Managing time sounds easy, but it remains a big challenge for many professionals when managing team productivity. In fact, 80% of our workday is spent on low-value activities, leaving only 20% for active work.
Nevertheless, effective time management is achievable. It involves discipline, task optimization, and consistent performance tracking to achieve set goals.
Knowing that every minute you spend on a task is measured makes you accountable. It automatically pushes you to focus and be more productive.
Time Doctor’s dashboards allow you to see clients, tasks, and distractions that take up most of your time. It uses pop-up alerts to remind you of tasks you should be doing when you stray away from work. And at the end of the day, you’ll get daily time reports that show you how close you are to your goal.
Key Takeaways from the Interview
In this interview, Liam Martin, co-founder of Time Doctor, shares progressive insights on how cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence will transform time management, help in managing team productivity, and remote working.
Here are some key takeaways:
- The most significant innovations in the time-tracking industry are artificial intelligence and machine learning.
- The goal of Time Doctor is to understand the secrets of efficiency and productivity.
- AI-powered time tracking software can monitor and predict human behavior.
- There’s a huge disconnect between the amount of time you spend doing something and what you get done.
- 80% of the work that you do during your Workday is a preparation to do the 20% that’s productive.
- During the peak of COVID, 46% of the US workforce was working remotely.
- Although we expect a 25% to 50% reduction in remote work when the pandemic is over, it’s still higher than what it was before the pandemic.
- The average person has tried or uses 13 different methods for managing their time.
My Conversation With Liam Martin
- Please tell us about yourself, your professional experience, and Time Doctor.
Sure! My name is Liam Martin. I’m the co-founder of the remote working tool Time Doctor and Staff.com.
Time Doctor is a time tracking tool for remote teams, which we’ve been running for approximately ten years. And our event ‘Running Remote’ is the largest conference on building and scaling remote teams. And we’ve been running that for about four years.
I’m very passionate about how remote teams work and how to build and scale them, which has become very interesting and exciting with COVID. Probably, more things have happened in remote work in the last year than in the last ten years.
2. How did you start Time Doctor? It’s obvious to see the value of Time Doctor right now, but when you started, what was it you were trying to achieve at that time?
Ten years ago, when we started the business, I ran a tutoring company online. And I would work with tutors all over the world, and we would tutor students through Skype.
And one of the biggest problems that I had was I would bill a student for 10 hours, and then they would come to me saying I only worked with my tutor for five hours. So, then I’d have to go to the tutor and ask, “did you work with a student for ten hours or five hours?’ And of course, they’d say ten because that’s what they billed.
I’d end up having to refund the student for five hours and pay the tutor the full ten hours. And this left me with no money in my pocket, and that was really destroying the business.
So, Time Doctor was a fantastic tool to very clearly identify exactly how long someone spent on a particular task.
Right now, I’m doing a podcast with Nicholas, and I’ve been tracking that task for 13 minutes and 22 seconds so far to complete.
Then, I can measure the efficiency of that against all the other interviews. I think there are like 583 that I’ve currently done inside of my queue. And figure out “well, what applications do I use the most,” “how efficient am I completing these tasks?” and so on.
3. Of course, what you wanted before starting the business was clear from the start. But you’ve been running the business for about a decade, and you probably have discovered something new? What are your observations?
The biggest innovation in the time-tracking industry, honestly, is artificial intelligence and machine learning.
I believe that within the next ten years, there will be an AI assistant for all work for everyone on planet earth. And hopefully, we’ll be the company behind that. But there’s a huge disconnect between the amount of time you spend doing something and what you get done.
And, understanding the secrets of efficiency and productivity is the goal of at least our company, as a productivity time tracking company and where I think the entire industry is going.
So, if you give me enough endpoints, as an example, I can tell you when you’re going to scratch your nose.
And this is simply a data problem. Because we can see a lot of those variables present themselves inside of where people put their time and how they deploy their time effectively. So, the next big stage for the industry is entering the AI era of time tracking.
4. A publication stated that about 80% of the workday is spent on low-value activities, leaving only 20% for active work. How can small businesses use Time Doctor to change this behavior? That is high-value activities and not just any activity.
That’s also an interesting one.
