Clocking In – Why Time Management Isn’t Just for White Rabbits

Do you remember the White Rabbit from “Alice in Wonderland,” always fretting about time? While we graphic designers may not carry around pocket watches, we certainly should be mindful of the clock.

It’s tempting to let time tracking slide to the backburner. After all, it can feel like a chore—akin to vacuuming your apartment or sorting your sock drawer. But keeping tabs on time is crucial, not just for you but also for teaching your clients the value of what you do.

Time is Currency, Spend It Wisely

Here’s the reality: Time is your most limited resource. Unlike your supply of pencils or digital brushes, you can’t get more of it. This finite nature makes your hours valuable, both for you and your clients. If you don’t understand how to allocate this resource effectively, you’ll end up with an uneven balance sheet of spent time and earned money.

Building a Time-Respectful Culture

By explicitly tracking your time and sharing it with your clients, you’re not just keeping records; you’re educating them. It serves as concrete evidence of your professional process and sets up a culture where your time, and by extension, your skill, is respected.

AI generated image via Midjourney

The Invisible Labor: Making the Unseen Seen

If you’ve ever had someone look at your work and say, “Wow, you must have a natural talent to do that so quickly,” you’ve experienced the frustration of invisible labor. Sure, it’s a compliment, but it also dismisses all the unseen work that goes into each project.

The Unseen Hours
Let’s start with research. For every logo, webpage, or package design, there are hours spent investigating the client’s industry, target audience, and competitors. Yet, these hours often go unnoticed because they don’t produce a “tangible” outcome. It’s time that you spent digging through articles, studying design trends, and maybe even stalking competitors’ social media (all in the name of research, of course).

Brain Workouts
Conceptualization and ideation are other aspects of our invisible labor. We don’t just stumble upon great ideas; they’re generated through brainstorming, sketching, and endless iterations. Your mind is like a gym, and thinking is your cardio. It’s exhausting work, and while there may not be visible sweat, you’ve burned a ton of mental calories.

Trial and Error
We’ve all had those days where we trash design after design because something just isn’t “clicking.” The client never sees these rejected drafts, but each one contributes to the development of the final product. It’s akin to taking wrong turns on a road trip; you’ve still covered miles, even if you’re not at your destination yet.

Fine-Tuning: The Final Frontier
The last stages of a project often involve the most microscopic of changes—tweaking a color gradient, adjusting the kerning, or shifting an element a fraction of an inch. It’s like tuning a musical instrument; these minor adjustments can turn a good project into a masterpiece. But again, this part of the process is often invisible to the client, lost in the shadow of the dazzling final product.

Making it Visible Through Time Tracking
The beauty of time tracking is that it quantifies this invisible labor. Each category of your work—be it research, conceptualization, drafting, or fine-tuning—gets its own slot of time, making the invisible suddenly visible. When a client sees that research took up three hours and revisions another four, they gain a newfound respect for what you do. It’s not just “drawing pictures”; it’s a comprehensive process that deserves compensation and recognition.

AI generated image via Midjourney

The Best Tool for Designers

While the main focus here is on the importance of tracking time, it doesn’t hurt to have the right tool for the job. Harvest offers a straightforward way to track your hours, providing you with the data you need to make informed decisions and to educate your clients about your process.

Why Harvest?

  • Simplicity: No steep learning curve here.
  • Integrations: Works well with other project management tools.
  • Comprehensive: It’s not just a time tracker; it helps manage invoices and expenses too.

Time tracking might feel like a mundane task, but its implications are profound. It’s more than just a tabulation; it’s a statement. It tells you, your team, and most importantly, your clients, that every minute you invest in a project has worth.

So, while we may not be obsessed with time like the White Rabbit, perhaps it’s worth taking a leaf out of his book and acknowledging that in our world too, every moment counts.