smart watch project time tracking

Project Time Tracking: The Complete Guide

Did you know that only 19% of employers make use of time tracking? This is both interesting and baffling, considering that proper time management is linked to better outcomes. For projects in particular, time tracking is almost essential in order to maintain a sense of control and to ensure that the project is completed on time and within budget.

In this guide, we will discuss the basics of time tracking and provide tips on how to get started with this important project management tool. It’s not as difficult as you might think, and the benefits are definitely worth your time!

Ready? Let’s take a look.

What is project time tracking?

Project management is a multi-faceted field that requires the coordination of many resources and activities in order to complete a project successfully. One key component of project management is time tracking, which is the process of recording how much time is spent on each task or phase of a project.

drawing project time tracker

Time tracking can help you keep your projects on schedule, identify potential bottlenecks, and track your progress towards project goals.

There are many ways to track time, depending on the needs of your project and your preferences as a manager. Some common methods of time tracking include using a timer, recording time manually in a spreadsheet or other document, or using dedicated time tracking software.

Why use project time tracking?

Projects are usually broken down into tasks that need to be completed in order to achieve the goal of the project. Time tracking can help you understand how long each task takes, and this knowledge can help you estimate future projects more accurately.

In addition to this, tracking the time of your projects has the following incredible benefits.

Increased productivity

By recording the amount of time you spend on each task, you can get a more accurate picture of how much work you are actually completing each day (or week, month, etc.). This information can help you to identify patterns and optimize your work schedule for increased productivity.

For example, if you notice that you tend to spend a lot of time on tasks that are not particularly productive, you might decide to re-evaluate your priorities and focus more of your time on high-priority items.

Recording your project time also allows you to track your progress and see how much time you are actually spending on each task, which can be helpful when estimating future projects.

Added flexibility

One of the benefits that comes with time tracking your projects is the added flexibility it affords you.

If, for example, you find that a certain task is taking longer than expected, you can simply adjust your timeline accordingly. Conversely, if a task is completed more quickly than anticipated, you can allot that freed-up time to another project.

This newfound flexibility can also be helpful when it comes to budgeting. If you have a good sense of how long each project will take, you can better plan for and allocate your resources.

Better resource allocation

Knowing how long certain tasks or projects take to complete is a valuable piece of knowledge for any business, as it allows you to see where resources could be better utilized. Time tracking can help to identify bottlenecks in the workflow and see where time is wasted.

discussion about project time tracker

This information can then be used to adjust schedules and deadlines, assign tasks more efficiently, and make better use of staff time. It also allows you to compare different methods of working, so that you can optimize your processes.

For example, you may notice that a certain task takes longer when assigned to a team of people as opposed to a single employee. You can then reallocate the team of people to other tasks so that their time is put to better use elsewhere.

Accountability

When all members of a project team are being tracked in terms of the time they spend on different tasks, it becomes much easier to hold them accountable for meeting deadlines. This is especially important when working with remote team members who are not always under the same roof as you.

This isn’t about shaming or embarrassing team members, but rather making sure that everyone is aware of what they need to do and when it needs to be done so that everyone can work together towards a common goal.

Project time tracking can also help to identify areas where team members are struggling so that you can provide them with additional support. Sometimes, a missed deadline is more indicative of a lack of training or understanding rather than a lack of effort.

Reduced costs

Time is money  –  and that means every bit of time wasted on a project costs the business money. Time tracking can help businesses reduce the amount of time wasted on projects, improving efficiency and reducing costs.

Time tracking also enables businesses to measure the return on investment (ROI) of individual projects, helping to justify future investments and identify which projects are most profitable.

presentation about project time tracker

More focused team

Using project time tracking helps to improve the focus of your entire team. This is because every team member can see what everyone else is working on and how much time they are spending on their tasks.

With this information, team members can better manage their own time and ensure that they are not taking too long on tasks that others could finish more quickly. This improved focus also helps to ensure that deadlines are met.

