Have you ever had a feeling you have engaged in dozens of tasks today but, in fact, haven’t finished anything? Managing a marketing agency, working as a freelancer, being a part of a marketing team in a startup, or working as a marketer requires a skill of shifting focus quickly.

A lot is told about burnout in the creative industry. In most cases, the only way to fight approaching deadlines and an increasing level of stress as your project submission approaches is to adapt to the environment.

Fortunately, if you are a marketer there are a few measures you can take up to manage projects and follow all deadlines with much less effort and stress.

In this article, I am sharing some of the tips on time tracking that I have worked out as a marketer while working for tech startups and marketing agencies and managing multiple projects at the same time.

I wish I took up some course or had someone share these lessons with me when starting out as a marketer. They would have helped save plenty of time and made my work less stressful. 

Let’s explore some of the tips I am applying daily that can help you with your projects as well.

6 tips to stay on top of projects as a marketer:

1. Pay attention to the level of detail

The outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic has encouraged companies to do meetings online whenever possible or use screen sharing tools to provide technical training to the teams. That’s no wonder more companies are getting used to online time reports as well. However, for you, working from home and all things digital could cause more distractions. As a result, you can forget tracking time accurately and update your CRM.

One of the project manager’s challenges at the end of the month is decoding the timesheet entries with no proper description.

Should you really worry about keeping your timesheets accurate and what is the right level of detail you should provide to your clients? On one hand, sending a general report stating a total number of hours worked can raise additional questions such as what exactly you have been working on this month. On the other hand, introducing extreme precision into tracking each and every activity can be hardly achievable. This approach might not work if you tend to do multitasking.

So what is the solution? Strike the balance and choose a reasonable level of detail. Here is a plan:

Introducing the right level of detail to time tracking

  1. Define the level of detail that is acceptable for you and your clients. For example, you can track bigger tasks, not subtasks.
  2. Integrate your time tracking app with a project management system your company is using to track time more effectively. The measure will automate this business task and make it easier for you to remember about switching on a timer.
  3. Run weekly reports to identify how you are spending your time and spot issues with your productivity.

2. Remember to turn on a timer

No matter how hard you are trying to stick to your routine of managing time effectively, a lot of things can still go through the tracks. By integrating your time tracking system with a task management tool, you can make the process of recording time much easier.

A big plus – no more manual entries.

Once you are on a project, checking your daily tasks, simply trigger a timer to match the task with a time entry. You can check how this integration works between Asana and TrackingTime.

Action steps

  1. Integrate your time tracking tool with a project management tool.
  2. Switch on and off timers once you start or resume a task.

3. Do retrospective sessions and plan ahead

If you are a marketer, you can’t improve on your performance if you don’t learn from your mistakes and identify blockers early. That is why you have to analyze your reports and check where the biggest time leaks happen. Schedule some time to check what you did well, what you failed to do, and what tasks have not fit in your schedule at all. Find some areas where you can improve and avoid falling into the same trap next time. 

Schedule some time to check what you did well, what you failed to do, and what tasks have not fit in your schedule at all. Find some areas where you can improve and avoid falling into the same trap next time. 

If you can’t resolve a problem on your own or don’t have the necessary tools for it, ask your colleagues for help and find a way out together – just don’t let blockers affect your performance again. For example, if you have failed to import analytics files in json to Google Sheets because you are not a technical marketer. In this case, avoid spending five hours on learning what json is. Instead, ask a developer from your company to help you out (even assign a task to him!).

Protip – Once you are done with the work for the week, plan ahead. Should you plan for the next week on Friday, Sunday, or Monday morning? That’s up to you and depends on your work schedule. However, always start the week with a clear roadmap to avoid losing track of your weekly goals.

4. Become realistic about weekly goals

Daniel Pinker, a bestselling author of Drive and When mentions the concept of a fresh start. Having examined over 700 studies, Pinker puts time in scientific frames. He explains why people put themselves on a diet on January 1 or decide to run a marathon by the time they are 30, calling it “opening a new mental account”. 

