Posted by Josh | Posted in GTD, Life As A DBA | Posted on 07-03-2012
Tags: perspective, priorities, productivity
A short while ago, I read a great post by Kendra Little (@Kendra_Little on Twitter) on how using some common consulting tricks can be useful even for those not in a consulting role. One item that resonated in particular was the idea of tracking your time, for the purposes of finding places where your time is probably not being used wisely (Kendra uses the example of not planning for disaster recovery, a clear “must-do” for a good DBA). I’ve tried various methods of tracking my time before, including everything from home-grown applications (I suck at GUI programming on a side note) to simple notepad paper. Everything failed miserably for one of two reasons.
It Was Too Hard To Use
My cruddy GUI programming skills aside, I had never found something lightweight enough that I could really use it consistantly without slowing down. In my work I am constantly switching tasks, so whatever method I used needed to not require ten clicks to switch from one task to another. If it was anything less than really easy, I would simply give up after a few days.
It Didn’t Give Useful Data
Recording time is one thing, but of equal importance is the metadata associated with that slice of time. What project was I working on (if there was a defined project, not something that’s always true)? For what client? What “tags” or other little flags were associated with a piece of work (for instance, was my time spent dealing with a “walk-up”, or was it unplanned troubleshooting)? Without this enriched data, simply knowing that I spent from 8 AM to 9:45AM working on task ‘XYZ’ really isn’t very useful.
Well, thanks to Kendra’s suggestion, I’ve finally found a tool that I’m sticking with. Toggl is nothing short of fantastic! It’s easy to use, quick, and allows me to easily tag and classify work without a lot of extra effort. It’s been downright fascinating seeing how my time is really spent, and I’m finding it’s often quite different than what I perceive. I might feel like I’ve spent every waking moment working on a particular effort, only to find that my judgement is skewed simply because I find that particular work unpleasant (nothing to throw off your gut feeling like hating what you’re doing).
Most importantly, it’s enabled true, accurate (at least mostly so) transparency with my superiors and customers. When I report weekly to my boss, I can say with integrity what I have (and conversely, have not) been spending my time (and therefore the company’s money) on. It’s been invaluable in tweaking my workload to better suit our client’s needs, but also in identifying easy automation / delegation opportunities. Clearly a win for both sides!