As tasks are completed, team members can mark them as such in the time tracking software. This provides an accurate picture of how much work is left to be done and when the project is likely to be completed.

This information can also help to identify potential problems with a project. For example, if a number of tasks are taking longer than expected to complete, it may be an indication that there is something wrong with the original plan or that the team is not working well together.

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How to track your time effectively

So, we know that there are a plethora of benefits to time tracking  –  but what’s the best way to go about it? Here are some tips:

1. Use a time tracking tool. This is probably the most efficient way to track your time, as it will keep all of your data in one place and can generate reports for you automatically. Using a tool like this can be really helpful in getting an overview of how you spend your time each day, week or month.There are many tools out there, so find one that suits your needs.

2. Keep a timesheet. If you’re not using a time tracking tool, then keeping a timesheet is the next best thing. This can be as simple as writing down the start and end time of each task every day.

3. Use a timer. If you’re not keen on writing down what you’re doing all day, that’s fine — try using a timer instead. This can be a physical timer (like a kitchen timer) or an online timer (there are many great ones available on the marketplace).Timers are a great way to stay focused on the task at hand, and they can also be helpful for measuring how long tasks take.

4. Make time tracking a habit. The best way to ensure that you track your time effectively is to make it into a habit. You could do this first thing in the morning or last thing at night. Whatever the habit may be, schedule specific times every day to track your time, and make sure to stick to it.

5. Track your time for specific tasks. If you’re only interested in tracking the time you spend on certain tasks, then that’s fine too. This can be helpful if you want to see how long certain tasks take you to complete. Just make sure to track your time accurately, otherwise the data won’t be useful.

All of these tips can be made easier with the help of time tracking software — so let’s take a closer look.

clock on laptop project time tracker

Project time tracking software: what is it?

To make your project management significantly easier, you can use special software that helps to track time. Time tracking software is a program that monitors the time you spend on each task of your project. It calculates the total time spent on the project and provides detailed reports on how it was distributed among different tasks.

There are both paid and free time tracking software programs. The latter are usually limited in functionality and cannot be used for commercial purposes. Paid software, on the other hand, is more versatile and can be used for various purposes such as billing clients, tracking employee time, etc.

When choosing time tracking software, pay attention to its features. It should have such features as:

  • The ability to track time on different tasks;
  • The ability to create reports on the time spent on the project;
  • The ability to export data into different formats (Excel, PDF, etc.);
  • A user-friendly interface.

With these features, the software will become an invaluable tool in tracking the progress of your project and managing your time more efficiently.

Time tracking in the 21st century

The modern world is vastly different, and changes incredibly quickly. As the world around us has changed, it’s clear to see that the working world has changed with it.

Time tracking software in the 21st century has undergone a metamorphosis, and become an incredibly important tool for businesses of all sizes.

In this generation, we have seen time tracking becoming increasingly important -  consider how many businesses now track their employee’s time, or how many people use apps to track their own time and optimize their productivity.

Time tracking has become a norm in both our personal and professional lives.

There are many reasons for this increase in the importance of time tracking. In the business world, there is an increased focus on efficiency and accountability. For employees, there is a greater emphasis on work-life balance and self-improvement. And for everyone, there is a need to make the most of our time.

In today’s world with remote working slowly becoming the norm, time tracking has become an even more essential tool for companies and employees alike.

It helps managers to keep track of their team’s progress, and ensures that employees are using their time effectively when working remotely.

With the recent hike in remote working due to the pandemic and its continued prevalence in the near future, time tracking is only going to become more important.

Time tracking software has come a long way in recent years, and there are now a plethora of options available on the market.

From simple tools that track time spent on tasks, to more advanced ones that provide insights and analysis, there is a time tracking tool out there to suit every need.

Let’s further discuss how to choose the right time tracking software for your own projects.

gadget project time tracking

Choosing time tracking software for your projects

As aforementioned, time tracking tools vary greatly in features, complexity, and pricing. It is important to determine which features are necessary for your project and which software can provide them without breaking the bank.