The first of January is just one of the 86 days that people assign a special meaning to, a fresh start. Among them are Mondays, the first day of the month, the first day of a season, or the day when one finishes a project. Fresh starts are great for setting resolutions and building up a list of tasks to help achieve ambitious goals. However, the reality is cruel and the routine one would believe is possible to follow becomes tough to stick to.

Come up with a realistic plan and always leave some reserve for the unpredictable or urgent.

There is another reason why we can fail with the resolutions set up on the fresh start.We simply can’t predict the unpredictable – the unknowns. We also don’t know what additional tasks or roadblocks will appear tomorrow to crash our neatly structured plan.

Here is a thing – don’t staff your week with too many tasks. Remember that finishing a few big tasks is much better than starting a dozen without completing. Sometimes, it is worth being less ambitious for the sake of achieving more.

Come up with a realistic plan and always leave some reserve for the unpredictable or urgent.

5. Track non-billable time

There are certain activities one would not add to billable time such as administration, emails, or planning. You won’t probably charge your client for a twenty-minute casual talk. However, you have to account for non billable hours if you want to make money as a marketer.

Analyzing unbillable hours helps calculate your real hourly rate and understand if you are satisfied with it or need to raise your rate. No matter if you are a freelance marketer or a company selling services such as a software house, law firm, or accounting company, calculating a total profit is a key to your future growth. 

Moreover, without accounting for non-billable hours, you won’t be able to determine project profitability as well. 

6. Set up project milestones

With longer and more time-consuming projects you can easily go off track with your performance. Sometimes, you just need visualization of how much you are away from achieving your goal.

That’s where setting milestones can help you. What are the milestones in time management? They are bigger building blocks of your project success that help you track project progress. Milestones can mark critical tasks, the end of a project stage, or key results (KRs). Here are some examples of milestones:

  • getting 50,000 unique page entries or signups for an ebook, 
  • hiring a new product manager, 
  • hitting your quarterly revenue targets.

In Asana, you can set up milestones as a part of your project, along with tasks. While a project can take months to finish, milestones can work as a guide helping you see the green light at the end of the tunnel.

Milestones can also help you stay motivated and celebrate major success. So how do milestones contribute to the improvement of time tracking routines? 

First of all, they help you plan better. By setting up clear deadlines on achieving your milestones, you can check if you are moving too slow or ahead of time. Also it can help you just like inventory planning services are helping large e-commerce businesses, to cut costs and work faster. This way, you can fine-tune your plan – review your strategy if things don’t work and you are underdelivering or adjust your deadlines if you haven’t chosen a realistic target to achieve.

Tracking time for marketers – Final notes

Improving project management skills is key to your success as a marketer. Staying on top of available tools that help improve your performance and reduce social media stress, can make a significant change to the comfort of work for marketers.

If you are a marketer, get started by putting into action these six simple tips:

  1. Pay attention to the level of detail
  2. Remember to turn on a timer
  3. Do your retrospective sessions and plan ahead
  4. Become realistic about weekly goals
  5. Track non-billable hours
  6. Set up project milestones

About the author:

Margo Ovsiienko is a Growth Marketing Partner for tech companies. She creates content that converts website visitors into paying customers for B2B/SaaS companies with digital marketing funnels. Get in touch with Margo on her blog, Margo Leads or LinkedIn.


6 tips to stay on top of projects as a marketer:

  1. Pay attention to details

    Define the level of detail, integrate your apps, and run weekly reports.

  2. Use a timer

    Integrate your time app with your task and project management tool.

  3. Use previous time records for planning

    Learn from your mistakes and identify blockers early.

  4. Set realistic goals

    Come up with a realistic plan and leave some reserve for the unpredictable or urgent.

  5. Track non-billable hours

    To determine project profitability accurately

  6. Set up project milestones

    They help you to plan better, cut costs, and work faster


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