When I was pregnant with my first baby I asked work if I could swap from a permanent full time role to a part-time contractor-style role where I billed them for the hours I worked. I knew that I would want the flexibility where I could work more on the weeks I had bandwidth and less on the other weeks. The only pay structure that seemed fair to me was to be paid by the hour1.
I needed to track the hours I worked each day so I had an accurate total at the end of the month. Once I got in to the habit of adding my hours in at the end of the day, it required minimal effort to keep up with.
Because of my previous agency experience, filling out a timesheet was a pretty unnapealling idea. But I soon realised that tracking hours for yourself is totally different to tracking for an employer. For one, you can be completely honest, no fudging or padding required. It is low pressure and you can be as detailed or as vague as you wish.
What I wasn’t expecting, was the psychological benefits to tracking my time. In my pre time-tracking fulltime work days I would often see the day play out like this:
- start the morning telling myself I would be super productive
- get distracted and start fucking around
- get back on task
- repeat steps 2 and 3 until 5pm
- think I haven’t “done enough” for the work day due to a general feeling that I wasted too much time and continue working late
- end up working a 10 hour day
If you’re a remote worker, you probably know what I’m talking about.
Once I started tracking my time, this experience completely went away, for two reasons:
- I knew exactly what I’d spent my time doing that day, there was no vague idea of how much time I’d spent off-task vs on-task.
- Because the clock was “running”, it was like a mental trick to get me to actually do the work I was supposed to be doing.
Time tracking is a tool that helped set a really clear boundary between work and my personal life. It was so effective for that I would recommend it to anyone doing remote work, even if you don’t need to report any hours back to an employer.