psyborg® blog

The hidden value of keeping timesheets

The hidden value of keeping timesheets

The hidden value of keeping timesheets

The hidden value of keeping time sheets

Many companies and businesses think of time sheets as one of those tedious tasks that simply has to be done which is typically motivated to bill hours. This is not the case for me. For me, time sheets are not only an important tool to keep track of your working day and stay on task but also a tool that can, if used correctly, grow your self awareness and your business!

After working in the engineering game for a few years prior to getting into design, and especially after completing my Associate Diploma of Industrial Engineering, I learned that the true value in maintaining and analysing time sheets is continuous improvement and self awareness.

Time spent and staying on task

When I started my business over 10 years ago the first task I actually did was to set up my first time sheet. Originally my time sheets were categorised into 2 areas; Project Time and Admin Time. At first I saw my time sheets as a way to see where my time was spent. This information helped me bill clients, quote new jobs, determine time frames for work, and turn down work if the load seemed too great.

Along with seeing where my time was spent, I also found it kept me on task. Once I started a task I would stay on task as I knew I was recording it as time spent. It stopped the mid task coffee breaks and email checks. I also found that listing the categories; project time and admin time, helped my general awareness. Some tasks I would do subconsciously, but I found listing these items on my timesheet had me working less in the unconscious mind patterns and helped me become more efficient in the work I was doing.

If helping you quote and bill clients along with staying on task are the only benefits you get from time sheets, then they are still worth doing. It certainly helped me in my business. Although I delved further into the time sheets and started to closely analyse the information my time sheets held.

Data is king

I love data! I like to be able to see information in an easy to read way and analyse the information obtained. At the end of each week I would look at my timesheets and some numbers would stand out to me and I’d think things like ‘I should spend more time on this and not that’, but didn’t think I could do much about it at the time. Week after week the timesheet numbers would jump at me and one day I made the decision to look more closely at this data.

I started to put the data into spread sheets and graphs. Analysing more closely where my time was spent, what jobs earned me the highest income, how much of each category of work I was doing and which clients were the best for my business. I saw that some processes took up lots of my time and I made a decision to get an admin assistant in part time. I also started thinking more closely about my business and more importantly myself, and what I really wanted.

Timesheets and self awareness

Self awareness is being aware of one’s self; your strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motivation and emotions. Self awareness is, I believe, the most important factor to achieving success. Only when you are self aware can you truly see what it is you desire out of life. To become more self aware we must look closely at what we do, and in business I believe this can be done through time sheets and analysing the data they contain.

As I continued to obtain data from the time sheets I began to not only look at the time sheets in a business sense, but as a reflection on myself. This is when I began to develop my self awareness. I saw my business and how it ran. I began to wonder what I wanted out of this business, I started to see where my strengths lied, where most of my revenue was coming in, my weaknesses, I started to think about these weaknesses and whether I wanted to improve these aspects of my business or continue to focus on my strengths and sway the business toward that direction. I critically analysed myself, I started thinking big, what I believed I could achieve, and I made some big decisions.

One of my weaknesses was that I spent all my time working on projects or doing admin work, and to grow my business I really needed to have some ‘Working on the Business’ Time, so my first step was to add this category to my time sheets. I now had three categories; project time, admin time and working on the business time.

I realised time was my biggest issue, I could do so much more if only I had more time to set aside for working on the business. Where could I get more time? Stop sleeping? Well I knew that wouldn’t work. Again I turned to the time sheets to see where I could cut time. I realised I needed to make my business run more efficiently if I wanted more time and the changes that needed to be made. The changes that needed to be made were big, huge even. As part of my ‘working on the business time’ I decided to restructure and revamp my entire business; I went paperless, I redesigned my office, I started putting time into growing my business. Redesigning my office and going paperless cleared the clutter out of my office and in turn out of my mind, I had some clear thoughts coming through and some clear direction of where I was headed. Read more about the effect clutter has on creativity here.

In my new office I created a planning wall. This wall would help me plan business direction and help me find more time. Again most of the things on this wall initially came from the information I found out from my time sheets. I put up four headings; Problems to Solve, Automate, Eliminate and Delegate.

psyborg studio

Problems to solve

Under Problems to Solve I write down things I want to achieve and leave it there until I work out how to achieve it. I have found this part of the wall is having more and more movement. So things are being solved and coming off the wall and more ideas are going up. I have some long term goals up there and I am really excited to see what I can achieve.

Automate

Automate is taking out the human aspect of a task and automating it. I have been able to cut time on many things by automating them. Once I started researching I found some great and reliable programs, such as Xero and Zappier, that are designed to do some of the tasks that I used to take precious time to do. There is so much value in these programs and the time saved is phenomenal!

Eliminate

Eliminate is getting rid of a task all together. Either by automating them or finding a way they were no longer needed at all. It’s funny some things we think we have to do that could simply be eliminated entirely.

