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Cognition #39: How time tracking can change your life

Notes on service businesses, time tracking, and creating manuals

I have always wanted to talk about a few topics, but things are either not too nuanced to write a full-fledged issue or I haven’t gathered enough data to speak about it convincingly.

But I thought I’d touch upon it briefly and then dive into details in the future.

So here are a few insights, perspectives, and hacks I would RECOMMEND TO YOU CONFIDENTLY:

It’s not always about your service

You need to realize your service is crucial, yet only a small part of the entire funnel.

Let me explain.

If you know me personally, you’ll know I am not someone who blames other factors—I am highly self-critical about my work, and I always look for what I can do to make the best of my contributions.

I write emails to sell products, craft offers, and make the readers take action. But there are many instances I wrote a perfect copy, but it didn’t convert. I broke my head trying to figure out what went wrong and only later realized other factors play a role too.

Sometimes the landing page didn’t have a good copy and design. The product wasn’t priced properly. The offer isn’t that promising. The list is not audited according to the product. And so on. There is nothing I could do about it apart from pointing out these to my client.

I am not encouraging you to look at other factors and point them out if your service is not driving results. But I want you to know if your service is not driving the expected results, it might be due to several other reasons beyond your performance.

It’s not always about you. Don’t blame yourself for things outside your control.

Are you on the clock?

I started time tracking on August 8th and haven’t missed a day ever since. It’s one of the best habits I have developed in 2023.

The reason I suggest you track time is you don’t know how much time you need for different things, but the data does.

I track my time for almost everything, but you can start with your work hours.

For example, if onboarding new clients is your goal and you are unsure about the bandwidth, this is how you can use data to your advantage:

See the difference?

That’s not it.

Tracking and analyzing will help you identify patterns and optimize your time for good. If you’re just observant enough, you can change a whole lot of things about your routine.

Some insights I have found for myself:

  1. My creative energy is the least from 12-5 pm. So I have my meetings and operational tasks scheduled during these hours

  2. There is a higher chance of not skipping the gym if I schedule it in the morning

  3. I don’t enjoy continuous client work, and I like some versatility. So it’s client day → content day → client day kinda calendar for me

  4. I can read and consume content even if I have low energy. I schedule it for the later part of the day and I never start my mornings with content consumption

  5. The maximum I can avoid spending quality time with friends and family is 3-4 days. If it crosses seven days, I am not in the best of my moods

…and there are a hundred more.

Please please please track time for yourself, and it makes your life 10x better.

Warning: Don’t try to look at your time report as a marks sheet or something. Once you start looking at it as a trophy, there is extra pressure to stay productive all the time. Trust me, you don’t want that. Just track your time → observe and analyze every week → optimize it according to your goals

I use Toggl to track my time. It’s overwhelming and a little complicated to begin with (I bounced thrice before I started using it), but once you get the hang of it, it’s the best tool you can use.

Screenshot of my time to give you some clarity on how it looks

Create Manuals, SOPs, Playbooks, FAQs, or whatever you choose to call it

I have learned the most helpful biz operations hack from Derek Sivers.

Every time someone asked a question more than three times, he considered it as an FAQ and wrote a detailed step-by-step answer for it. The next time someone asked the same question, he just sent the documented answer.

It makes life soooooo easy.

For my freelance business, I have a pitch deck, portfolio, set of questions I ask on discovery calls, options I can show to my clients, etc.

To give you an idea of how I do it, I am gonna share the manual I send to all Cognition guest writers.

We have a guest writer every week, so it becomes repetitive and time consuming to tell the same things again and again. Instead, I send the guest email playbook to our guests and ask them to go through it before our call. This puts both of us on the same page, and we could use our call time more efficiently to decide the best topics for the readers.

Click here for the Guest Email Playbook.

We are almost done, but I have some news for you:

No more Non-Technical Segment

It’s sad, but we’re shutting down the non-technical segment on Cognition. It always felt nice to share my personal interests. But we are producing 8-10 content pieces a month, and this segment is occupying more time and space than we could handle. We want to invest the same energy in creating more detailed content.

In other news, I have my personal newsletter alive and kicking. I share everything: from daily blogging to travel stories to my perspectives on different things to opinions on topical trends to my favourite movies, EVERYTHING APART FROM WORK.

You might want to check out Vikra’s Café.

Newsletter Cohort

We are building THE cohort on Starting your Newsletter and Scaling it to your first 500 Subscribers. This will be an exclusive mentorship program for a maximum of 5-10 creators.

It’s a two-month program and includes live sessions, guest sessions, one-on-one mentorship, structured learning, on-the-go execution, community, and so much more.

If this interests you, please join the waitlist.

I will email you all the details in a few days. The program will begin in January.

See ya!