Jack M

March 23, 2021

Personal Tracking

Time tracking is something I’ve struggled with for years.  It takes time to track time, so why would I track time when my time is already at a premium?

“Because it’s good for you!!!” — Weird Al - Albuquerque.

As a developer in a small business, the day-to-day question (e.g. not outage related) question I dreaded was always, “why didn’t you hit that deadline?”

Without any tracking, I can dive into version control, or dig through emails, or any number of other tools, and develop a list of things I did.  That is great if everything I did came through those mediums.  But what about the problems outside my “normal” job?  Email won’t authenticate?  Internet out?  MFA on a new phone for someone in accounting?

This is where personal tracking comes in.  I use a todo list to track general tasks like “post-deployment bugs”, or “password encryption algorithm research”.  The goal is not to account for every moment, but rather as a reminder of how my effort was allocated.  This can be done through tools like Basecamp (my current go-to), on paper, or whatever fits your workflow.

In addition to a simple todo, I also keep notes and reminders about unfinished tasks.  Waiting for feedback?  I put a note on the list to show that I started waiting, set a due date to follow up, and make a note each time I do follow up.

Coarse-grain tracking allows me to be flexible with minor interruptions if I already have the task tracked for the day.  At the end of each day, I archive the list in case I need it.  In Basecamp, a check-in works as a great reminder, even if you rush out at the end of the day to rescue your spouse from a cranky 2 year old.

With my list, I can quickly scroll through and see if a deadline was missed because I estimated poorly, because of interruptions, or some other factor I would not remember without them.