficient when it can assign the right people to the right jobs. Look for tools that make it easy to create assignments and track separate types of work within the same project—like Toggl Track's Tasks feature.

Time tracking for temporary teams and project teams

Running a Pareto analysis is all well and good when you have months, or even years, to work with. But what if the team is only temporary?

Temporary teams can benefit from transparency and the quick communication available through time tracking. With the right tracking in place, a project manager can identify where they’re investing the most time with just a quick glance.

By visually tracking time, it’s easier for people to know where their workloads stand. Does the project leader need to adjust headlines? Should the company hire outside help? With visual time tracking, those answers come fast.

Which time tracking features are good for short-term projects? Look for two things:

  • Integrations: Can your time tracker play well with other apps? Is it lightweight enough to  slot right into existing workflows and tools, like Asana or Jira? There’s no sense in navigating competing apps and tools if the team is only temporary.
  • Ease of use: For a long-term project, a longer onboarding process makes sense. But with fewer hours to work with, ease of use becomes that much more important.

Time tracking for big teams

Theoretically, a bigger team means more minds working on solutions. That should mean a higher chance of project success, right? Unfortunately, that’s not always the way it turns out. In fact, the chance of failure goes up if a project has a budget over $1 million. 

Why do big teams struggle so much? Bigger teams create more chances for complications. What if one team measures success by milestones, while another tracks employee time? Your goal should be to translate different types of work into the same language: billable hours.

It’s true that logging hours in a project doesn’t always indicate how hard people are working. But it’s a start and it creates measurable insight into what’s going on within a team. When you need to compare what a front-end development team does with what a sales team does, billable hours give you a basis for comparison. Look for the following in your time tracking solution:

  • Flexibility: If your billable hours are going to be accurate, your time tracking needs to get specific about where people are spending their time and how long certain tasks are taking. 

    Knowing how much time a project took is in some ways more valuable and actionable information than knowing how long each person worked. With Toggl Track, for example, you can sort by clients, projects, and even individual tasks and milestones—so that you can view the hours spent on a task or project.

  • Accessibility: There’s no point in having a common productivity language if no one is using it. What if sales reps need to access hourly tracking via mobile? Or if developers prefer the desktop? Make sure your time tracker works across devices.

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Time tracking for classrooms

Every classroom requires two schedules: the teacher’s and the students’. Instructors need effective time management and time tracking to organize lessons and plan classes. But time tracking can also help students learn to manage their time and stay organized.

88% of U.S. college students from a survey said they wanted to improve their time management skills. What better way to start than in the classroom? 

Both instructors and students can benefit from the following features:

  • Automatic tracking: Education is a complicated business with a lot of context switching. At any given part of their day, an instructor might be leading a class, grading papers, or moderating a seminar. A student might be doing homework, studying for a test, or trying to coordinate with fellow students for a group presentation. 

    A feature—like Toggl Track’s Timeline feature—that automatically tracks your computer activity can be handy for keeping yourself accountable even during a busy day. The point of a feature like Toggl Track's, however, is not to monitor students—Timeline data can only be seen by the individuals—but to help reduce cognitive load.

  • Weekly reports: An end-of-week summary helps instructors review how much time they actually spent on certain curriculum topics. Share it with the class and you create even more incentive for students to feel like they’re part of what’s happening every week. 

Students can also track their study hours during the week and see how long it took them to complete certain tasks. This means no more penalties for late assignments.

Focus on time tracking principles and the tools will follow

Technology is a huge asset for all types of teams. But that makes it tempting to throw tools at various problems and projects and expect to sit back and watch the magic happen.

If you want the tools to work for you, you need to lay the right foundation—particularly when it comes to tracking team time. If you focus on the principles of effective team time management you’ll know exactly what features you need to support those.

Visual collaboration, reports, automatic time tracking—once you know what to look for, you’ll know exactly what to expect out of your time tracking tool. And when you match the principles to the right tools, you’ll find yourself getting more out of every single feature.

"Bigger teams create more chances for complications. What if one team measures success by milestones, while another tracks employee time? Your goal should be to translate different types of work into the same language: billable hours."

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