Time tracking is one of those things entrepreneurs love to hate. If you’re a freelancer, consultant or have employees working on billable hours you know how frustrating it can be. Taking time to manage timesheets and accurately track time can be bothersome.
However, time tracking isn’t always the problem – it’s our methods that are often the culprit. The approach could be holding us back, not the practice itself.
In this day and digital age it’s hard to understand why so many small businesses still use manual time tracking when the benefits of automatic tracking are immense. You may not think the differences between automatic and manual tracking are substantial, but you’d be wrong.
Manual time tracking limitations
To examine why manual time tracking is such a chore, we need to consider its limitations. Every global business, startup and freelancer knows how important timesheets are. They are designed to document efficiency, demonstrate value, and guide earnings in many cases. But the problem with manual timesheets is that they’re riddled with flaws. Manual time tracking is:
Unless you’re vigilant with starting and stopping a timer when you work on a task (most of us aren’t), nobody can recall with clarity everything they’ve worked on, when, and for how long. At that point, your timesheet essentially becomes a list of estimations. As a result, billable time used to bill clients and inform business decisions is fundamentally flawed.
Many entrepreneurs and their employees do a lot of work outside traditional office hours, whether that’s replying to emails while commuting or taking work calls in the evening. These usually aren’t recorded on manual timesheets, so you’re overlooking billable hours and losing profit.
Literally nobody likes filling out timesheets. They’re boring, annoying and unnecessarily time-consuming. Setting time aside to fill them is a mundane admin task.
While it’s true that timesheets are an essential part of business, filling them in feels utterly unproductive – and often it interrupts the flow of focused work on projects that actually are productive.
All of these issues are a direct result of business processes that require timesheets to be filled out manually. Meanwhile, many of us simply don’t have the cognitive skills to remember a long and varied sequence of events in precise detail; our brains are subjective, we make mistakes. So when timesheets are reliant on humans, we know they will almost always be defective.
Benefits of automated time tracking
So that’s the bad news about time tracking – but there’s good news, too! Thanks to the power of AI and SaaS companies, timesheets can be automated. Software can run in the background, scrutinize everything you tell it to, track what you’re working on and create timesheets for you – across devices.
Sophisticated timesheet software even studies how you categorize tasks. The perks of automatic time tracking are evident. For example, you can:
Accurately record billable hours
Automatic time tracking software can track what you’re doing without you worrying whether you’ve forgotten something or billed inaccurately.
Reduce wasted time
No more tedious hours trying to remember what you did four days ago and add it to your timesheet.
Analyze your business health
With accurate data, you’re much better positioned to evaluate your current operations, labor needs and make plans that will improve overall workflow and systems in the future.
Create more precise estimates
As well as budgeting, automated time tracking tools can also improve many aspects of project management.
Prioritize budgets better
Being able to quickly examine your billable to non billable ratio means you can see where your budget goes and work towards your priorities.
Not only do automated time tracking tools cut down on time wasted filling in manual data, but the data also reveals time wasting activities, so you can become more efficient.
See where unbillable time is spent
By revealing where you spend your time, you can also see where you waste time and money.
Consolidate business data in one place
Automatic time tracking software reveals a host of performance insights that are integral for growth. It saves your data in one place, making it easy for team members to read and share reports.
Time tracking is about so much more than accurate billing and increased profit. Your company’s reputation, relationships, health and development all hinge on effective time management, so it needs to be sound. Thankfully, time tracking tools have evolved to the point where we can get the best of both worlds: automate an essential but mundane task, free up employees to do their jobs with less interruption, and reveal accurate business insights along the way. Win-win.
Selene Nelson is a UK-based freelance writer, author, blogger and editor. Alongside writing journalistic features for sites like Huff Post, Salon, ThinkProgress and Town & Country, she also writes for Tech.Co, Tweak Your Biz, YFS Magazine and Fourth Source.