Have you ever mistaken efficiency for laziness e.g. your spouse doesn’t close the cabinet while cooking in the kitchen – you think this is laziness, but your spouse knows that in about 15 seconds he/she is going to need to get something else out of the cabinet so it is more efficient to just leave it open for now. OK we can save the debate for that one, but let’s talk about how it translates to the Microsoft Outlook Calendar – who hates time cards? If you answered “not me” you’re either a fibber or a bit bizarre, but for the rest of you please read on.
You have to create an appointment item in your Calendar for a billable meeting with a client anyway so why wouldn’t you use that same appointment to track your billable hours as well? How – did you know that you can view your appointments in Outlook in a table format – just like with any other Outlook folder. And there is this great field for appointment items called “Duration” – add in a custom field for Billable Rate and a calculated field for Total Fee and you’re practically ready to invoice. Click the Thumbnail below to see what this Billable Hours view might look like and click here for instructions on setting it up.
I personally have custom views set up to see my billable hours by client, by the current month, by the past month and year to date. I used to take the time to cut and paste information from these views into Excel for my COO who handled invoicing, but then we realized it was just as easy to give her access to my Calendar so that she could customize those views the way that made the most sense from an invoicing perspective. We used the notes section and custom check box fields to indicate when it was OK to invoice a client or when hours needed to be held until a future date. Really this practice is no different than using the Outlook Journal folder to communicate weekly activity to your sales manager (or yourself).
Not only can Outlook help you track your billable hours, it can help you track where you spend your time in general. Linda Carter, President of Resource Management Associates, will tell you that keeping track of how much time you spend on your high pay off activities is one of the most important things you can do to help keep you focused on accomplishing your goals. Linda recommends color coding your calendar to help you quickly get a feel for whether or not you are spending your time on the right things. We’ll cover how to use Outlook to better manage your time in the Arrow-Tip #14, but in the mean time – don’t let those billable hours slip away from you!