Hard truth: tracking time for your work every day is not that is. In fact, time tracking kind of… sucks.
To help any employee who struggles with keeping track of their time, we’ve gathered the best practices and advice to make time tracking easier and less of a pain.
Here on the Timeneye blog, we love to talk about time tracking and productivity. We often stress how important it is to keep track of one’s time, as a step to improve time management and productivity.
But let’s be honest: including time tracking into our everyday habits is easier said than done. And frankly, it’s often implemented so poorly in the workplace and with the wrong instruments, that it becomes more a nuisance for employees.
Why is tracking time important?
In my previous workplaces before working at Timeneye, keeping track of the working hours was seen as a nightmare: the idea that your work was always under scrutiny, the anxiety of not tracking the monthly hours… and ironically, the fact that we didn’t have time to properly track time all contributed to that.
The problem was that we were doing it the wrong way. If not implemented correctly, tracking time can become a distraction. But when done right, then it helps not only to manage your time, but also your work, and makes you more productive.
Time tracking best practices
What are the most common mistakes when tracking time and what are the best practices to avoid them? Below I listed the most common problems I encountered in my experience, and how to solve them.
After following these time tracking best practices, you’ll be the most productive employee ever!
How to make time tracking work for you:
Best practice #1: Fill the hours every day
Instead of rushing to complete timesheets at the end of the month, do it regularly.
Best practice #2: Use a time tracking tool
Don’t rely on spreadsheets, switch to time tracking software instead
Best practice #3: Set reminders
Set email reminders so you don’t forget to track time
Best practice #4: Fit it into your workflow
Start small, but doing it consistently will make it become a habit in your workflow
Best practice #5: Understand the importance of time tracking
Consider it a true way to improve your productivity
Best practice #6: Don’t multitask
Work on one thing at a time
Best practice #7: Assign time to projects
Always assign the task you work on with the projects they belong to
Now in detail: time tracking and the problem it solves from businesses. Read the details below!
Problem #1: Filling the hours all at once at the end of the week/month
Guilty as charged! One of the mistakes I used to make was forgetting to track my time, then frantically rushing to it at the end of the month.
The problem was that by that time, I had no idea what I worked on and for how long. I resorted to guesstimating but with all the time that had passed, my numbers were off. So, as a result, I ended up managing my hourly budgets poorly.
Solution: For as much as possible, track time on a daily basis. It should become a daily habit just like checking emails. Working with active timers helps with that, as you start tracking time while you work on a task and then pause it when you’re done.
Problem #2: Using the wrong tools
Spreadsheets are useful and versatile, but they’re not that good for time tracking. They’re hard to fill, harder to read if you need to go back and check the time you already tracked, and they can be very cumbersome when filled with too many data.
Solution: Switch to a time tracking tool. Timeneye is only one of them, but there are many time tracking tools that are easy and light to use, they’re cloud-based so your data is safely stored online. Most time tracking tools also have mobile apps so you’ll have the possibility to track even when you’re out of the office.
Problem #3: Forgetting time tracking
We’re only humans and the brain can only handle so much. So it’s perfectly understandable that sometimes we start working and the halfway to the day we go “Sh*t, I forgot to track my time”.
Solution: You should use reminders and alert to poke you in case you forget to track your time. For example, Timeneye kindly reminds you via email when you enter less time than usual:
Problem #4: It doesn’t work with your routine
When you’re in the productivity zone and you’ve got your activities going on, you certainly don’t want to stop to scrabble to start your time tracker.
Solution: Make sure to fit time tracking into your routine. You can start small, but doing it consistently will make it become a habit and fit in your workflow.
Problem #5: It’s an (apparently) useless obligation
Tracking time is not just a sum exercise that ends when you’ve turned in your timesheet for the month. It should be part of a process to improve your productivity and time management, hopefully making you work better.
Solution: Change your mindset over time tracking and consider it a true way to improve your productivity. The data you gather can help you decide how to better allocate your time.
Problem #6: Killed by multitasking
If you think that doing many things at the same time makes you productive, then you’re wrong. Multitasking damages our concentration, making our work performance plummet instead of increase. If you’re constantly switching back and forth between tasks, it fragments your perception of time and makes it difficult to remember to start your timers and/or write down the time spent on tasks.
Solution: Do one thing at a time. Having an active time placed in front of you will create a mental constraint that will keep you hooked on the task at hand.
Problem #7: Scattered activities are hard to track
Even when you’re doing one thing at a time, focusing only on the task with no sense of priority or knowing the big picture will not help your productivity.
Solution: Always tie the task you work on with the projects they belong to. This way you’ll always know the purpose you're working for, and it’ll be also easier to stay on budget if your projects are estimated in hours or if you have an hourly fee.
Do you know any best practices for time tracking we may have missed? Tell us in the comments! Make sure to share this article with your co-worker who struggles to track time…