Delegate

Delegate is giving a task to someone else. My admin assistant was great for this at first, and now I have been able to employ a junior designer to pass things onto as well. I also found at times I was doing some of the work the client should do and I have begun reminding and passing this back to the client.

Success so far

My biggest goal was to have more time to work on my business, and already I have achieved so much. You are currently reading one of my goals, to start blogging more regularly. I have also recently updated and redesigned my own website, I have begun to use tools such as social media to grow my business, I have more work than ever coming in and am able to successfully take on and complete this work. All my current achievements in growing my business I put down to self awareness, having the ability to know what I want and am going for it. The self awareness came from the data received from time sheets. The value of time sheets is priceless.

Keeping time sheets enable continuous improvement

As you can see time sheets and the data that is obtained by keeping them allows for continuous improvement. If done honestly and consistently the information is invaluable to the growth of your business. The data obtained allows you to see, at a quick view, where your time is spent, what your strengths and weaknesses are, and it is up to you to change this if you have the desire.

So to sum it up: time sheets equal data, data analysis leads to self awareness, self awareness enables growth.

Daniel Borg

Daniel Borg

Creative Director

psyborg® was founded by Daniel Borg, an Honours Graduate in Design from the University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia. Daniel also has an Associate Diploma in Industrial Engineering and has experience from within the Engineering & Advertising Industries.

Daniel has completed over 1900 design projects consisting of branding, illustration, web design, and printed projects since psyborg® was first founded. psyborg® is located in Lake Macquarie, Newcastle but services business Nation wide.

I really do enjoy getting feedback so please let me know your thoughts on this or any of my articles in the comments field or on social media below.

Cheers Daniel

Paper is so 1990’s

Paper is so 1990’s

Paper is so 1990's

Paper is so 1990’s

paperless office is a work environment in which the use of paper is eliminated or greatly reduced. – Wikipedia

In today’s society everything is digital. There are clouds to store information, easy to use and reasonably cheap scanners and things in the form of papers in the letter box seem to be getting less and less each year. You no longer need a phone book to find a number, a text book to research an idea or a stamp to send a message to someone. We have online phonebooks, google knows everything and an email or text messages can reach a person in seconds. The world seems to be going paperless so I have too!

Benefits of Going Paperless!

I have really found in the reasonably short time I have been paperless that the benefits are endless. I am not exaggerating. From the ease and time spared finding documents to the overall feel of my office. My paperless office has saved me time, energy and money. It also saves space, makes documentation and information sharing easier, and keeps personal information more secure.

So a paperless office, the biggest and best change for me has to be the efficiency. While my paper filled office was organised into years and files with labels, spreadsheets with where I could find documents and my things were ‘findable’ it still didn’t seem to work and have that smooth running slick feel my office now has. It still meant I had to physically get paper items. When storing documents it meant I had to physically put it in the place needed. It also meant I had to work amongst old files in what I would now consider a cluttered, unattractive work environment.

The task of going paperless while running a business took time, lots of time, but the time it continues to save me was well worth the time spent doing it in the first place. This efficiency has saved and earned me money because I am more productive, meaning I can take on more jobs and spend less time doing admin work.

Let’s imagine 2 years ago I needed to find a warranty receipt for an office item. I would have to go to my receipt folder, lug it down off the shelf and try and remember which month the item was purchased in, flip through the piles and piles of receipts until I found the one I needed, I won’t even mention how hard these faded receipts were to read at times. I’d then have to take the receipt trying not to smudge or ruin it as it’s my only copy (I’m in trouble if I lose it)! Now the flip side, last week I needed a warranty claim so I opened my receipts folder in dropbox (these are scanned weekly and takes about 5 mins to scan the entire week and enter date and description), I typed in ‘apple mouse’ two items were found and I printed the one that was needed. I have no stress or fear of losing or misplacing the receipt as they are all here and easily accessible if I were to lose that copy. In past days this particular job could have taken anywhere from 10-30 minutes. This took me less than a minute. Seriously less than a minute.

Another key benefit to paperless is the security. The papers in Dropbox or the cloud are safe, I mean in the physical sense (although the digital sense they are safe as well). If (touch wood) I were to lose all my belongings in a fire my documents don’t burn. They are saved, they are backed up and they are not lost to me forever.

Getting rid of the THOUSANDS of papers really cleared the room. My ‘old office’ compared to my new one had two very very different feels. I had walls filled with shelves that were stacked to the brim with files. I had 8 years of tax receipts in boxes. I had client forms, user manuals, old lecture notes filling every file cabinet and shelf space available. The clutter and furniture that filled the physical space in my office seemed to also cloud my mind. There are studies proving clutter causes stress and I was working in a cluttered environment (and not realising it) every day! You can read more about the benefits of de-cluttering aka the secret to creativity here. I had heard things about going paperless and I just knew it had to be done.

How did I become Paperless?

Well once I made the decision I didn’t immediately jump in and start scanning. I looked into the process and researched the technology used. I purchased a scanner and hired an administration assistant to come and help me for 4 hours a week. As a small business owner I knew I couldn’t spend all my days focussing on this and knew it would be a gradual process. I put some great systems into place which work so well for me and purchased appropriate supplies to help me out.

Scanner

One of the best devices I purchased was Scansnap (Scansnap s1300i), it is a quick, easy to use scanner that has OCR. OCR (Optical Character Recognition) is a technology that extracts the text from an image or a scanned document so that it can be edited, formatted, searched, indexed, automatically translated or converted to speech. I set up a Dropbox account and used a feature of Scansnap, automatic send to drop box.

Fujitsu Scansnap

So the scanning process looked like this, I placed as many papers as I needed for the particular document, I pressed the blue button, the papers automatically feed through, both sides if needed. Once the quick scanning process was completed I chose the folder in dropbox that I wanted it to go, changed the name if I needed to (for old documents the folder was enough of a name as the OCR allowed me to search for it if needed not solely based on the name) and I was ready to do the next one. If the next item I scanned was to go in the same drop box folder then I could skip the folder selection step as it was all ready set up to go there. My assistant who usually only worked 4 hours a week spent countless hours over at least 3 months scanning documents, I allowed her to watch TV shows or movies on the iPad as she scanned and shredded, scanned and shredded, scanned and shredded. We had the shredder over heat countless times and eventually blew the motor but slowly my office was clearing out.

Dropbox

DropBox

I have mentioned dropbox a few times, so here is further explanation from the dropbox information guide.

‘Dropbox is a home for all your photos, docs, videos, and files. Anything you add to Dropbox will automatically show up on all your computers, phones and even the Dropbox website — so you can access your stuff from anywhere.

Dropbox also makes it super easy to share with others, whether you’re a student or professional, parent or grandparent. Even if you accidentally spill a latte on your laptop, have no fear! Relax knowing that your stuff is safe in Dropbox and will never be lost.’

So for me this was the best program to save my documents through. As someone who uses a laptop to work away from home, 2 computers in the studio, other devices including ipad and iphone, Dropbox makes file retrieval super easy and the fear of losing documentation is gone.

Try to Stop Paper Coming to You

So once you go paperless you don’t want people to send you papers if they don’t have to. Many things that arrive in the letter box can be emailed. For example bills, some services actually ask if you want your bills emailed. It also saves the step of scanning in your paperless office as once you get that email you can immediately save the file to Dropbox.

Often all it takes is a phone call to the company to ask for it to be redirected to email. While you are on the phone, to save another monthly job, why not ask for direct debit? This is something else I have put in place when I went paperless. For phone, electricity, internet, water, rates, you can set up a payment system so bills are always paid on time and that time taken to pay for them is spent somewhere else doing something much more enriching than paying bills.

How to Maintain Your Paperless Office

Honestly, this has not been hard for me. Once the paper was gone, I did not want it back. So receipts are put on a spike and scanned once a week before they a shredded and recycled, documents I used to hand customers and get them to return are now emailed and returned the same way, time sheets are now in spreadsheet format so I no longer need the paper copy. Bills or statements that do still come via mail are also scanned once a week then shredded. My studio does not get messy like it used to. I actually love my studio, I love going to work (even though it is attached to my home) and I feel inspired and ready to get down to business the moment I enter the room. I never realised how much the feel of a place could change until I remodelled my studio after I went paperless.

Becoming Even More Efficient

Once I went paperless I wanted to improve the efficiency in other areas in an effort to become more lean and agile. Was this because I had more time now I was paperless? Was this because my paperless office inspired me? Was this because the technology is more available? Was this because I wanted to spend more time with my growing family? Who knows but it is certainly working in my favour.

The ways I have become more efficient is moving more and more of my processes to the cloud. I now use Xero, a software company that develops cloud based accounting software for small and medium-sized businesses.

I am also using Zappier to become more efficient. Zapier lets you easily connect the web apps you use, making it easier to automate tedious tasks. For example I can have emails automatically subscribe from G-Mail to MailChimp based on specific rules set up.

IFTTTT is another tool similar to Zappier that can help connect apps so they work better for you. Another device worth a look at if you are thinking of becoming more lean and agile in how you run your business.

As I continue to find more processes to automate and eliminate, my productivity in design will continue to improve, therefore my business will continue to grow.

The first step was to go paperless and I highly recommend, if you haven’t already, that you try it to.

Daniel Borg

Daniel Borg

Creative Director

psyborg® was founded by Daniel Borg, an Honours Graduate in Design from the University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia. Daniel also has an Associate Diploma in Industrial Engineering and has experience from within the Engineering & Advertising Industries.

Daniel has completed over 1900 design projects consisting of branding, illustration, web design, and printed projects since psyborg® was first founded. psyborg® is located in Lake Macquarie, Newcastle but services business Nation wide.

I really do enjoy getting feedback so please let me know your thoughts on this or any of my articles in the comments field or on social media below.

Cheers Daniel