If you are trying to identify where people put their time and how productive they are with their time, it’s a very serious hill to climb. Especially when you compare it with the classic fortune 500 MBA manager, VP, or director inside a large company. Because they’ve had the nine to five mentality for the last 200 years.
And it’s honestly a lot more difficult than you’d think because I can present someone with very clear quantitative data that a 26-hour workweek is a more efficient workweek. Meaning you get more things done in 26 hours than you do with a 40-hour workweek.
I can show that with Time Doctor data very clearly, but very few people are convinced even though they’re presented with that information.
And it just boils down to, as you said previously, 80% of the work that you do during your Workday is really a preparation to do the 20% that’s productive. Or very low-value tasks to prepare you for the 20% that is very productive.
And we know in our research that if you just focus on the 20, 30, 40% of your Workday that’s hyper-productive and only focus on that, you actually end up being more productive in getting more done. Rather than if you spend more time working on those tasks.
I wish I could tell you, “here’s how I can convince very large corporations to be able to understand that broken promise.” But as of now, I’ve been relatively unsuccessful, unfortunately.
5. Let’s assume you tried. What would you do or advise businesses to do? How do they spread out time and focus on high-value activities?
What we try to do with Time Doctor is we bring that data right back to the company. So, let’s say that you’re looking at a sales organization. Salespeople are really great measurement of effort versus results.
And you have a very clear quantitative outcome variable, which is the amount of money that a salesperson generated month over month.
I’m yet to see a single case of the most successful salesperson also spending the most time at work, and I’ve seen thousands of sales organizations at this point.
The most successful salesperson is never the hardest worker. And as I said, this is a broken promise.
Where did they deploy their time? What did they spend their time doing?
Those are the types of trends that you can build in and identify where people deploy their time. And I can give you that data as a salesperson.
And I can say, “well, Nicholas, it looks like you’re spending about half the time on the phone than the most successful salesperson in your organization. Or generally across the entire Time Doctor network.
There’s something there that we need to look at and that something that you can use to be able to figure out your activity-related tasks, as opposed to CRM tasks or email tasks as an example.”
6. So, what you’re saying is that the insight is right in the data. So companies track their data and use the insights they get to make decisions.
According to a Harvard study, American companies lose roughly $65B due to poor time management by employees. However, you’re confident that Time Doctor’s users save about $37,000 yearly. Please tell us how the tool works.
So, how you’d discover that is to identify low activity tasks or low impact tasks that you do inside of your Workday.
I’m going to bring back the sales example. Maybe you spend half of your day preparing your CRM in your email. And we know that the more time you spend on your CRM and your email, the less money you make as a salesperson.
But we know that the more time you spend on the phone, the higher or, the more time you spend on zoom, the more money you make as a salesperson.
So, all that we’d do is to say, “okay, let’s look at your Workday,” “let’s figure out how we can minimize your CRM and your email time.”
And maybe we’ll even delegate that by hiring someone else to help you keep your CRM up to date and manage your emails while you focus on just doing demos with clients and close as many as humanly as possible.
So, it measures your time on the websites that you’re interacting with and the applications that you’re interacting with. And it’ll tell you where you’re applying your time.
It can also apply that against everyone else. Not only in your sales organization, but everyone across the Time Doctor network. So, I can tell you actually what the best-performing salespeople do.
But I might have a sample size of 8,000 salespeople because I can see who the best performing salespeople across the entire network are and look at how their Workday works.
And see where the correlations are, and then say: “it looks like you actually do exactly the right amount of time of zoom calls. But you don’t do the right amount of CRM activity as a ratio of your day, and you need to change that.”
7. People seem to have about 13 different methods to manage their time. Does that mean there are 13 right answers or are they the better answers? What would make Time Doctor stand out?
I think it’s our time analytics and machine learning tools.
As I had said before, I believe that the entire time checking industry and the entire world are actually moving to artificial intelligence. I’ll put it another way. I think that tracking time as a time tracking company is the least important part of Time Doctor.
I think actually figuring out the insights into your Workday that’s actionable. So that you can say wow, I was spending two hours a day in my email, and it looks like I can reduce that down to half an hour. Or I can be less precise on answering emails as an example, and I can spend another hour doing another task.
Or even better, I can just stop working, and I only have to spend about three to four hours a day working inside the company. And get exactly the same amount of things done as if I worked for eight hours.
