Why track time on everything you do: an interview with the Workflow Queen
Last updated on: December 21, 2021
Time tracking can be a sore spot for so many of us. Aside from thinking it’s a boring, tedious process, it forces us to face an often uncomfortable truth about how we spend our time. Who wants to admit they get distracted several times a day? Or that after doing the same task for the third time they still aren’t any faster?
Well, let me introduce you to Alyssa Lang, the Workflow Queen, who grabbed the time tracking bull by the horns and expanded her time management knowledge into a flourishing business in just under two years. She started off making workflow processes to improve her own time management, and now teaches bookkeepers and accountants how to save time and scale their practices. She’s been using Clockify since 2020, and knows how to make the most of it to get her workflows to near-perfection. With a track record of many satisfied students, we at Clockify knew she would have great advice.
And so Alyssa, along with Jennifer Curfman, the Workflow Queen’s content creator, had a sit-down with me to discuss all things Clockify and time management.
Who is the Workflow Queen?
Alyssa Lang is a full-time educator and Asana Certified Pro who helps bookkeepers and accountants in her Kickoff with Asana for bookkeepers and accountants course. Her students learn how to implement specific processes and tech to save time on daily work, so they can focus on scaling their practice. Since accounting and bookkeeping have their own set of challenges, Alyssa does her best to show her students how to wrangle time management, prioritize and learn the tricks of scaling their practice the smart way.
Today, Alyssa has a team working with her, after successfully growing her business and brand in just two years’ time. And, since Clockify has been with her every step of the way, I was intrigued to hear just what about the app made her stick around for so long, and if she has any time tracking wisdom to share.
Why the name Workflow Queen?
First and foremost, I was extremely curious about the name “Workflow Queen”. It’s not a title someone earns so lightly, much less forms an entire brand around it — she had to have done something great.
As Jennifer describes it, before starting Workflow Queen, Alyssa had already had a bookkeeping and tax firm for 5 years. At the time, she was creating systems and processes for herself, to help streamline the workload in maintaining her clients. And, as she created her own systems, Alyssa realized how useful they would be for others in the bookkeeping and accounting industry — so she started doing individual consultations for Asana set ups.
Realizing this could be turned into a business, Alyssa mulled over possible names, Jennifer says with a chuckle:
“She really wanted to be the workflow ninja”, because that’s how she felt! She was going in, setting it all up, and changing the trajectory of a client’s practice. But the name was taken.”
“Then someone randomly messaged her on Facebook, wanting to do a one-on-one Asana set up for their bookkeeping firm, and he said: “Hey, I heard you’re the workflow queen?” And she knew — that was it.”
How the Workflow Queen team uses Clockify
Alyssa focuses on teaching her students how to keep their bookkeeping and accounting business sustainable, and lay the groundwork for smart and responsible scaling. And one lesson she always insists on is using a time tracker for everything.
Alyssa and her team work like a fine-oiled machine.
They have systems in place that help them take on great workloads and handle them without a hitch. And according to them, one of the big factors why those systems work is time tracking.
💡 Looking for something to kick off your time tracking and time management? Here are some suggestions:
What made the Workflow Queen choose Clockify?
After being curious about the unique name, I wanted to know why Alyssa chose Clockify as her team time tracker. Especially after learning she has been a Clockify user since 2020. There had to be something she was happy about.
“When Alyssa was originally time tracking, she was using a different tool, but the interface wasn’t what she wanted, it was missing some features she was looking for. She soon found Clockify, and hasn’t changed from that since”, Jennifer says.
Alyssa prefers Clockify’s user interface due to its ease of use and simplicity. But her favorite part has to be that it integrates so well with Asana, seeing how her work revolves around the software.
💡 Here’s a video tutorial on how you can set up the same integration for yourself, if you use Asana as well.
What time tracking features are vital?
The Workflow Queen team is very specific about the features they like and use the most. I was really curious to see how their time tracing needs would differ from say, those of owning a design-oriented business.
“Basically, how we use it in a daily structure is… we clock every single task that we do”, Jennifer laughs as she responds, “Literally, my description would be something like: Responding to messages”.
