In Arrow-Tip #12 I discussed using your Outlook Journal folder to help track your time, but did you know that you can use your Sent Items folder to help you estimate time spent composing emails as well? Sometimes even I forget to record billable time spent supporting a client and in those cases my Sent Items folder has helped bail me out – read on to learn how it can help you as well.
When ever you open a new email item a date and time stamp is captured in the Created field and then when you send the email, the time sent is captured in the Sent field – so all you need to do to capture time spent composing the email is create a formula field to subtract Created from Sent. Now you can see the time spent composing each of your emails in your Outlook Sent Items folder as in the example below where I can see the amount of time I spent conversing about Xobni with my friend and client Adam Halpern.
As you can see from the thumbnail, Adam is pretty low maintenance, but some clients may be taking up considerably more of your time when you consider how long it takes to answer “quick questions” via email. I spent about 8 hours composing emails to one of my clients in the Q3 of last year – 8 hours can add up to a lot of lost time when you have a significant bill rate.
The best way to get a feel for how much time you are spending with a particular person or client company is to use the search feature in your Sent Items folder and search on either the individual’s name or the company’s domain name e.g. @AdvenaArtemis.com for my company. Then once the search is complete, you can copy the items in the view directly to Microsoft Excel where you can sum the Compose Time column – try this with a couple of your highest activity clients and the results might surprise you.
If you do find that you have forgotten to log some time spent with a client and you are not sure how much time was spent, you may be able to retrace your steps by looking at emails sent relevant to the work you were doing. Often when I’m involved in support activities with a client, I may be actively sending and receiving emails from them as part of troubleshooting or other support activities. Again, you may be surprised by how much time you are spending on these activities when you look at the time a client request was first received and responded to versus the time you sent the final email resolving the issue.
Although reviewing emails is obviously not the preferred method for tracking billable support time with clients (see Arrow-Tip #13 Can Outlook Help Me Track Billable Hoursfor a much better solution), it can be a worthwhile occasional exercise to give you a reality check on where your email time is being spent.
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