And you’ve just mentioned it in the studies before. A lot of work is really more busywork than actual work.
And if everyone looks deep inside themselves, it is a challenging thing for many people to recognize because there’s a certain level of ignorance inside of it.
But a lot of times, people just pass the time at their jobs, and they’re not actually doing anything. And my philosophy is that’s never going to change. you’re never going to magically double your productivity, but we can increase your happiness by a pretty significant margin.
What if I could get you at home two hours earlier every single day, or what if you could work remotely and you didn’t have to commute and you earned back two more hours of sleep every single day, that would completely blow up your productivity.
You’d be hyper-productive if you had two hours more sleep per day. And those are the things that we measure on a massive scale.
Then we can give you that massive dataset, boil it down to the individual and say, here are the actionable things that you need to do to be able to improve your own personal productivity.
8. Do you have a timeframe for tracking performance? Do I have to use Time Doctor for 30 days to begin to see patterns, or 90 days to begin to really track the patterns?
On average, we’d be able to give you some pattern recognition data within a day. However, it’s going to get more precise every single day that you use it.
I’m going back to the sales example. Let’s say I had one week of sales data of your time being tracked as a salesperson inside of Time Doctor. We can give you a very good outcome of what a really good salesperson looks like, but we can’t give you a very good view of what you look like as a person.
So, there’s a lot of variation. There’s a pretty big standard deviation and you really have to work at it, I would say probably for a few months before you get precise measurements that can tell you, yes, this is exactly what your problem is.
Your problem is time on zoom or your problem is time in CRM.
And this is the central thing that you need to switch, or is it a lot of the times we’ll discover you’re actually working too hard, you’re spending too long to complete a task.
And you may not actually be thinking about this consciously, but a lot of times, it’s just because we are in this nine to five, eight-hour Workday mindset.
You take a lot longer to complete a task because you need to fill up the day, a lot of the times. And the reality is that you could get everything done in three hours.
My mindset is to get it done in three hours and then go home and see your kids. That’s a much better life for me.
9. I know you are integrated with a couple of software. I would imagine that basically your integration is focused on the time people spend on each of the software you integrate with. Or do you have other uses for these integrations?
Yeah. In a lot of cases, we’re doing something quite simple. Like our integrations with Google calendar, as an example, allows us to start tracking a particular task instantaneously with the Google calendar invite.
Or it might be a lot more detailed, like a HubSpot integration where we’ll actually be able to pull in your conversion data. “So, how well are you doing as a salesperson inside HubSpot?” We can use that data to define who is productive and who is not as productive.
Maybe you would even know better than me. We have 80 plus integrations right now and we’re adding them more every single week.
10. Is there a difference in the way Time Doctor works in an office environment and for remote teams?
Not really. We are a remote-first organization, we have employees in 40 different countries all over the world.
So that’s what our DNA is all about. And that’s the type of tool that we’re building.
But, Time Doctor can work inside of an office just as well as it can work remotely.
The advantage, however, is that it can give people the freedom to work from anywhere.
So, if you’re an office worker, you can use something like Time Doctor, and convince your boss and say “well, I already have this tool in place. You can keep me accountable in terms of the time that I’m putting in, and now I can go back home. I can travel to a different country. I can pretty much do whatever I want.
But just make sure that I am accountable as an employee and making sure that you know my Workday is running efficiently.
11. Now, we’re still in the middle of Covid-19. What do you think will change when businesses begin to come back to normal, when everything normalizes?
I’m using the US data but it can be applicable to almost anywhere.
Pre COVID 4% of the US workforce was working remotely. And during the peak of COVID 46% of the US workforce was working remotely.
We expect that number to drop approximately to 30% post COVID. We even have more precise data on what we’ve collected recently from the people that have recently gone remote this year.
We’ve identified that 50% are staying remote. 40% are going hybrid where half are working remotely and half aren’t. And 10% are going back to the office.
So, we expect, probably, a 25 to 50% reduction in remote work, but that’s still a huge jump forward from where we were before.
And that number is projected to go back up very soon afterward, we are experiencing an interesting phenomenon. Particularly as countries like the United States distributed the vaccine quite quickly. A lot of people are being asked back to the office.