This comment will actually come into play later, because it actually plays an important part in their larger business strategy.
Tagging everything for future analysis
The team’s use of tags was also different from what I was used to seeing, but really innovative!
“We use tags to categorize everything. At the end of the week we will analyze how much time we’ve spent on each task, and decide: “Is this something we need to figure out how to minimize”, “Maybe that can be more efficient”, etc. So we’ll use tags to label tasks like minimize or keep doing, for example.”
I found that their use of tags — not as project or task indicators, but as signals about what to do or what not to do — really smart. That way, they serve as an instant reminder of how efficiently something can be done, or if it’s a waste of time.
“We integrate Clockify with Asana and it’s… “chef’s kiss”. It’s so good. It’s so helpful, because we use Asana to tell us what to do throughout the day, and when you can just start the timer right there, it’s such a time saver. Plus, it’s easy to remember to track your time, because it’s right there.”
Should you track everything you do?
Another topic we touched upon was tracking the time spent on every task. And we mean, every single task. No matter how short it was.
How to tell employees it’s good to track everything?
One thing that really caught my attention was Alyssa’s practice to log everything she did, and how it was woven into her team’s mindset as well. As a part of that team, Jennifer quickly got used to tracking every task, even if it was just answering chat messages. It’s a practice they’re advocating for everyone to try.
But, even if it’s well-mannered advice, the truth is that we’re all put off by the idea (myself first). It makes us feel like robots, slaves to our timers. So, how did Alyssa manage to show her team and students that tracking every little task is actually good for you? Here’s what Jennifer had to say, from the perspective of an employee:
“Upon getting hired, you are told — “listen, you’re going to track everything that you do”. And it doesn’t come from an aspect of micromanagement, but from the aspect of “our number one goal at this company is to be efficient.”
Just like Alyssa informed her new hires, every manager and team lead will be better off setting clear reasons why everyone should track their time. Jennifer continues:
“Time tracking isn’t about: “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe you took this long to do X or Y”.
It’s about: “Okay, if we analyze this, is there a way we can help you to streamline this better?” Or, is the person new at a task, so they take longer?”
What she said next I thought was crucial for all of us to hear:
“It doesn’t mean that you’re terrible at your job. We analyze that data to make the company better.”
So, be transparent on why they should be tracking so much and so often. You need the bigger picture, and you need to invest that analysis in something, otherwise, it’s just time wasted.
What are the benefits of tracking everything?
Since the practice seemed to work so well for them, I wondered what it was about detailed time tracking that paved the way to the success of Alyssa’s business. Here’s what I found out.
1. You get insight into your own (and others’) productivity
If a lot of tasks take a lot of time, and there’s a pattern that you can identify, then maybe that particular person isn’t the right fit for that particular task. That becomes a basis for a conversation and identifying what exactly creates a problem.
💡 We offer some great advice on both team and personal productivity:
2. You minimize distractions
I also found it interesting how for Jennifer, tracking everything was another way to combat distractions. In her words, when you decide to log each task, you start to second guess whether you want to move on to a new task or not.
For example, if you want to reply to some messages in the company chat, it may take you longer to actually make the time log, than to reply. Asking: “is this task really worth taking the time to log it at all?” can help turn you away from the distraction.
3. You get rid of the stigma
One thing I learned from talking to Alyssa and Jennifer was that detailed tracking brought one huge advantage over-generalized entries. When they tell their students that they should track everything, they usually respond: “Oh, you mean log it under ‘client work’?” The answer is yes… and no.
With ‘client work’, you’ll get information on how much time a specific client requires. However, if you break down your client work into detailed entries, you’ll be able to see how much of that chunk of time goes into emails, meetings, actual deep work, collecting documents, etc. The latter gives you much more room for improvement.
4. You know where to delegate/outsource (and how to scale)
The biggest reason why Alyssa advocates detailed time tracking is to help you get an upper hand on your workload. With the detailed information on where your time went, you will know exactly what tasks you should delegate (or outsource). And for practice owners, it’s precious information on who to employ. One example Alyssa and Jennifer gave was:
“Let’s say that your hourly rate as a CEO is $100 an hour. If you track time and realize that you’re spending 10 hours a month answering emails, you’re not getting an ROI on that time. You can pay someone to handle your emails, while you use that time on tasks that actively make you money.”
