Let’s face it, agency life can be hectic. You learn to expect the unexpected when working at an agency. There are always going to be a lot of moving parts when working with a variety of clients in different industries with varying needs.
In order to keep your workflow running smoothly without getting bogged down by any unexpected tasks that come your way, it’s important to have a good pulse on how your teammates are planning their time to accurately distribute the work and set them up for success. There is one tool in particular that has given us great insight into our workflow and has helped us think ahead and stay organized.
…It’s called Hourstack. In short, HourStack is a tool that helps allocate time, track time, and plan out your day, week, or month in a user-friendly, intuitive platform.
Why Should You Use HourStack?
Organization & Consolidation
Instead of making a to-do list and then figuring out how to plan out your time to tackle that list, HourStack does it for you! If there are assignments that come up that need to be done by a certain time, throw it in your HourStack and allocate an expected amount of time to that task. This way it doesn’t get forgotten about and you already have allocated time for it during your day.
You can keep all of your meetings, tasks, and ad hoc work consolidated in one organized place. We have also found a lot of value in the task time notifications that appear when you’ve reach the allocated amount of time for a task. As with most agencies, there are many factors pulling at your time in any given day. With the time notifications offered by HourStack, you are always reminded that there was a primary task at hand to consider.
In the SEO department, our work is very deliverable based. We forecast hours based on the average amount of time it takes to complete a specific deliverable. Consideration of expected time is a theme that should be explored by every company or agency department. Since we distribute our work based on these forecasted hours, it’s crucial that these numbers be accurate. Otherwise, we could be over assigning hours or under assigning hours to our teammates.
Understanding the time commitments for certain deliverables has significant value when it comes to understanding the needs of individual team members. If we are finding that certain initiatives are taking longer than expected, that is a clear indicator that we need to revisit the process itself or provide more resources to a given team member.
Understanding how much time we spend on each deliverable and each client is vital to understanding how efficiently we are using our time on each account. Naturally there are going to be differences in the number of hours forecasted compared to the actual amount of time spent on an account.
It’s important for us to recognize when we’re having months that we’re spending significantly more time than forecasted to determine if there are any ways we can improve efficiencies or identify any pain points that we can brainstorm solutions for.
All in all, the goal is to have more data to make educated decisions about the business and what is most efficient for the company. Additionally, this is a great means to ensure that all accounts are receiving proper attention on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis
How To Use HourStack
First, you’ll want to sync it with your Google Calendar and Asana so that you can easily drag and drop all of your meetings and tasks into HourStack. Use the projects and labels to standardize the entries to make reporting easier. Otherwise, each person will enter things differently, which can make it difficult to make sense of all of the data at the end of the month.
We assign client names to the “Project” field and specific SEO deliverables to the “Label” field. It’s important to understand that each department functions differently and has to find the best way for them to organize their workspace. Regardless of the department, it’s good to differentiate between scheduled client work, ad-hoc client work, and internal work. This is why we also have a project for Power Digital initiatives.
We report once a month, usually in the first few days of the month to be sure that we get complete data for the prior month. One of the most important numbers we look at is the total time spent on each client in the SEO department. This number is great because we can compare the actual number of hours worked to what we projected for the client in order to determine efficiencies within our department.
If we see that we spent significantly more time than planned on an account, we can use other breakdowns to identify where specifically we might have spent most of our time that month. From there, we can find ways to become more efficient. Some examples of other ways that we can break down this data is by looking at time spent on each deliverable. For example, how long is a keyword map taking on average?
We can also look at the amount of time by sorting by client and deliverable. Is a keyword map taking longer for a specific client than it is for other clients? These pieces of information are extremely helpful to keep us thinking ahead, to keep our department running smoothly, and to ensure our forecasting projections are accurate. We don’t run into as many speed bumps when we have such great insight into the work that our team does.
What HourStack Is Not
HourStack is much more than a traditional time tracking system. It’s not a way for us to keep constant tabs on what each employee is doing at all times of the day. In a fast-paced, high-expectation environment like an agency, we know with great confidence that each member of our team is working very hard and making important contributions to the team. This tool allows us to be sure that we are keeping the team organized, forecasting work correctly, finding new ways to become more efficient, and correctly balancing the work of our department.
Ready to give HourStack a try?