Very soon, a lot of employees will end up quitting because they know that there are remote-first positions elsewhere that they can get access to.
So, that’s definitely something we’re watching but it is a very exciting time for remote work.
12. I understand that Time Doctor is pretty straightforward to use. But are there things that people might find difficult to use and you have a guide for that?
Yeah! We have a full FAQ and we have a support team of 20 people in a customer success team of 10.
The team is completely available to companies to be able to help them onboard.
But as you had said it’s quite simple. You literally download the app, put in the tasks that you’re going to work on throughout your workday and you just click play on one of those tasks. And you’re up and running.
13. Some of your users proposed that you should add billing for an HR or Admin to decide the cost based on hours. Are you looking into pricing as a feature or do you have an alternative for the users?
Yeah! We do.
Number one, we integrate with a whole bunch of different platforms that can add the billing function and the HR function inside of Time Doctor, which is something that a lot of our users use.
We also realized that we wanted to become world-class at time tracking and more specifically time analytics. So, if we became a billing tool and an HR administration tool and all these other types of things, it’ll take our focus away from that singular goal.
And there are a whole bunch of fantastic companies that are doing a great job at that, we don’t necessarily want to disrupt that. We actually want to work with partners. So, that’s why we decided to focus on that.
When we make a decision to add a new feature, it’s something that’s very hotly debated inside of our organization. And we have thought about that quite a bit. But we want to continue to be world-class at time analytics which is why we’re sticking with that.
14. You’ve just said you don’t intend to go into HR or billing and all of that. But are you developing any new tools for Time Doctor?
Yes, actually. We’re doing a whole bunch of time analytics suite and reporting.
So, we can analyze, as an example, who is a high performer and who is a low performer inside of your organization.
One of the things that we are working on, which is pretty cool is we can identify what your job role is within about a year, a week of using Time Doctor, without you telling us.
So we can say if they’re using HubSpot and Salesforce to these ratios. And they’re using email in this ratio, and they’re using zoom in this ratio. Then we know that they are a Sales Development Rep as an example, which is pretty neat.
And we’re pretty precise. I think we’re at about 96% right now that the algorithm is right on. And we have things like schedules inside of Time Doctor that we’re building so that you can have different schedules for different times that you work, particularly for remote businesses.
And some of the other stuff that we’re doing is fantastic integrations with payments. So, integrations platforms like TransferWise, Payoneer, or PayPal, to be able to quickly and easily click one button, pay your employees.
And also make sure that you’re compliant with all of the different laws that exist over how to actually legally pay someone that they’re not in your direct country. And we’re partnering with a whole bunch of companies to be able to help with that too.
15. I’m curious, what’s the best thing anyone ever said to you about Time Doctor?
Oh boy! We saved a man’s marriage with Time Doctor.
His wife was going to divorce him and take his child because he had an addiction to World of Warcraft. He’s a developer and he had a DSM-approved video game addiction. And he was spending over eight hours a day working on the world of warcraft.
So, he would work at his regular job as a developer, and then right after that, he would play World of Warcraft for about eight hours and he would go to sleep.
And then, he’d wake up the next morning and he’ll do it all again. And he was able to use Time Doctor to be able to analyze where his time was being spent.
But, with the help of his therapist, he was able to reduce the amount of time that he played World of Warcraft and then eventually deleted his character.
He’s now a top performer back at his job where he was dropping off in terms of performance and I believe he’s still happily married.
16. Very impressive! What’s it about Time Doctor that you think people are not using enough of. Like something that’s really unique, powerful, but nobody’s really using that as much as they should?
The integrations are so incredibly powerful and no one really uses them to the degree to which we think they’re using them. And it’s really quite a shame.
A lot of the time when we’ll have customers that will not want to use Time Doctor anymore, we’ll stop using the software.
They’ll say, well I wish it really had a fantastic integration with JIRA and did this exact thing, and we’ll say well it does that. (Laughs)
Did you actually set up the integration because we can help you with that right now? And we can save a lot of customers that way.
Like I said before, we want to be a time analytics company and we want to integrate really well into everything else so that all of this information is communicated seamlessly.
So, the integration is by far probably one of the most underused features inside of Time Doctor and it makes the software so much more usable and pleasant when you’re interacting with it.