Assess your needs

To find the tool that is most suited to your business and projects, begin by asking yourself the following questions:

  • What features are necessary for my project?
  • How complex is my project?
  • What is my budget for time tracking software?

By answering these questions, you can assess your specific needs and direct your search toward the right software.

Research

Once you have a good idea of what you’re looking for, it is time to do some research. The most popular time tracking software options include:

Each of these options has a variety of features, pricing, and levels of complexity to fit any business or project.

When researching time tracking software, it is important to read reviews from both users and experts. User reviews can give you a good idea of how easy the software is to use and whether it has all the features you require. Expert reviews can help you determine if the software is complex enough for your project, or if the price is worth the features offered.

Test them out

After researching time tracking software, you’ll need to test a few to find the best one for you. It’s almost impossible to know which software will work best for you until you try it. Be sure to test the following:

The time tracking features: Make sure the software can track the time you spend on tasks and projects.

The invoicing features: Check to see if the software can create invoices for the time you’ve tracked.

The reporting features: Make sure the software can generate reports that are helpful to you and your team.

The collaboration features: See if the software allows for collaboration with teammates or other project stakeholders.

Once you’ve found the right time tracking software, be sure to read the manual and/or watch tutorials to learn how to use all of its features. Time tracking can be a complex process, so it’s important to be familiar with all of the software’s features.

How to use time tracking software for better project management

If you have found a tool that suits your needs and has the ability to track your projects, that’s great! Now it’s time to learn how to use it for better productivity and outcomes.

Here are some implementation tips for making the most of your software:

1. Use time tracking software to capture all time related to your project.

This includes time spent on tasks, emails, phone calls, and any other work-related activities. Capturing all time related to the project will give you an accurate picture of how much effort is being put into it.

2. Set realistic deadlines and track how often they are met.

If you’re not able to meet a deadline, use the time tracking software to determine where the hold-up is. This will help you make better decisions about future timelines.

discussion about project time tracking

3. Compare estimated time with actual time spent.

Are you consistently underestimating or overestimating the time it will take to complete tasks? Use the data from your time tracking software to make more accurate estimates in the future.

4. Keep a weekly log of time spent on each task.

This will help you track your progress and identify any tasks that are taking longer than expected.

5. Use the data to create reports and presentations.

Time tracking software can provide valuable insights into how your team is performing. Use this data to show your boss or client how well the project is going and where potential improvements could be made.

6. Celebrate successes and learn from failures.

Use the data gathered from time tracking software to identify what went well on the project and what didn’t. This information can help you replicate successes and avoid making the same mistakes in future projects.

happy employee project time tracking

With these tips in mind, a time tracking tool can help to boost your productivity through the roof!

5 signs you need time tracking software

If you’re unsure whether time tracking software is the most effective option for your firm, let’s put that question to rest. Here are some telltale signs that you need to start tracking employee time.

1. You don’t trust your employees’ work hours

Do you feel like your employees are slacking off or working fewer hours than they should be? If you can’t trust your team to accurately report their work hours, it’s time to invest in a time tracker.

This way, you’ll have an objective record of exactly how much time was spent on each project, task and meeting. It means you’ll have a much clearer picture of how your team is performing and where any issues are.

2. You’re worried about meeting deadlines

If you’re constantly biting your nails over whether or not projects will be completed on time, it might be worth looking into a time tracking solution.

You’ll be able to see which tasks are taking longer than anticipated and make necessary adjustments to ensure that future deadlines are met.

Time tracking can also help you identify any potential bottlenecks in your workflow so you can address them accordingly.

Consider a situation where one team member is consistently taking longer to complete their tasks. If this is the case, you can assign additional resources or come up with a new game plan to get things done more efficiently.

3. You want to improve billable hours

Working in law? Accounting? Advisory? If your business runs on billable hours, then it’s crucial that you’re making the most of every single minute. Time tracking software can help you see where there’s room for improvement when it comes to billing clients appropriately.

Perhaps you’re underestimating the time certain tasks take or maybe there are inefficiencies in your workflow that need to be ironed out.

