As working humans, we spend an average of two hours per day procrastinating. Whether this is due to boredom, confusion, fear of failure, or simple laziness, it’s a costly habit — and without a timesheet, it can be tough to track just how much time we’re wasting.
Timesheets, at their core, are a way to track the amount of time you spend on a task or project. They can be used for billing clients, reporting to your boss, or simply improving your personal productivity.
In this article, we’ll discuss the different types of timesheets, how to use them effectively, and some tips for avoiding common traps.
Timesheets: what are they, and why do they matter?
Not all businesses use a timesheet system; some rely on more informal estimates of time spent on work, or trust employees to track their own time and submit it for review. But timesheets have a number of benefits, which is why they’re often seen as an essential part of any business operation:
1. They help you track your time — This is the most obvious benefit, and probably the one that got you reading this article in the first place. A timesheet can help you understand where you’re spending your time (and where you might be able to cut back).
2. They help with billing and invoicing — When you know how much time you’ve spent on a project, it’s much easier to generate an accurate invoice.
3. They can help with project management — By tracking the time spent on different tasks, you can get a better sense of how long certain projects are taking (and whether they’re on track).
4. They can help with HR management — Time tracking can be a valuable tool for assessing employee productivity and spot potential issues, like overtime or missed deadlines. For instance, you might use a timesheet to track how long it takes an employee to complete a task, and then compare that data against their overall workload.
What do timesheets look like?
There are a variety of different timesheet formats, but the most common type is the hour-by-hour sheet. This looks like a standard calendar, with each day divided into hours and the time you spent on each task logged next to it.
There are also timesheet apps and software that can help automate the process, making it easier to track your time and avoid costly mistakes.
Why businesses and individuals need timesheets
You may be wondering: why can’t I just estimate the amount of time I spend on a task? Won’t that be good enough?
Well, it depends. If you’re a freelancer or own your own business, then estimating is probably fine (although you may still find timesheets helpful for billing purposes). But if you’re employed by a company, then your boss will likely want to see timesheets as proof that you’re working the hours you claim.
There are also cases where an employer might require employees to track their time even outside of work hours. For example, some companies require their employees to track their time on personal tasks in order to assess productivity.
Timesheets for employers
If you are an employer, timesheets are a valuable way to measure employee productivity; however, only around 19 percent of employers actually track employee time. And that’s not the only alarming statistic on the current state of time management:
- Over half of working professionals feel that their workday is mostly unproductive.
- Workers are interrupted every ten minutes on average, and after being interrupted, it takes nearly half an hour to refocus.
- Only 40 percent of employees can get through the day without procrastinating on social media.
There’s plenty more where those statistics came from. Time tracking is rare, auditing is sparse, and yet the benefits of doing so could be great for employees, employers, and workflows.
How to use a timesheet
Now that you understand the immense benefits of timesheets, it’s time to learn how to properly use one. Let’s run through an example for employees and then employers.
Using timesheets as an employee
- Log in to your timesheet software each day.
- Record the start and end time of your workday, as well as any breaks you take.
- Indicate what you were working on during that time.
- Save your timesheet at the end of the day.
That’s all there is to it! By recording your time and activities, you’ll be able to have a better understanding of how you spend your time at work. This can help you become more productive and efficient in the future.
Using timesheets as an employer
- Make sure that all employees have access to timesheet software and are trained on how to use it.
- Require employees to log in each day and record their start and end time, as well as any breaks they take.
- Indicate what employees were working on during that time.
- Auditing is key! Review timesheets regularly and compare them to employee productivity reports.
If you’re an employer, using timesheets is a great way to measure employee productivity. Not only will it help you identify any areas of improvement, but it can also help with payroll and scheduling.
Common timesheet pitfalls to avoid
Timesheets are a great tool and resource, but they are not without their own set of unique challenges. When used incorrectly, timesheets can actually lead to more work and decreased productivity.
Here are four common timesheet pitfalls to avoid:
Not accurately tracking time spent on tasks: This is the number one reason why timesheets fail. If you’re not diligent about tracking your time, then the timesheet will be inaccurate and useless.
Not updating timesheets in a timely manner: This can lead to even more inaccuracies, as well as confusion and frustration on the part of team members who are trying to track progress.
Filling out timesheets for the wrong reasons: Sometimes team members will feel pressure to inflate their hours or pad their timesheets in order to look more productive. This is counterproductive and can lead to mistrust among team members.
Not using a timesheet software: There are many great timesheet software options available, and using one can help avoid many of the common pitfalls listed above.
These pitfalls can feel overwhelming, but once you make a point of avoiding them, using a timesheet can be a great way to boost productivity and efficiency on your team.
Tips for making the most of your timesheets
To avoid the pitfalls listed above, it’s important to understand how to make the most of your timesheets. Here are a few tips to help you get started:
Track all work-related tasks
Of course, timesheets at bare minimum should be tracking the time you spend working, but it’s also helpful to track any other work-related tasks. This includes answering emails, attending meetings, and even taking lunch breaks. By tracking all of your time spent on work-related activities, you’ll have a more accurate view of how you’re spending your day.
Break down your time into manageable chunks
It can be difficult to track your time when it’s spread out throughout the day. That’s why it’s helpful to break down your time into manageable chunks. For example, you could break down your day into one-hour increments and track what you were working on during each hour. This will make it easier to audit your timesheet and identify any areas of improvement.
Use a timer
When you’re working on a task, it can be helpful to use a timer. This will help you stay focused on the task at hand and avoid getting distracted. When the timer goes off, take a break!
Keep a work diary
Another way to track your time is to keep a work diary. This is simply a journal where you track what you did each day at work and how long it took. Not only will this help you audit your timesheet, but it can also help you reflect on your workday and identify any areas for improvement.
Make sure your employees are using timesheets
As an employer, it’s your responsibility to make sure that all employees are using timesheets. This will help you track employee productivity and ensure that everyone is staying on task.
Use software programs to help
In the digital age, there are plenty of software programs that can help you with time tracking. These programs make it easy to track your time and activities, and they often come with a variety of features that can help you improve your productivity.
Day.io is an excellent cloud-based time tracking software that is perfect for both employees and employers. With its simple and user-friendly interface, it’s easy to track your time and activities.
It also comes with a variety of features that can help you improve your productivity, such as:
- Time tracking
- Task management
If you’re looking for a time tracking software that is perfect for both employees and employers, then Day.io is the ideal solution!
If you’re frustrated with how unproductive your workday feels, then it’s time to start tracking your time. By using a timesheet, you’ll be able to have a better understanding of how you spend your time at work. This can help you become more productive and efficient in the future.