Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Designers beware of… time measurement.

Have you even been one of those people that at the end of a long day go "I worked my butt off all day and still I didn't get to do what was important, I feel like I didn't do anything at all…" Well, you may need to start measuring your time.

In my experience I found that there are several kinds of activities, for instance, true added value activities like strategic planning, chore activities like entering invoicing information into a collection system, annoying activities with no added value like burning CDs for other people and personal activities like breaks, lunch or cooler talks, to name a few.

It is important to know how much time you're spending in these activities. Why? Here are a few reasons:

- Because you may be spending a little too much time in activities that add no value to your operation.

- Because you may encounter that you can delegate certain activities to your employees, which not only would empower them, but free time for you to spend in more added value activities.

- Because you may find that it's more effective to hire a consultant to take care of certain time consuming activities or you may even ask for your suppliers to absorb such activities which would make your operation even more effective.

- Because you need to be aware of how long do your typical projects take, in order to have an accurate planning, and how much to charge.

- Because you can plan more strategically ahead of time so that you know if you need to get some outside help for that big project that will be coming next week or if you have some free time to spend on leadership activities with your staff. In other words, when you know how long will your projects take and how they're organized in any given time frame, you get a broader vision of your business.

So here's how I go about it:

- First, get your staff involved, so that the data collection is very accurate.

- Make a list of all the activities you and your staff are performing. Everything from creative meetings to smoking a cigarette, from the time you enter the office to the time you leave. Try not to leave anything out.

- Assign categories to the activities, for instance, a creative meeting and meetings with customers will go under "meetings" or "strategy". It depends on your particular needs and activities.

- Create an Excel table to enter the information with time and date and how long each activity took. For example:

You can set up the Excel table to count the time spent in each category and start analyzing the information, after you've collected it.

- Once you add up the time at the end of a predefined time frame, for instance, a week or a month, you can being to make some choices.

Depending on how many people work for you or your strategic plan, perhaps you want to start with your own activities first and then start measuring the staff according to their tasks, like, first the graphic designers and then, the sales people… it's your call, you define the criteria.

The first time I tried this methodology I found that 40% of my time was spent scanning pictures and burning CDs for other people (We were the only department in the company that had CD burners and a scanner, back in the day). This lead me to suggest to my boss that maybe somebody else (his assistant?) could take care of such activities if he invested a bit of money for the hardware, which would allow me to use that precious time attending to the clients requests.

All the best!

Update: To learn further about how to use the Excel activity tracking tool, go to my article about it, from October 30th, 2007.

No comments: