I am coming around to the idea that it is important to track time spent working on a task. I can assume that you reading this already understand the importance of scheduling and managing tasks when working to complete a project, but I can add that knowing how long it takes to complete a task helps with the overall management and ultimately the success of the project.
Now as my focus is centered around game development, and I consider myself new to this space I am going to speak from the perspective of a hobbyist game developer (read: game development is not my full-time job). So what are the reasons why tracking your time is so important?
1. Ability to plan future projects better.
Now if this isn’t plain enough. If you know how long tasks have taken you in the past you can avoid scheduling yourself in a way that only sets you up for failure or worse burnout. You now have a better understanding of your skills as it relates to time and can make schedule estimates based on real data as opposed to saying “I want to release this project in a month!” and trying to fit everything in. Instead you can break down the tasks you need to do, find out how long such tasks have taken you on average, add a little buffer for delays and setbacks, and schedule your milestones appropriately. Then from the beginning you’ll see that the one month timeline isn’t at all realistic and that you might be looking more at a 2, or even 3 month project.
2. Maintain Focus and Increase Productivity
Now this ultimately depends on the type of person you are, but I believe everyone benefits from this at some level. When you know that you have only parceled off a small section of your day to work on a certain task you are less inclined to waste this time, especially if like me you squeeze game development into your free time. So if you give yourself 2 hours to work on some aspect of your project and you know this is feeding into the overall time spent on the project you are more likely to buckle down during that time to complete the task.
3. Get a Proper Account of Project Costs
If you distribute your games to the public, regardless of the model (freemium, subscription, etc), right now all of my games and applications are available for free and have ads present to make a little extra on the side, albeit not much (see my earnings from last month), you can do a proper cost analysis to see how much you’ve made based on your efforts. So if you put 300 hours into a project and that effort only nets you $50.00 then you know that each hour was only worth $0.17, you know that changes are in order. Now lets hope that this isn’t the case for anyone where making money is their goal. This is also good if you work freelance for clients, they can get a better understanding of the costs associated with a project as it relates to labour and get a real sense of what they are paying for.
4. Managing Multiple Projects
If you have multiple projects on the go tracking your time can be an easy way to see how you are spending your time and to reshuffle your priorities if needed.
5. Know When to Move On
Now this is my favourite outcome of tracking my time, it has really taught me when to move on from something. Now I don’t mean to move on from an entire project there are other indicators to judge something like that, and time spent isn’t the only or most important one. I mean when I now know when I have been spending too much time on troubleshooting a section of code or feature. It also lets me know when I might be falling into the problem of scope creep (aka trying to do too much).
Now that I have given you a handful of reasons why it is important to track your time I am also going to equip you with a list of resources you can use to get started yourself. So in no particular order:
Now with a handful of reasons and a handful of options you are armed with the knowledge and resources needed to take your workflow in a more productive and professional direction.