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Why We Stop Tracking Time

Published by Scott Becker on
Why We Stop Tracking Time

Some people start out with the best intentions to track their time. The reasons could include billing for time or trying to improve some aspect of life, work, or general effectiveness. And sometimes, for whatever reason, they fall off the wagon and stop. Why?


The classic motivation for time tracking is billable hours. If tracking your time is directly correlated with how much you get paid, you’ll likely have no issues remembering to track it. But what if that reason isn’t there? Maybe you are an employee and your boss asked you to track your time. If you stop one day, and no one says anything, your motivation for continuing might evaporate.

No Time-Based Billing

Maybe you charge clients for services, but you’ve moved away from billing directly for time spent. In that case, there’s no motivation for tracking exact time per client project, from an invoicing perspective.

But from a profitability perspective, it’s still important to measure the time spent to generate a given amount of revenue. Otherwise, you’re flying blind or just relying on a general feeling. Speaking of feelings…

Negative Feelings

For some people I’ve talked to, there are negative feelings around tracking time when it highlights hours wasted on something that ultimately wasn’t useful, or spent it on dull work. This pain pushes a person to stop tracking time altogether because who wants to be generating negative feelings while working?

Ironically, highlighting wasted or less-than-optimal usage of time is exactly the reason to track it. You can’t manage what you don’t measure. And yet, shining a spotlight on time waste contributes to the halting of measurement.


Sometimes, you just forget. Maybe something came along and changed up your routine, and the normal trigger for remembering to track your time didn’t occur. Maybe there was nothing reminding you to do it.

Humans are fallible. Manually tracking time every single day, or at least every work day, requires discipline and intention. If you are reacting to randomness as part of your daily life, it can be easy to simply forget to track your time, and by the next day, you may only vaguely recall what you did the day before.

Too Busy

Maybe there’s too much to do in your schedule, and you’re struggling to keep up. Tracking time itself takes time. If you don’t manage your schedule and carve out specific time to plan your day and record how much time you spend doing your tasks, you’ll find you lack any time left to track it.


It’s quite easy to tell yourself, “No big deal, I’ll get to that tomorrow.” The next day arrives, and a new top priority takes all of your attention. Before you know it, it’s been multiple days. The longer you put it off, the harder it is to recall what you did or be accurate about how long you spent doing something.

What about you?

Do you track your time? Have you stuck to it? Have you tried and failed? I’d love to know your problems or solutions!

What did we miss?

Please let us know by tweeting to @shoutbase on Twitter.

Scott Becker

Co-founder of Shoutbase and Olio Apps.

LinkedIn: @scottbecker

Twitter: @sbecker

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