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The Time Management Nazi

So lately I’ve been hearing the faint murmurings of distaste among the staff. It’s the hissing under their breath when they think I’m out of earshot, the sudden silence that happens when I enter the room and the slight hints of sarcasm that is spoken as they acknowledge a policy which they “accept”. Yes, I believe I have been labeled “The Time Management Nazi.”

Any regular reader of this blog knows that I’m a time management fiend. I hate wasting my own time, and hate wasting company time even more. Salaries are not paid on wasted time, now, are they?

I remember one of the first employees I ever hired. An older guy whom I was trying to explain some of the more basic link research concepts. This guy was a classic example of time wasted. Anytime after being shown something new he needed a brief 90 second pause in order “to take it all in”. OK, pause over, now we can go on with the less… oh, wait… another pause!

One day I had jumped over to a different machine and after several minutes I noticed that this gentleman was turned around looking at me. I asked him if he needed help. His response was, “I’ll wait, I don’t want to bother you.” Uh, hello…. time’s a wasting. You get paid by the hour. By all means, BOTHER ME!

So, yeah, I’m a sticker for maximizing time. And its just that that has my team quietly seething at me.

Here’s the deal. I want to make sure we keep accurate records of what each person does each day. To this end I have them record what they do, what client they do it for, so on and so forth. I also expect an accuracy rate of 95%. That means in any given day less than 30 minutes can remain unaccounted for.

I have created a very nice excel tracking sheet. Each sheet has a section for every client which allows the team to to mark the date, what they did, start and stop time and a total. I also have sections for what we call “unbillable” time. This is whenever they do something that is not directly related to a specific client such as educational reading, blogging, playing pool, er I mean “pool table brainstorming”, etc. Each sheet is good for a week in which everything gets totaled and then dumped into a different spreadsheet so I can track how we are allocating our time to each client on weekly, monthly and yearly basis.

Complaints have ranged from, “the writing space is too small,” to “can’t we build a system to do that for us?” My answers typically range from, “You’ll get over it” to, “we’re working on it, work with what we have and get over it.” I have a low tolerance for whining.

Since we’ve implemented this detailed tracking I’ve been able to glean a good number of insights. On average we spend about 62% of our time each week on “billable” activities. The other 38% goes towards company matters, meetings, brainstorming sessions, personal development, etc. Our goal is for everyone to be above 60%. That’s easier for some than others. We also know when we are over-focusing on some clients while neglecting others.

In all, this information has proven invaluable as it gives us a clearer picture on pricing structures, time allotment, etc. So I don’t mind being called a Time Management Nazi. In fact, I relish the idea that, while implementing these tracking measures may cause some minor griping among the team, it ultimately will allow us to ensure time is spent in the most productive way. Higher productivity equals more company profits which, in-turn, goes into increased employee salaries and bonuses.

Funny, how I never hear griping when I hand out pay raises and bonuses!

(Note: This post is written with tongue firmly planted in cheek. While the tracking measures instituted are real, the griping, mumbling and complaining is not. I’ve got a fantastic team and I could not be happier with their performance. One additional note to Seth: it’s a joke. Get over it!)

Stoney G deGeyter

Stoney deGeyter is the author of The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!. He is the founder and CEO of Pole Position Marketing, a web presence optimization firm whose pit crew has been velocitizing websites since 1998. In his free time Stoney gets involved in community services and ministries with his “bride enjoy” and his children. Read Stoney’s full bio.

8 Responses to The Time Management Nazi

  1. Stoney … until people actually hire others and start paying them out of their own pocket, they won’t relate to you and call you a Time management Nazi (or other names).

    Those that complain just don’t know what it’s like to pay an employee for the time they “waste”.

    I’ve met many of the “90 seconds to think” and “let me ask you again” people. These guys are usually, good folks, but very problematic when it comes to work.

  2. Jonas Hartley says:

    I’m a “stickler” for spelling errors myself…

    The ‘pause to process’ folks are probably good seat warmers and doesn’t every micro manager thrive on getting a full 8 hours out of their employees? That’s an extreme case. Sometimes things get done quicker than others… Monday mornings compared to thursday afternoons.

    Time tracking is great for studying workflow efficiency versus billable time. Every little bit counts and keeping a tight ship is key to success… But employees who don’t feel trusted to manage their time, do their job, and their integrity is in question are more likely to “waste” time.

    Or compromise, empower and hope for the best!

  3. Stoney G deGeyter
    Stoney deGeyter says:

    But employees who don’t feel trusted to manage their time, do their job, and their integrity is in question are more likely to “waste” time.

    That’s a good point, though I think the employees should never assume that tracking is the same as micro-managing. Nor should they believe that their integrity is in question. Tracking time, billable and unbillable isn’t a trust issue, just a knowledge and efficiency issue.

  4. Seth Tachick says:

    Ok, time to rock the boat a bit. There is definately a “trust factor” when it comes meticulous time management. If an employee doesn’t feel trusted by his superiors, this ultimately tends to lead to less productivity and growth. On the other hand affective time management is definately needed in order to run a successful business. I think there’s a happy median between time management “nazism” and a lack of stringent time management efforts.

  5. Stoney G deGeyter
    Stoney deGeyter says:

    If an employee doesn’t feel trusted by his superiors, this ultimately tends to lead to less productivity and growth.

    That statement is true but not sure what it has to do with time management. Managing and documenting time is all about accountability. In truth, there rarely is trust without accountability. Tracking time (see books such as the one minute manager) is essential for both employee and employer. It ensures the employee gets proper credit for their work and also can highlight weaknesses. If some things take more time than they really should then those weaknesses can be adjusted. If tracking is not in place then those weaknesses will largely keep occurring and become a drain on the company finances.

    Here is another way to look at it. If time is not being managed effectively then more employees will have to be hired to make up for that. More employees (when otherwise would not have been necessary) become a drain on payroll which reduces funds available to pay all employees as well as provide bonuses, etc.

    They way I see it, employees should jump on the accountability bandwagon because when its all said and done, its good for them.

  6. Jason Green says:

    I must say that on this issue I am firmly with Stoney and fully support the idea of meticulous time management. I can also say that, as Igor suggested, my position on time management and my appreciation for the unique pain that accompanies paying for non-production activity (professional seat warming), comes from direct, personal experience. Philosophically it is easy to understand and agree with the “time = money” concept. However, the act of giving up your hard-earned money to pay for someone else’s wasted time solidifies the concept into a deeply personal truism.