You’re here because you could manage your time better. We all could. The catch is knowing how to change. Everybody gets to the end of a workday, and wonders where all the time went, but it seems like some people can just get more done in a day. How could you become one of those people? It’s not as hard as you’d think.
Put simply via New York University, time management is making a plan so you can get the important stuff done, consistently. But here’s the catch: you can’t add time to a day, so you’ll have to get more done in a day. That’s the challenge of time management. If you want to do better, you’re going to need a plan, as well as some good tools.
Step One: Add Goals to Your Calendar
If something is important enough to you, then you have to put it on a calendar, no questions asked. That’s the best way to start setting goals for your time. When you don’t have a goal, it’s easy to get lost, and then waste time. So write down some goals that you need to accomplish during this coming week, or in the next month, and be realistic about what you can get done.
“The best way to manage time,” writes occupational-health expert Bill Thomack, “is to set a goal, develop a plan, and measure the outcome. Without goals, it is impossible to set priorities.” In other words, you can’t really know how you’re doing if you don’t have goals to tell you that you’re getting more done.
By the time you get the hang of managing your time with a calendar, you’ll be ready for the next step, which is to share your calendar with your co-workers. That will let everyone at your firm know what you’re working on, when you’re available, and just how productive you are working. Some high-quality project management software will even let you integrate your calendar directly with their resource allocation tools.
Step Two: Schedule for the Way You Work
Everybody at your firm schedules work differently. As you know, some people need to work a schedule where they change tasks every hour, while other employees need lots of unrestricted time to do problem-solving for work. You wouldn’t schedule all of those people exactly the same, would you? The next step is to schedule for how you work.
In his popular essay on the topic, the programmer Paul Graham writes that there are two kinds of schedules. One is the manager’s schedule, which is scheduled hour-by-hour and is spent largely in meetings. The other is the maker’s schedule, which is scheduled in multiple-hour blocks of time, and spend largely creating things without hourly goals. But that doesn’t mean you can’t schedule for both kinds of workers.
You can use a project management tool to do things like defining your work week, setting your submission period, and adding or renaming the columns in your timesheet. When you commit to completing the goals that are important to you, and you make a plan that fits the way you work best, then you’re already on your way to doing better time management.
Step Three: Discover What Makes You Productive
Now that you’re scheduling your high-priority goals, and now that you’ve made a schedule that fits how you actually get work done, the last step is to pay attention to how you accomplish those goals. Do coworkers frequently interrupt your progress? Are there times when you put off your deadlines? When do you usually have spare time, and when are you always swamped?
In other words, what exactly prevented you from getting something done on deadline? If you’re like most workers, the same three or four things always prevent you from doing good time management. So how can you get better? You have to identify the things that make you unproductive, and reorganize your schedule so you can work more productively, or you’ll never be able to change. To do that, you’ll need more some more info.
You can start measuring your productivity in a project management software, where you can get lots of helpful data about how you work on tasks, or about how you spend your time. Do you see any repeated patterns that you think you should change? A helpful software tool even gives you the power to make any necessary changes to your project schedules, using Gantt charts, simply with a click of your mouse.
There will never be enough time to do everything you want to accomplish. However, when you align your working schedule with what’s important to your firm, and when you’re committed day-by-day to always doing what’s most important, you’ll always have control of your time, because you’ll always be working on something important. That’s how to do better time management.
If you’re interested in project management software, please request a free demo of BigTime, and see just how productive your firm could be.
Measuring Productivity with a Billable Utilization Rate: Where to Start
How do you even begin to measure your firm’s productivity? What are you supposed to do when you have to know whether your firm is billing at capacity? You can start by measuring your billable utilization rate.
That’s when you compare an employee’s total billable hours to their monthly capacity. For example, in a given month, a worker might have a capacity of 160 hours (or 40 hours per week by 4 weeks in a month) and 120 total billable hours. That employee would have a billable ratio target of 75 (or 120:160) and might work each month to meet that goal, helping your firm to be more productive.
It’s easy to figure out the billable utilization rate for one worker, but when you want to improve productivity for a whole firm, it can get a lot more complicated. That’s why we’ve outlined these four basic steps to help you start using time-tracking information for insight into your firm’s performance.
First, Set Up Your Time Tracking
If you can’t count it, then you can’t measure it. Start by finding the best way for your employees to enter their time, both billable hours and non-billable hours, so you can assign numbers for both their total billable hours and their capacity.
Project managers usually ask employees to enter their time weekly or daily, not only to guarantee consistency in reporting but also to make sure that time entry actually happens regularly. When your team members give you numbers to work with, consistently and correctly, then you can start to get a good picture of their total billable hours.
Be smart about how your firm tracks time, and make it as easy as possible for employees to enter their hours worked, with a time-and-billing software that can figure out the total billable hours for you. Some software even lets employees enter their time through a mobile app, whether they’re in the office, working from home, or even offline.
Second, Ask Employees to Make Notes on Their Time:
If you don’t know how your employees spend their time, then you don’t know much. When you aim to improve your firm’s productivity and to increase the number of hours for which your firm bills, you have to know exactly what workers do with their time.
Start today by asking employees to make very short notes about the time they enter. Adding notes can give you a lot of insight into your firm’s productivity hour-by-hour and day-to-day, and for the little time it takes your employees to enter a note, notes are an important step toward increasing productivity.
In fact, our recent study into billing realization shows that entering a note of only 140 characters can increase billing-realization rates by 4.65%. That means a note as short as a Tweet could increase billing by $35 billion, annually, for middle-sized US professional services firms.
Just a little extra information can add a lot to your ability to measure productivity. A good project management software will let workers enter notes along with their time. When you know how workers spend their time, and when you know how productive they are on average, then you can start watching how productively your firm completes projects.
Third, Look for Opportunities
Once you’ve figured out the billable utilization rates for your firm’s employees, you can use software to begin keeping track of whether each employee works at their utilization rate, on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.
Using software to look at the billing utilization rates will give you the opportunity to find interesting patterns in how your firm’s workers use their time. You can see which employees are regularly invoicing for time, as well as which employees are working at capacity and whether certain employees are doing billable work or doing non-billable work.
After a little while, you’ll start to learn more and more about your firm’s utilization rates, and you will be able to spot irregular patterns in productivity. When you know enough about how your firm works, and how you want it to work differently, you can confidently start making some informed changes.
Finally, Refine the Way Your Firm Works
By the time you have a few weeks of info on your firm’s billable utilization rates, you will be ready to make changes in your firm, using a software tool called resource allocation. When you use resource allocation, you have the power to change how and when your firm uses its two most vital resources, its employees’ time and its money.
That’s how you put the billable utilization rate to work: if you know can put a number to each employee’s productivity, then you can make changes if an employee is not working at capacity, rather than wasting the company’s resources.
Resource allocation can be as simple as using software to shift around the projects and tasks that an employee is working on, or to stay aware of changes in overall utilization rates, or to assign tasks from one worker to another. Some resource allocation tools can even automatically track your ongoing utilization rates, and they’re very easy to use, too.
Any firm that asks its employees to track their time, and to add notes to their time entries, can start measuring its productivity. Once you have reliable software to give you the proper perspective for making decisions, your firm can start working smarter, today.
If you think your firm might benefit from a project management software, please contact us to request a demo of BigTime, and learn how productive your firm could be.