Recall our discovery that writing it down is more important than writing it right.
If it were only that simple.
Fundamentally, you need to ask yourself, for each task…
I hear the gears grinding in your head, so let’s take a brief digression here and talk about “lumping” and “splitting.”
Are you a Lumper or a Splitter?
See, there’s only two kinds of geologists (I have a BS in Geology, from a different lifetime): Lumpers and Splitters.
The Lumper walks up to a cliff or roadcut and writes in his field book (say) “Shaley Limestone, 100m,” draws the outcrop, fills in the drawing with a single color, goes and drinks beer and argues stratigraphy with The Splitter.
The Splitter walks up to the same cliff or roadcut and writes in his field book “Alternating shale and limestone, averaging 10-20m thickness, massively bedded limestone formation on the east end, interbedded thin sand and siltstones 30 m from west end,” draws the outcrop, draws every single formation while pacing off the lengths, fills it in with as many colors as necessary (the more the better), goes and drinks beer and argues stratigraphy with The Lumper.
In truth, for time tracking as well as geology, you should know when to lump and when to split. The key here is how you decide to lump or split your time… much easier said than done.*
Actually, that’s not the real key. The real key is how the IRS decides how you can declare time associated with activities as tax deductions. I’ll write more on this subject in future articles, but I am not an accountant! You must find a CPA and get a reality check for everything you read on the internet about taxes and accounting. Use what you read to keep yourself informed and ask intelligent questions of your accountant.
Examples for lumping and splitting time
Here’s how I lump and split my time:
- Time spent on activity that can produce measurable results (income, blog posts, etc.) I split. This allows me to correlate each activity with return, that is, I can compute an ROI.
- Time having no ROI gets lumped, at least until I’ve done enough of any particular task to find a pattern worth tracking separately.
- Time doing anything I want to either outsource or automate gets split as finely as possible. The finer I can split it, with as much detail as possible, cuts down on outsourcing costs considerably.
Here’s a real world example of work which could logged as extremely fine-grained tasks. Patrick Moore over at Sword Dance discusses how Linkedin.com was built, using fine-grained tasking to reduce the overall workload. The relevant bits are a few paragraphs down. I don’t know if they were tracking time explicitly… but I do know that if you make the same effort, your time tracking will be simple and accurate.
Note the “I” in “ROI” could be “investment” or in these days of social media, “influence.”
This is all easier said than done. No matter how well you categorize your activity, there are always important tasks that defy classification. Write these down even if you can’t classify them.
The most important thing of all is to write it down now. If you’re a splitter (I’m a splitter), trying to figure out what, exactly, what to write down can produce the dreaded Paralysis of Analysis Don’t let that happen! Lump it, write it down now, you can sort it out later if you really, absolutely positively have to.
Remember: Write it down no matter what!
At bat: creating a time-tracking friendly chart of accounts for Quickbooks.
*If all that was just way too technical, here’s an easy shortcut: If you’re an Aries, you’re a splitter. If you’re a Taurus you’re lumper. Simple.