IMHO, hourly time tracking doesn’t work for me as a designer.
The reasons and a better alternative out there
Working in a company that uses time tracking is such a common thing nowadays where the employee is paid by the number of hours they are putting in.
The idea is simple and acceptable by most business people. The more you do the work, the longer time it takes, and the more you earn.
The client who will pay us has the idea of what did we do and how much they need to pay, through seeing the time and work description.
But working as a designer to track our time is a bit tricky and confusing. I’ll share the points below based on my experience working in a software development company that also use time-tracking in daily.
Waste of time
There are many time tracking tools out there. In this case, our company use Clockify. The first issue that I found is it takes times and energy to focus on shifting task and at the same time track my hours.
Start, writing task description, Stop. Sound simple but it distract my focus from the real work.
In most cases, I always forgot to change the description even I’ve done the task and move to another task. I need to edit it later day to adjust the work to make it appropriate.
It takes too much time and I always forget to do it anyway
In the meanwhile, I believe we can exchange that to focus on the work, I mean design quality. I think it worth rather than spending too much in adjusting the hours.
Do we track the productivity time or gross time?
This one also lacks clarity at the moment. Do we measure the gross time which is about 8 hours a day or only the productivity time which is less?
How long you really doing productive work at the office? I know that mostly we work about 8 hours a day. But do we really put 8 hours on the client work? Nope.
There will be another task beyond the project when we got stuck. Watching youtube videos, reading articles, scrolling on Twitter, take a rest, or do something else.
There is a study that says that creative workers like a designer only works for 5–6 hours a day. But, it should be doesn’t matter if the goal is more than enough achieved by the day.
So, this also confusing between counting only the productivity time or the whole hours in the office. It happens more confusing when the hours is running say we do a certain project, but the reality we are doing something else in the office.
Time Tracking doesn’t value the effectiveness
This happen when we finish a certain task faster, let’s say about 4 hours a day because we can figure out the problem and do the right thing to solve that.
We end up working fewer hours in the day. Internal stakeholder usually can’t see that as a real value rather than just hours and the work.
Hey, what did you do for the rest of 4 hours?
Designer work isn’t linear
I observed and I found there is a bit different type of task for designers compare with engineers.
The typical task for an engineer like they can focus on a task at the moment. For example they want to implement a certain feature. After they did it, they can move on to the other task.
But for designers, the things that we did the last week, we can do it again on the other week. Make an improvement following by time. The details are much more to describe.
This makes me have no clue what to write on the work description.
Sometimes also jumping between designing one page to another. Its looks very random. But, that's how it happens especially for me myself.
Do we have to include study time in the hours?
When I learn about new design practice or new method in a design tool. Do I I need to put it on the Clockify client project? I believe it outside of the client work scope unless it has direct relation to the project.
Time tracking makes me only work for the client project to catch up the maximum hours in a day and feel no space for learning.
What about the alternative?
But, okay Iosi. Don’t just complain about the current system. Any idea that could make it better?
Sure, there is a term called Performance objectives with success metrics. The reference is in this book here
Extreme Productivity: Boost Your Results, Reduce Your Hours
Extreme Productivity: Boost Your Results, Reduce Your Hours: Pozen, Robert C.: 9780062188533: Books - Amazon.ca
The idea is about we should spend real time figuring out what the goals and objective are, and agree on success metrics on how we can tell after week or month whether we achieved or not. So we can work on our schedules to do the work.
For example, there is a project for us to design a new app. We can chop the process into some phases
1st Phase: Discovery
Some of the work that we will do are
- Do kick-off discussion. The client will answer questions that uncover their business problem and goals.
- Clarify unclear answer to really get the idea for the client.
- Discuss the visual approach. How do we want the app look and feel?
- Creating Job Stories. To specify the user needs and features as a possible solution.
- Creating user flows or UX flows for the function of the app.
- Define the priorities for what needs to be done first. Most people know this as an MVP.
The discovery process can take about 5–10 days of work. The output is the solid foundation that we can bring to the idea phase.
2nd Phase: Conceptual Design
Here I usually make sketches on paper about the layout starting from the main function and then the rest of the functions.
Other designer perhaps skips this process and directly go to Figma to make the design.
That’s perfectly fine. The idea is to make the concept design or wireframe. That can we present to the client later.
This phase also the phase we can adjust the layout or structure by getting feedbacks from any stakeholder since the designers usually don’t commit details yet on the graphics or tiny item.
The conceptual design could take around 5 days of work or a week.
3rd Phase: Finalising the design
When finalizing the design, we will do
- Finish the design for the complete job stories/features
- Also designing for different states. Error state, no search result, not internet connection, there is new app update etc. It should cover different possibilities.
- Make the proper documentation on UI Guidelines for the colours, typography, icons, spacing, etc. It will make the engineer live easier later when the implement the design.
- Make the assets exportable. Otherwise, Engineer will ask this later and it becomes design debt.
- And other design work details
To do those all take 15 days work or 3 weeks.
Then, we have an estimation for all of the work to do the project.
- Discovery Phase need 10 days
- Conceptual Design need 5 days
- Finishing the design need 15 days.
The total is 30 days of work or a month and a half.
Designer can work collaboratively with the client or stakeholder to focus achieving the goal on the each phase without spending too much time on track the hours and task.
The transparency also there for the client. The client has an idea of how much money they need to spend on the project.
That’s all 🙌
What do you think guys? are you’ve been in a same situation like me? Share your thought in the comments section below.
I’ve talked this to the CEO of the company where I work for and we have a good discussion around it.
Time tracking isn’t for me — it’s made for my employer
Some of the conclusions are
- Doing nothing or seeing the sky also part of work in the middle of office hours. So, as a designer, we’re not only counting the hours when we’re in front of the computer playing with our mouse and keyboard. But the whole thing also part of the creative process.
- The company is not expect us to fill in super details and specifications on the work description. It can be super annoying and taxing. Instead, we put the general work. Let say “Doing research”. We don’t have to write like “Doing competitive analysis on an X app”, “Make a note of research result on spreadsheets”.
- The hours and description are very important to fill in the gap between the company and the client. It makes transparency between stakeholder.
- To help the internal stakeholder for example CEO to get insight on how we work on a project. From that, there will be space for improvement.
- Time tracking also help company creating better schedules based on average task durations.
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