One of the biggest challenges of tracking time is remembering to do it “in the moment”.
There are just so many things that you have to remember to do—pack your kids’ lunch, file that report, send that super-important email. Sometimes there’s just no room for “remembering to press the start button” and the day just gets away from you.
Put time-tracking on autopilot by making it a strong habit.
And then, you’re stuck spending precious time filling out a timesheet, wondering what you actually got done.
Instead of trying to remember it every time, put time-tracking on autopilot by making it a strong habit.
1. Set your intentions
The first step in creating a habit that sticks is to find the deeper reason of why you want this habit.
This part can be especially tricky if you didn’t come up with the idea of tracking your time on your own. But, it’s crucial to figure out why you want to do it so that you aren’t fighting against yourself when trying to form this habit.
Try this: ask yourself “Why?” three times.
“I need to get in the habit of tracking my hours.” → “Why?”
“So that I can provide an accurate report to my supervisor.” → “Why?”
“To develop a relationship of trust and support with them.” → “Why?“
“So that I can work in a conflict-free environment and continue to grow in my career.”
This last answer is the most powerful motivator, cutting through to core human needs—self-actualization and peace.
2. Define success
Figure out exactly what you will do every time you perform the habit of time tracking.
Is it that every time you start a new task you name it and select a Project? Will you stop the timer when your co-worker comes in with a question and begin a new one? If you take a 5 min break, will you keep the timer running or not? When you’ve figured out what success looks like, you’ll know what you have to do to earn your reward.
When you’ve figured out what success looks like, you’ll know what you have to do to earn your reward.
3. Work out a reward
Until you cement your habit, it’s important to build a feedback loop that physically rewards your body and your brain. For best results, make the reward as immediate, physical and as big as possible.
Reward yourself by having a Skittle every time you remember to press the “Start” button. If Skittles aren’t your thing, try giving yourself a big smile and a “Kudos” for a job well done. If you work in an environment that allows it, do a fist-pump and say “Woohoo!” or “Nice job!” every time you remember to start the timer.
This little burst of energy and positivity will both reinforce your habit and get you ready to tackle the new task at hand.
4. Find the trigger
One of the easiest ways to get into your time-tracking habit is by doing it immediately before or after another, already-existing, habit.
For example, I have a habit of keeping a list of my to-dos in Todoist. When I log in for the day I look at my list of tasks, choose one to-do and press the Toggl Button right next to the list item. I set the Project for that to-do… and away I go. When I’ve finished my to-do, I just come back to my list in Todoist and check it off before starting on the next one.
Toggl Button works with all your favorite tools; Todoist, Jira, Trello, Wunderlist, Asana, Github, Gmail, Salesforce, Xero, and on and on.
If your activities take you away from your computer, think about other habits that you could tie your time-tracking to. If you’re driving to see a client, for example, start the timer in Toggl app on your iPhone or Android after you buckle up.
5. Set up your environment
Finally, make sure that the environment that you want to track in helps you to remember your habit.
Set Toggl to be your browser’s homepage so that it launches when you open it up first thing in the morning. Or, download the Desktop App, and put the application launcher in your “Start” bar.
Another powerful trick is to set up reminders—they can get a little annoying… but they really work.
I would even suggest you go overboard and set up “too many” reminders at first. Both Toggl Button and the Desktop App have reminders built-in. But, you can set reminders in all sorts of places: alarms on your phone, reminders in your favorite calendar, sticky notes.
The last part of creating a habit is holding yourself accountable—did you do the habit?
With the habit of “tracking your time”, this part comes for free with Toggl. The habit tracks itself. If you’ve created Time Entries for the day you have succeeded. And, if your boss or your clients are waiting for your report at the end of the week or month, you’ll also hold yourself accountable to them.
I hope this guide will help you work time-tracking into your daily routine so it will become second nature to you.
Good luck and Godspeed!