Time tracking work hours is an excellent way to record and streamline work activities in your company. These 5 methods will make sure you make the most of the time tracking concept.
Time tracking is the process of measuring and then documenting the hours worked. There are several methods of tracking time:
- Tracking time with a pen a paper (dubbed “The Paper Method”)
- Reporting the approximate time you spend working to a second party (dubbed “The Honor System”)
- Manually recording time in a spreadsheet (dubbed “The Spreadsheet Method”)
- Adding time in a time tracking software (dubbed “The Time Tracking Software Method”)
The product of tracking time is often referred to as a timesheet – i.e. a sheet with the time tracking data ordered in a tabular format.
Companies track time to gather data necessary for processing payroll for employees who work by the hour. Companies also track time to document the time spent on individual projects – in order to gather the data necessary for billing clients.
Although it may not be its primary purpose, time tracking can also help you be more efficient and productive with your time. After all, if you know how you spend your work hours, you’ll also be able to understand where you can make improvements to make the time you spend at work more productive.
- However, to achieve all that, you’ll first need to make sure you are tracking time in a way that is productive in itself.
- “The Paper Method” may result in many timesheets being misplaced.
- “The Honor System” is too easy to rig.
- “The Spreadsheet Method” is often time-consuming.
And all of the listed methods are prone to errors. Thus, “The Time Tracking Software Method” emerges as the most efficient one – it’s automatic, secure, fast, and always correct. But, there are right and wrong ways to track time with such a tool.
So, here are the 5 best time tracking methods that will help you maximize productivity while tracking time:
1. Understand why you need time tracking in the first place
Before you commit to anything, think about the questions you want time tracking to answer.
Do you want to understand how much you need to pay your employees, based on their hourly rates and hours worked? Do you want to identify your most profitable projects, so that you’ll be able to allocate more time to them in the future? Do you want to understand whether you underestimate or overestimate the time it takes you to finish different types of projects? If the employer understands the purpose and importance of time tracking in his or her company, it will be easier to communicate to employees why they need to track their work time.
In any case, bear in mind that time tracking employee work hours is always important to keep your company compliant to The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). This act requires you to keep records for the work hours and wages paid to your non-exempt employees, for up to two years.
2. Track non-billable activities
Tracking the billable time you spend on client projects will give you a precise amount your clients need to pay you. But, tracking non-billable time can be just as useful – and even tell you how you can increase your billable time in the future.
Worried that you spend too much time managing your email inbox every day? Or that you spend too much time on various unnecessary meetings? By tracking the time you spend on these activities you’ll identify the time you could be spending on more profitable activities in the future instead.
3. Carry out regular time audits
The best way to make tracking time more efficient is to make sure you track time correctly. When analyzing employee timesheets, consider:
- Is the time correctly entered?
- Is it associated with the right project?
- Is it associated with the right team member?
Are there any days when your employees simply forgot to add their times?
Such oversights can bring your business into trouble with the FLSA, or make you undercharge or overcharge your clients. In any case, faulty timesheets may bring the legality and professionalism of your business into question. To avoid such mishaps, you’re advised to analyze your team’s timesheets regularly and make corrections as necessary. For example, you can carry out these time audits on a weekly or monthly basis.
You can even employ a person whose job will be to carry out these time audits on a regular basis.
4. Make it a rule to fill out the timesheets every day
Most employees make it a habit to wait to fill out their timesheets the day before the timesheets are due – e.g. at the end of the week or month. But this practice is a sure way to forget to add a task, two, or five to the timesheet, as well as overestimate or underestimate the time spent on it.
This is because we forget what we worked on and for how long we worked on it as time goes by. So, the longer we wait, the less accurate our timesheets will be. As a more efficient alternative, it’s best that the employees mark their work hours at the end of each workday. This way, the tasks and projects they worked on will still be fresh in their minds, and they’ll be able to accurately mark their times.
For even more accurate time tracking results, the employees can even track time on tasks as they work on them. Some tracking tools include a timer, meaning that they can track work time with precision down to a second.
5. Standardize your time tracking policy
If you want to make the most of the time tracking practice in your company, remember that rules are everything. So, it’s best that you decide on the official time tracking rules you want your employees to carry out and then document these rules for future reference.
- Do you want your employees to categorize all the time spent on meetings as one separate “project”?
- Do you want your employees to add their times every day? (As previously mentioned, you should want this).
- Do you want your employees to track time on all the research they conduct for projects in the same place as the said projects?
Once you’ve made your decision on the time tracking rules you want to implement, document them in an official document. By having everything in one document, you’ll make it easy for your current employees to check what they’re supposed to do in any relevant situation that requires tracking time. Moreover, you’ll also make the onboarding process for new employees much easier.
Improve your productivity by tracking time productively
Tracking work time is a process that can be streamlined to perfection and made to fit your needs to a T. You just need to invest a little effort to make the most of your time tracking software and the general concept of tracking time:
- Explain to your employees why tracking time is important for your company.
- Make sure you track non-billable activities, in addition to project-related billable tasks, in order to identify how exactly you spend your time at work – and whether you can make improvements in this area.
- Ensure that everyone’s timesheets are correct – by carrying out regular time audits that make sure all the necessary data is documented and properly categorized.
- Instruct your employees to fill out their timesheets on a daily basis, in order to maximize accuracy.
- Document your time tracking rules in one official document you’ll then share with your current staff and use it for future onboarding.
As a result, you’ll make your time tracking efforts more efficient, to the benefit of both your employees’ productivity and your company’s professional image.
About the Author:
Marija Kojic is a productivity enthusiast who frequently writes about business and productivity topics. Always on the lookout for the next best productivity hack.