Time tracking is crucial as it captures the hours dedicated to tasks, providing visibility into how time is spent. Let’s be honest, time tracking can be tedious at times. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to simplify it.
There are 4 ways to track time: with paper, using a timesheet template, through manual time tracking software or automatic time tracking software. Each method of time tracking has benefits and downfalls – it is key that you select the best method for you to accurately track time!
Time tracking with paper.
To track time with paper, all you need is some paper, a pen and a timer – either your mobile phone’s timer or a stopwatch.
At the start of the day, list out the day’s activities in order of prioritisation and record the date.
Then follow these simple steps to track time on paper
- Start the task and record your start time, e.g. 10 AM, on the paper next to the task name.
- Press start on your timer.
- Turn off the timer once you have completed the task, and record this as the end time on the paper.
- Calculate the total time you have spent on the task.
- Add in any breaks that you took during the focus time on the task.
- Repeat this process for each task you complete in the day.
The paper method is simple, free and easy to use. It is also flexible meaning that altering the paper record is easy if your schedule for the day changes.
Although paper time tracking is simple and easy to use, there are drawbacks. The hassle of remembering to record the end time of each task is disruptive to your working day. Not to mention how confusing the paper time tracking method can become if you are working across two projects simultaneously!
Plus, the likelihood of inaccuracy is high. Manually recording your time means it is common to miscalculate the total time spent on a task. Paper-based time tracking also offers no ability to analyse the time tracking data. This means you miss key data insights on productivity which can be critical to future business decisions. The largest risk of paper-based time tracking is the lack of backup of time records, meaning that if paper time records are lost, that data is lost.
Using a timesheet template
There are many types of timesheet templates that can be used, but the three most common are
- Daily Timesheet – These templates record the time you’ve spent working on tasks throughout the day.
- Weekly Timesheet – These templates track time spent on tasks throughout the week.
- Monthly Timesheet – Records the hours spent on tasks across the month.
To use these timesheets, it is essential to record the details of the following information on each timesheet:
- Date – This will either be the workday date if you are utilising a daily timesheet or the week or month that the timesheet covers. This ensures an accurate record of tasks completed on a particular day or within a particular week or month.
- Time spent – The amount of time spent completing each task, recorded in hours and minutes.
- Notes – Any comments related to each task, to ensure it is clear the task you have completed.
The benefit of tracking your time on a timesheet template is that the pre-made template offers an easy and quick method of time recording. The template also ensures you record your time in an organised and structured manner that is clear to understand and accurate. The timesheets can also be customised to tailor the timesheet to your specific tasks and projects.
The main downfall of timesheet templates is that you still must remember to manually input your hours into the template regularly. This method of time tracking has limited automation and requires maintenance, which demands your time and effort.
For managers, you must ensure you remind your employees to fill in their timesheets.
For employees, timesheet templates are a tedious admin task that wastes your working hours.
Manual Time tracking software
Manual time tracking software involves recording your work hours at the end of the day. This means you will need to log in and record what you have worked on by inputting a project name, any notes, the date and your start and end time. The software will then automatically calculate the total time tracked.
The main benefit is the analysis of time data, as the software offers data synchronisation and reporting features.
If you think manual time tracking software is for you, check out Toggl or Harvest which both offer insightful reports on your tracked time data.
Firstly, these tools still require you to use timers to record time spent on tasks manually. If you start a timer and forget to stop it after… however many hours, your timesheets will never be accurate. If your timesheets aren’t accurate, then your analysis of time data won’t be accurate. If your analysis is inaccurate, then your data-driven decisions won’t be so data-driven after all.
Secondly, many manual time tracking apps don’t have the relevant integrations for a streamlined workflow. For example, if you’re using Asana or Trello for project management and Toggl Track for time tracking, you'll have to manually enter your time entries into Toggl. Just thinking about that task makes me want to yawn.
Thirdly, with any new software comes a learning curve. It can take you and your team a while to learn how to utilise the software to reap the offered benefits.
Finally, manual time tracking software expensive… and yet still manual. With not many more benefits than a timesheet template, it’s worth questioning whether you can justify the cost.
Automatic time tracking software
Automatic time tracking software records time spent on tasks and provides a detailed breakdown of hours…automatically! (who would have thought it?).
That means your time is accurately captured in real time without any effort. In other words, no timers and no manual input.
Such a detailed report of how you use your time offers in-depth insights which can be harnessed to improve productivity. Not to mention the significant reduction in admin resources it demands to track time!
Plus, automatic time tracking tools capture all your billable hours - even if it’s 5 minutes spent on a client project. An increase in billable hours means an increase in revenue. Accurate reports of time spent on client projects means happy clients!
If you think automatic time tracking is for you, check out Timely.
Whilst the benefits of automatic time tracking are obvious, it’s important to note a few drawbacks such as privacy concerns, the cost and also an overload in data.
Privacy is a major concern for many people when it comes to automatic time tracking. That’s why looking out for a software company that considers employee privacy of utmost importance is vital. For example, unlike some tools, Timely has a strict anti-surveillance policy, meaning they don’t support any kind of employee screenshots, keystroke monitoring, or any other creepy tactics.
Having a wealth of time data is highly valuable! But how do you avoid being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of data? The answer is to automate the analysis of that data! There are a bunch of time tracking tools that offer built-in data analysis tools.
The cost of automatic time tracking software can be a barrier for many. But if you consider the increase in billable hours, increase in productivity and decrease in administrative tasks, it might be worth it for your business.
Which is the best way to track your time?
- Paper time tracking is simple but demands manual effort and risks data loss.
- Timesheet templates are effective, but inaccuracy and maintenance create burdens.
- Manual time tracking provides insightful data reports, but it still depends on manual timers and therefore risks errors.
- If you are seeking improved productivity and reduced admin, automatic time tracking software is the best way to track time for you.
- Automatic time tracking guarantees accuracy and offers data insights and reporting all without manual effort.