Timesheets don't lie.
Sure people filling out timesheets can be less than honest, but more often than not, they are more inaccurate than dishonest.
Measure It To Improve It
I've come to the very firm conclusion that if want to achieve your full potential, obtain your peak performance or build a great company you need to measure where you and everyone else spend their time.
When you are doing your strategic planning, looking to improve your business, thinking to grow sales or just working to satisfy your existing customers; it is likely that free time is in short supply.
This means you will tend to be busy but not always get the most important work done. Even worse, most people tend to get side-tracked by the many distractions out there (e-mail, Twitter, instant messaging, Facebook, etc.). We justify it all by saying to ourselves that it is necessary to keep in touch and a myriad of other justifications.
If you track where you spend your time fairly accurately and include categories for the busy work and distractions (and assuming you are honest with yourself) you will likely find that you spend much less time on the important work than you should.
Don't bury the distractions in your other work time reporting. That 5 minute distraction cost you 5 minutes for the distraction and 10-20 minutes to get back into your flow. Account for them if you want to improve your effectiveness.
Most Important Work
As a business owner (or someone who wants to just excel at your work) you make the most money when you are doing your most valuable work, pure and simple. By that I mean the work that you are really good at and that has value to your business and customers.
Most business owners (and companies) spend far too little time on the strategic and "working on the business" activities. If they do spend enough time it is by working excessive hours.
So how do you get this under control?
Then look at where your time goes.
If your time is not going towards the most important work either re-prioritize, avoid the distractions, or delegate (the work that is not your best, most important work).
I periodically look at my time sheets to see where I am spending time. Actually, I look at it from the perspective of the entire company as well.
I am constantly amazed at how easy it is to get off course; to find a week or two went by and you didn't put any effort into executing your plans.
Reflect, Learn and Refocus
Don't beat yourself up. You will just look for distractions to make yourself feel better. Besides, humans are naturally easy to distract. (This is why so few humans achieve at their full potential.)
Do something. Just use the information to refocus and redirect your efforts:
- Reflect – Honestly look at yourself and your efforts.
- Learn – See where you fall off the rails and what keeps you focused.
- Redirect and Improve – Use the learning to build systems to keep you focused.
Do this periodically. The more often you do it: the smaller the damage, the smaller the changes required and the easier it is to redirect. The added benefit is you can work less hours and actually be more effective.
Time sheets don't lie. Use them wisely to improve your performance and the performance of your team.