It all comes down to being smart about your time. As they pointed out, time tracking should always be about efficiency.
How entrepreneurs and businesses should use Clockify
Alyssa works primarily with accountants and bookkeepers, but I’ve found that the core of their advice can also apply to a broader audience. Here are some tips, all with the purpose of improving your efficiency. The goal is to get more time to focus on scaling your practice.
Track time for 30 days
When asked about how to start detailed tracking Workflow Queen-style, this is what Alyssa and Jennifer had to say:
“We recommend — at least do a solid 30 days. Because that’s a full accounting cycle, and you can really see the start and the end of “okay, where does my time go in a month”. And that is the minimum amount of time to get a good analysis.”
So, in line with their advice, you could use Clockify’s timer plugin to track your daily tasks for a month. It may be tedious in the beginning, but Alyssa has been doing it for years, and she increased her productivity exponentially. Plus, her students often come out of those 30 days shocked by the data:
“They’re really surprised at how much time they’re spending on more administrative, data entry type of work. We call it ‘being stuck in the weeds’, where you’re down in the muck, doing everything to survive. And that makes it impossible to scale and grow the business, because you’re constantly doing all of the things.”
Analyze the data
Since you track your time for 30 days, you can decide to analyze the data weekly, or wait for the month to pass. With a weekly analysis, you can change your workflow as the “trial period” moves along. However, we would advise an analysis at the end. You’ll get a more realistic image of your workflow.
Once the data is gathered, you can condense it into an easy-to-read report, like this:
You’ll get to see how many hours you’ve spent emailing and meeting, how many hours on distractions VS deep work, etc. It becomes a unique insight into your monthly workflow that you can’t get from anywhere else but your own willingness to stay consistent and track your time.
Scale according to results
Depending on the results you get (and how you want to scale), you’ll know what the next move should be.
If you spend too much time on tasks that cannot be billed, and take away precious hours you could be spending getting new clients, it’s time to hire an assistant.
Or, you notice that it takes too long for clients to send you all the necessary documents, you can set earlier deadlines for them, or find a way to communicate it better.
Most of the time, we’re unaware of how much time we’ve actually spent on some tasks, because there are just too many of them, or we underestimate their scope.
Time tracking can help you unplug long term
Last, but not least, I wanted to touch upon something very important. To Alyssa, balancing work and life is vital. She loves traveling, spending time with her dogs, driving off-road, and just enjoying everything outdoors.
And believe it or not, when she goes away on vacation, her team works just as efficiently as if she were there. According to Jennifer, it’s all thanks to the data collected by time tracking.
“Alyssa’s goal is to fully remove herself from the company, eventually. She can just travel full time, whatever she wants to do, and know that we’re safe without her,” she chuckles.
“And I think that’s 100% achievable, because of the amount of data we were able to capture with time tracking, and the systems we have in place.”
As they logged time, identified their rough spots and strengths, the Workflow Queen team has managed to put in place systems that act as pillars of their workflow. Their communication has improved significantly, because there is no stigma around tracking every single task. They know how each of them works, and are able to find solutions faster. Thanks to that, Alyssa was able to take vacations as long as 3 weeks, and the team was running perfectly smoothly.
So, try to think of time tracking as an investment into early retirement, or at least detachment from the tedious work. This way, you can focus your energy on bigger and better things.
There are plenty of other benefits to tracking time, but the ones listed here will do the best job of rooting time tracking as a habit.
The moral of the story: Track your time!
To echo both Alyssa’s and Jennifer’s sentiments — as tiring as it may seem on occasion, they are adamant about the process of time tracking everything.. You will become a more disciplined and efficient person. But alongside it, you open the door to:
- creating a better work-life balance,
- scaling your business much smarter and faster, and
- eliminating time wasters before they get a chance to wreak havoc on your productivity.
✉️ What did you think of the interview? Have any questions or comments? Let us know if any of Alyssa’s, Jennifer’s, and our own tips gave you ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org