We have just launched our TicTok app after some rapid-fire design and development. TickTok is a super simple time/task monitor aimed at anyone that needs to keep tabs on what they’ve done and how long they’ve spent on it.
Why did we do this? The backstory to TicTok actually goes back many years, and many jobs ago, back in the days when I stomped the floors of Digital and Advertising agencies. In the later stages of my agency career I was in charge of running one of the ever popular “Innovation Labs”. These were often somewhat facade departments that were put in place after demands from clients to show more “innovation” was pandered to. My group was no different but rather than place my gaze on the solely blue sky and tech projects I also took the opportunity to look at the agency itself and see how it worked from the standpoint of an employee.
As much as I loved working in the agency environment, there were aspects of the job that would drive me, and many employees insane. One of those was the ever-present cloud of timesheet entry. Agencies largely require it as it is their way of understanding what to bill their clients, as well as theoretically scoping new projects. However, there was a problem. I wasn’t doing my timesheets frequently. When I did do them I was lost in understanding what I had done. C-suite would threaten us to get them done with a punishment like having your internet access revoked for failure to do so. I would scramble through my timesheets. I simply add in stand-up meetings daily with no regard for if they actually occurred or not. I’d dig back through calendars for some semblance of a record of my actions. Similarly, I really had no idea if those meeting happened in the way the calendar was showing. Did they go long? Did they get canceled last minute? I really didn’t know and frankly didn’t care. My next tactic was to take those meetings and assume that following them I was working on what the meeting was about. The rest was largely pure guesswork or may be driven by what the project managers mandated we couldn’t log over for a project. The result being that was my time per project to simply use up regardless of whether I was over or under.
That’s the timesheet issue from an employee perspective but the problem has far bigger implications when you look at it from the company viewpoint. Obviously bad recording of time impacts financials but I was shocked to learn that it can cost companies tens of thousands a year, if not more. And given that it is often used for scoping out new work also can put undue pressure on a project from the beginning by not accurately reflecting the roles and efforts put forward for prior similar projects. So the problem had 2 beneficiaries if you like. 2 parties that could benefit from improvements in task tracking and monitoring. But for me, I had to look at the root problem and that lay firmly with at the employee.
After poking around at many different task monitors and time trackers I saw a trend. A focus on asking users what they were about TO DO. Often these apps and software platforms would ask their users to start a clock when starting a task and stopping it when ending it. This seems simple and seems to make complete sense. It’s like a race. A journey from A to B. What they don’t account for is that these journeys don’t often progress undisturbed. In fact, often many journeys are occurring at once and intertwining in many different ways. This makes timers a task to manage in themselves. There was also a focus of down to the minute accuracy that was often given with the ability to round up or down knowing that most people will add time in relatively set blocks. An hour, half an hour, or at most granular, 15 mins. Sure there may be a need in some instances to go super granular but is that the majority of cases?
Look Back Instead
My theory revolved around switching the focus from looking forward, to looking back. This does come with its own problems that are the heart and soul of all the issues with timesheets. Looking back, as I explained earlier, meant digging into your long-term memory and supplementing it where you can with any record of a task you have. The way to tackle this was to try and change the users' behavior around when, and how, they were actually recording their tasks. By actively reducing the time between doing and recording we would be asking users to tap into their short-term memory instead. A memory that is far fresher and can be broken down far easier into the blocks needed to plug into a timesheet system. If we ask our users to log frequently throughout their working day, and can do it without significantly impacting their flow or focus we end up with a very simple set it and forget tool that allows our users to simply get on with what they love, their work, and end up with an easy to digest record that allows them to enter their logged time wherever they need it in a fraction of the time and fraction of the brain pain. The result is TicTok. Our super simple, and hopefully fun, app to record your tasks.
Although the idea of TicTok has floating around for some time in my own head, the app has been put together with a skeleton crew in the space of a month or so in order for us to quickly and simply satisfy our own time monitoring needs. We have a number of ideas for where this can go and how it can evolve but we’re keen to do this through the eyes, ears, and reactions from our user base. We encourage anyone who has to track their time but doesn’t need all the bells and whistles offered by many other platforms, to give TicTok a try. Currently, the app is free and we intend to keep the core product that way as long as it is viable. We’re always keen to hear the loves, hates, ideas, or issues and look to use them to shape a product that is made by you.
Time is money. Let’s make it pay.
About the Author:
Dave leads the creative vision at Finlabs with a firm belief that creativity can come from anyone, making it part of the fabric of the organization and not a department. With 20 years experience at some of the most recognizable advertising and digital marketing agencies, working on clients as wide-ranging as MasterCard, Kraft Foods, Nestlé Water, Maserati, J.P. Morgan Chase, and the National Gallery of Art. During his life in the agency world, he has also led the innovation groups dedicated to the exploration of emerging technologies and their impact on the marketing landscape.