Time Tracker: Start-up productivity

Start-up Productivity

I should be tired. It is 2:30 am in Philadelphia.

Today, I drove my car for 8 hours and 33 minutes, mostly in circles. It was a long day. But, I achieved a lot:

Please, do not try to make sense of the route (or lack thereof), as it was mostly last minute meetings put together on the fly. And it turned out to be a terrible route, but a fun & productive day.

  •  6 hrs 31 min of sleep, and my day started in Philadelphia, PA
  • 4 min of exercise was enough to get me energized
  • 25 min of morning preparation, and off to first client visit in NY
  • 2 hrs of client visit in New York to kick-off a project
  • 12 min of lunch (a nice Gyro on Route 1 in New Jersey)
  • 1 hr 13 min of meeting with consulting partners in Yardley, PA
  • 2 hrs 42 min of another client meeting over dinner in Wayne, PA
  • 1 hr 39 min of beer & chat with a friend in downtown Princeton, NJ
  • …and back to hotel in Philly close to mid-night

You might think that I lost my mind or something is wrong with me. Otherwise, who in the world would keep track of the time of every single activity? Well, I do it for the last ~120 days (~2900 hrs), continuously. If I am a freak, I am not the only one. See Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst’s 10 productivity tips at the Inc Magazine (by Jeff Haden). I first saw Jim Whitehurst in 2007 as a speaker at a conference at Georgia Tech, when he was the COO of Delta Airlines. When I was listening to his story of how they turned around Delta’s performance from near-bankruptcy situation, I remember admiring Jim and his leadership skills. Therefore, seeing productivity tips from him many years later in this article immediately got me hooked.

Quoting Jim directly: “Tracking my time is something I just started to do recently. It’s been an eye-opening experience–and one that has really helped me focus”

When I read this article, it was the first couple days of starting my consulting company, Supply Chain Wizard, and I decided to give it a try with Toggl (app that Jim is using). At first, it felt really weird and difficult. But over time, I got so used to it that it turned into a number one personal productivity tool for me.

I do not know if there is any other founder in the world, who tracked every task/activity of his/her own time from the very beginning of the start-up. If there is, I really would like to share/benchmark our data, and compare insights. But I have the feeling that this will play a major role in our company success, as it already significantly increased my personal productivity and satisfaction with how I use my time, my most valuable resource.

Here are 4 ways Time Tracking helped me, and can potentially help you:

  1. Deeper focus. Now that the clock is ticking on the selected task in Toggl, you feel the need to focus on it, or otherwise switch to another task/activity and focus on that one. “Doing nothing” is not an option (theoretically it is, but it feels terrible that you are doing nothing with your valuable time, and you are actually recording this as data).
  2. Reduced “waste”. Facebook, Twitter, Web surfing, non-sense TV. Record all of it, and over time you will realize how much valuable time you are losing. After the first full month of recording, and realizing this waste, I spent 85% less time on my “time killer” category of activities the next 2 months
  3. Better work-life balance. Please stop lying yourself about how busy you are, and why you don’t have enough time to spend on healthy & spiritual activities, including exercise, family and friends. I realized that I can actually fit in a short exercise into every morning (even if it is just 5-10min), and now I have a long series of daily exercise regimen. Time tracking turned exercise into daily obsession/habit for me.
  4. Continuous improvement. What is more beautiful than a very well organized data set which is showing your own personal performance and weekly / monthly improvements. You start noticing trends (e.g., spending at least 30-40 min of morning prep time), and want to improve it over time. I set mental targets for specific activities such as “no more than 60 continuous min on emailing”, and try to do things faster and more efficient each time. Data will show how successful I get over time, and will also highlight where there is biggest opportunities to improve myself.

Thanks for reading my very first LinkedIn post. This was a promise to myself to start writing regularly, as I noticed in my “time log” that I don’t spend much time on writing. I am thankful to Jim Whitehurst for the inspiration, and to Jeff Haden for sharing Jim’s productivity tips.

Please let me know what you think. Do you track your time? Would you like to try? Do you think you have significant opportunity to be much more productive? Have you discovered better ways to achieve your productivity goals? I would like to learn from other “time trackers” too.

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