In any case, by tracking employee time, you can get a better sense of how to improve your billable hours and make the most of your team’s time.

4. You feel like productivity is slipping

If you’ve noticed a dip in productivity levels among your employees, it might be worth looking into time tracking software as a potential solution.

By using time tracking software, you’ll be able to see how employees are spending their time and identify any potential distractions or time-wasting activities. Once you’ve pinpointed the issue, you can take steps to address it accordingly.

For example, if you notice that employees are spending too much time on social media during work hours, you can implement a policy to limit access to these sites during work hours.

5. You want to make better use of your data

Time tracking software generates a wealth of data that can be extremely valuable to your business. By tracking employee time, you can gain insights into trends and patterns in your workflow.

This information can be used to make informed decisions about how to optimize your process and improve efficiency. If you’re not already using this data to inform your decision-making, it’s time to start!

There are a number of different time tracking software options on the market, so it’s important to choose one that makes sense for your business.

Take a close look at the marketplace and you’ll be able to identify the perfect time tracking software for your particular needs.

Time tracking software: what not to do

With all the advice given above, it’s also crucial that we cover what not to do when working with time tracking software.

It’s far too easy to get sucked into what you’re supposed to do, and then you realise later on that you’ve been incorporating some bad practices as well as all the good practices.

So, without further ado, here are four things to avoid doing when using time tracking software.

1. Don’t make it a chore

The most important thing to remember is that time tracking should not be a chore — it should be something that you do without thinking, almost like brushing your teeth.

If you have to force yourself to do it, then there’s something wrong and a solution is required. The most optimal way to make sure that time tracking doesn’t become a chore is to integrate it into your workflow in a way that suits you and your firm best.

An example of how to do this would incorporate the software into your daily standup meeting, or if you’re already using an issue tracking system like JIRA, then linking the two together so that time tracking is done automatically.

2. Don’t get bogged down in the details

One of the most common mistakes people make when first starting to use time tracking software is that they get bogged down in the details and try to track every single thing they do.

This quickly becomes overwhelming and leads to people giving up on the software altogether.

The key is to start small and only track the things that are important to you. As you get more comfortable with the software, you can start tracking more things if you feel it’s necessary.

3. Don’t be afraid to change your mind

Another mistake people make is that they’re afraid to change their mind about how they’re tracking their time. If you find that something isn’t working for you, don’t be afraid to raise your voice and change it.

The software is there to help you, not to make your life more difficult. Be flexible, be adaptable and make sure that you’re using the software in a way that works for you.

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4. Don’t forget to take breaks

Don’t forget to take breaks! It’s important to have some time away from work, even if it’s just 10 minutes to grab a coffee or go for a walk.

When you’re constantly staring at a screen and working on something, it’s easy to lose track of time and end up working longer hours than necessary.

Just because you plan on tracking time for a certain task does not mean that you have to work on it non-stop until it’s done. Take breaks, clear your head and come back to the task refreshed and ready to go.

5. Don’t micromanage

If you choose to incorporate a time tracker into your firm so your employees can see how they’re spending their time, don’t micromanage.

It’s important to trust your employees and give them the autonomy to work in the way that suits them best. If you start second-guessing every little thing they do, it’ll quickly lead to frustration on both sides and will decrease productivity overall.

Time tracking software can be an extremely useful tool, but only if it’s used correctly. Avoid these five pitfalls and you’ll be well on your way to using the software in a way that benefits you and your firm.

virtual meeting about project time tracking

Final thoughts

It can be tricky to accurately track the time you spend on projects, but it’s definitely worth doing. By tracking your time, you can ensure that you’re billing clients for all the work you’re doing, and you can also identify areas where you might be able to improve your efficiency.

There are a number of different ways to track your time, and the method you use will depend on your individual needs. Whichever method you choose, make sure to track all of your time, not just the time you spend working on specific projects.

Remember: Time tracking is an important part of any successful business. By tracking your time, you can ensure that you’re going the extra mile to provide value to your clients.