Why You Need to Track Time Spent on Emails

By Madison, Arielle Shnaidman
Jul 18 2016 read

There always seems to be more emails to go through... *sigh* 

Reading and responding to emails eats up a huge part of your day. And when you're working at a growing digital agency or even a consulting or accounting firm (where you're corresponding with multiple clients day in and day out), it's safe to say that your inbox is never empty. 

According to Atlassian, people working in a business setting receive about 300 emails per week. According to McKinsey, we spend just over 2.5 hours a day reading and responding to all of those emails - the same as spending an entire day and a half each week trapped in our inbox. 


Email time leakage 2

That's okay though because professionals are great at keeping track of the time they spend corresponding with clients through email... right? Shockingly, they aren't - and email isn't only taking up time... it's costing money. 

Accelo commissioned a survey to ask professionals about how often and how accurately they keep track of the time they spend on client work. Sadly, the main reason that professionals have such poor time tracking habits is because it's so annoying to do. Not to mention, most timesheet applications are not dedicated to helping professionals manage their day to day work. Most professionals are required to remember what they worked on during the week and then manually track how they spent their time using subpar time tracking software or tedious spreadsheets. Let's not even talk about pen and paper time tracking. 

Our survey found that when it comes to timesheets, time spent on email is widely ignored. Close to 40 percent of respondents reported never tracking time spent reading and answering client emails, and 15 percent rarely do. Only 33 percent of respondents said they track time spent on email "always" or "often". 

Email time leakage

Poor email time tracking costs professional service businesses big time. More than half of the survey respondents told us that their employer directly uses timesheets to bill clients hourly or determine retainer amounts. If only a third of respondents are tracking the time they spend on email, and the average professional spends 2.5 hours a day on email, over 350 hours of email work is going unrecorded - every year. And if it's going unrecorded, it's not being billed. The average professional services firm, which makes roughly $150 per hour, is losing over $50,000 per professional employee annually due to untracked time spent on email. 

Ouch again. 

So how do you stop this problem from happening in your business? First and foremost, entering the amount of time you spend on email shouldn't be reliant on your memory - after how much it costs your business, it's way too important to leave to chance. Thankfully, cloud-based technology has made it easier to automatically track client emails. One of the best, new ways to automatically pull the time you spend on email into your timesheet is to use your email traffic as a cue. By simply noting which client you are emailing, modern, cloud-based systems can track email correspondence automatically - all you need to do is review the amount, and your email leakage problem is solved.   

It's essential that professional service businesses put a system in place to stop email time leakage. Even if your business works on a "fixed price" model, the hours you're leaking cost you one way, or another. If you're not keeping track of time spent on work, then you don't know which projects, clients or types of work are profitable. 

No matter how you look at it, time leakage has to stop. 

We've created a white paper that includes all the findings from our study into the cost of today's poor time tracking habits. You can read the full report here

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