The Tracks of my Time


How does the old Smokey Robinson and the Miracles song go?

So take a good look at my face

You’ll see my smile looks out of place

If you look closer, it’s easy to trace

The tracks of my tears

Well, I have been looking closer. Not at my face – no thanks, not since I passed forty. But at my time – and the tracks were painful to see.

I always considered myself time-efficient. I did fill Rudyard Kipling’s ‘unforgiving minute’ with ‘sixty seconds’ worth of distance run.’ In the words of my first sales manager, I did “do a full day’s work every day” – and if I played golf one afternoon, I more than made up for it in the evening or ridiculously early the next morning. So I was pleased with myself.

That is, until I started using Toggl.

Like all great apps, Toggl is ridiculously simple. And it’s obvious. Were I an investor in apps I would ask one simple question: can I tell what it does and how it will benefit me in less than ten seconds? With Toggl the answer is emphatically ‘yes’ – and then it gets frightening.

Naturally I came up with all the categories you’d expect: TAB, clients, admin, planning… And then I added another one – ‘faffing.’ We all know what ‘faffing’ is: you go on LinkedIn to accept a request and then boom! You’ve spent 15 minutes scrolling through people you might or might not know.

Bluntly, gentle reader, I was appalled. No, ‘faffing’ wasn’t the biggest category by any means – but it was far from insignificant. Had I been paid to ‘faf’ then there’d be a lot more in the Reid Xmas Wine Fund that there is right now.

The key point is that by recording the time I spent ‘faffing’ I was acknowledging it. We all waste time on LinkedIn or Facebook or Twitter: we all log off feeling guilty. But like most people, I never did anything about it until I recorded the time and acknowledged it. That’s when it became scary and that’s when I cut it back significantly.

We all think we’re efficient, we all think we’re good at getting things done. But it slips. And from time to time it does no harm to install an app like Toggl and check.

You can’t do 100% of everything you want – or intend – to do: time simply doesn’t allow it. But as we frequently say in TAB, ‘If time only allows you to do 80% of what you want to do, how do you know it’s the right 80%?’

That’s where recording your time is vital. When I press ‘reports’ on Toggl I know that I may not like what I see: but I know that the report will be accurate and objective – and it will pinpoint whether I’ve spent my time in the 80% I can get done (and that makes a difference), or whether I’ve been ‘faffing.’

Obviously Toggl is far from the only time-tracking app out there. But to quote that old sales manager, “it works for me.”

The main reason is simple: as above, it is remarkably easy to use. It doesn’t have bells and whistles were no bells and whistles are required. It has two pricing plans: free and five bucks a month. That’s it. (And isn’t that another business fundamental we need reminding of from time to time? Keep it Simple. OK, add Stupid if you must…)

Enough from me for this week. I need to add another category to Toggl. One that will dictate the success of the next five weeks of my life. One that will demand focus, commitment and absolute attention to detail. Christmas Shopping for the Wife…

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