According to Einstein time is relative. But unless you’re planning on traveling at the speed of light anytime soon, time is constant enough to be a dependable mechanism to help you operate your creative practice. In fact, time is the most fixed resource you have, and we all get the same number of ticks each day. No more, no less.
The physics of time, in a cosmic sense, has some flexibility to it. But there’s another time distortion that’s far more impactful on us, namely, our perception of it. As the expression goes, “Time flies when you’re having fun.” But if you struggle with insomnia, not so much.
The elasticity of time, when it comes to our perceptions, is far stretchier than any of the effects gravity has on it. When we get into the creative zone, hours and hours can pass, and we hardly perceive the clock. But if you spend 45 minutes on your marketing, that part of your day can feel longer than all the rest.
Our memory of time gets even more distorted over time. You can spend weeks on a project, and then think back on it months or years later, and remember it as only a few days.
Poor memories and inaccurate recollections of time expenditure are further exaggerated when we are inclined to favor or disfavor certain activities. For example, if you are attracted to a new creative opportunity with an insufficient budget, you will be prone to minimize your estimate on how long the work will really take. Or, if you feel overworked and want to outsource some tasks to a contractor, you’ll probably inflate the amount of time it takes you to do those tasks you don’t like—perhaps handling your finances, or executing on your marketing strategy. And so you’ll be inclined to overestimate how much time you really spend on those tasks and end up incurring expenses to avoid tasks that don’t really impact your schedule as much as you may think.
You Need Concrete Time Records
This is why tracking and measuring your time is so important to your business. You need to start and stop your timer throughout your work day. Otherwise, when planning, estimating, or accounting, you’ll have to rely on your faulty memory. Only hard time records can keep us from terrible decisions based on murky recollections of time.
For your time records to be a source of unbending truth that guides business decisions, your time records must include more than just project time. It should account for all the time you spend in your business. And so you need to create internal overhead categories for your time keeping system. Measure the time you spend doing marketing, managing your money, and engaging in general administration. Only then will you be able to go back and actually see how much time each of these various activities takes up.
Reviewing Time Spent
Keeping your time is a prerequisite for discovering the truth about how you actually spend your work days. But these records are only helpful if you use them. You need to go back and look at past projects in order to keep yourself honest when estimating new ones. You need to evaluate just how much time you will save if you outsource tasks to a bookkeeper, administrative assistant, or social media marketer.
Managing Time Management
Here’s a tip to make time tracking more accurate and a little easier. When I start my day, I set up time entries for all of the tasks that I know I’ll be engaging in. I set up a general overhead entry for general email and admin. I create an item for financials (for making any updates to cash flow, etc.). I set a couple for marketing time. And then I’ll create entries for any client projects or meetings I know I’ll be working on that day. I’ve taken a screen grab of my timer as of this moment, and you can see that several items have “0:00” on them. That’s because I haven’t gotten around to those tasks yet. But later today, when it’s time to update my billing, I’ll just hit the financial’s Start button and track that time.
A Habit that Keeps you Honest
Tracking time takes discipline, and it requires new work habits. But data time will enable you to correct your faulty memory. It will keep you honest. And it will tell you the truth about your operations. Time is a valuable resource. Measure it, so that you don’t waste it.