“Where does the time go?” Great question. And if you’re missing deadlines and not tracking time, we have extremely low-tech ways to do it before you commit to buying a big solution.
Tracking Time at the Push of a Button
Challenge: Here at Arch DevOps, we don’t need a lot of high-tech off-the-shelf tools to do the voodoo that we do. We also don’t care for tools that do way more than we need. When we needed to track where time was being spent though, we needed something that could do so quickly, without a big mental switch of attention from what we were trying to focus on.
Solution: We paired up with a new intern to craft this project together, and the solution was to use an Excel spreadsheet as a template for the 9 different tasks that we queued up. A free tool called AutoHotKey was used to capture hotkeys Alt-1 through Alt-9, and log the start and stop time for the corresponding tasks (rows 1 through 9 in the spreadsheet). The totals for each task were calculated in real time, so at any time, a person could go in and see how much time was being spent on a particular task.
Result: Not only did this automation give visibility into where time was being spent, but we got reports back about how much it improved focus. Turns out that when you start up logging time on a particular task, people don’t get as distracted as easily. Productivity improved and a general sense of feeling great showed up in users of this particular automation.
Down-to-the-Minute Reporting for Clients
Challenge: When working billable hours, a zero-cost system was required to track how many hours a client had left available. Arch DevOps sells consulting hours in blocks of 20, clients “fill up” their tank on a semi-regular basis, and then we nibble away at the time. But we needed a way to let clients know how much time was left in their tank so they could buy more.
Solution: A script was developed to pull key pieces of data from all of the timesheets that were ever created. Then the hours and minutes are pulled out from the billable tasks, totaled, and subtracted from the number of hours they have in their tank. Then at the end of every week, we deliver a down-to-the-minute report of where time was spent, along with how much time is left.
Result: This has been great for transparency, and helps keep the clients aware of when they need to stock up on time. It’s been a great prompt which has turned into a nice revenue stream as we continue to help these same clients with extra tasks in the following weeks.