What is Time Tracking and How To Track Time the BEST Way
Knowing how to track time and understanding the full value of it, can help greatly improve all facets of your business and organization. The most direct impact is on employees becoming more productive in a way that does not cause resentment.
You also benefit from a more optimized workflow in the business, and greater control over projects – both client projects and internal ones – just by understanding how to track time and selecting a solution appropriate to your organization.
In spite of these benefits, however, some may see time tracking as a distraction or an annoying extra responsibility. This is the case for both some managers and employees. A few managers see it as more paperwork (that requires time and effort to ensure accuracy), whereas some employees might feel the same… in addition to feeling like their time is being ‘controlled’ in some way.
To resolve these issues, we must first get a good idea of the real answer to the question; what is time tracking? Additionally, let us discuss what we should look for in the most ideal solution so that the process does not make for stress and strain, and gives us what we want. Such a solution should be cost-effective, time-sensitive, and not be met with resistance by the organization at large.
What Is Time Tracking?
Time tracking is, essentially, an aspect of time attendance and workforce management. It is distinctly different from simple attendance, PTO calculations and billable hours, as well as scheduling, but can greatly assist with these. It is the process of recording and cataloging your employees’ working time. And this info can then be used in different areas.
This impacts operations, as well as payroll and billing and other concerns of transparency, and increases the ability for clearer and greater insights into the ‘amount’ of time that various tasks and projects take or have taken, and can even be utilized for customer usage information.
Time tracking is often talked about in terms of time tracking software. What is time tracking software? It is simply a tool – online, cloud-based, or network-wide – that digitalizes and makes time tracking easier.
This underscores the importance of the time tracking solution being used; for example, one that integrates with Outlook’s calendar would be ideal because it puts a certain level of automation into the process compared to manual time tracking.
The Importance of Time Reporting
Consider how digitalized the world is increasingly becoming. Distractions in the physical world are different than those in cyberspace. With every ‘task’ essentially being a simple touch on a keyboard, a click on a mouse, and a swipe on a screen, prioritizing and compartmentalizing is extremely important.
Time reporting is like a feedback loop that works for the user, not against them. Being aware and being mindful of time is the secret to taking control of time. This is important in and across all types of organizations and their employees. Whether you are on the road, working from home, or seated in the office, and whether you are a staffer taking a daily wage or the CEO of the company, the essentials of the day-to-day (researching, shooting off emails, punching in numbers) can be incredibly similar.
In addition to tracking activities and projects, tracking hours for hourly employees or employees who do not work fixed hours is also something to consider. A similar issue is where a project timeline needs to be accurately and specifically reported for the clients to be charged by the hour.
Improper time management can make a mess of any situation, and these specific examples drive home the importance of knowing how to track time. If the organization, or employees themselves – especially when you are freelancing or working from home! – know how to track time, everyone can be at ease; otherwise, we are racing against the clock for a looming deadline without knowing how to apportion time to make it easily manageable.
Essentially, time tracking allows us to afford breaking down the largest of projects and activities into smaller, more easily manageable tasks – something any professional worth their salt will tell you is the key to successfully executing just about anything.
On the other hand, if you find someone (or yourself) asking, “What is time tracking?” with contempt and suspicion, it might be an understandable reaction, even if we know the fear is ultimately unfounded.
Let us look at these concerns before launching into a discussion on how to track time, in order to quell any doubts or misunderstandings that explain why timesheeting can sometimes cause frustration.
Potential Issues with Time Tracking
Most potential issues with time tracking all boil down to the solution being used. Our next section goes into this in some detail, but taking these issues into consideration will help us understand the importance of knowing how to track time the best way.
What is time tracking’s first ‘issue’ that might spook people? If you guessed privacy, it might be because our minds all jump to the same worries. It seems demoralizing, or even downright offensive, to consider that someone else is keeping tabs on your time! This is why the solution used for time-tracking needs to be nonintrusive – hence our suggestion for something that integrates timesheet reporting with Outlook.
User implementation can also be a thorny issue; user adoption might be low, especially if a simple time tracking application is being used that requires the employees to have an extra step to remember, an extra task to perform, an extra nuisance to deal with before considering a task ‘finished’.
You might have already guessed it this time; an unobtrusive time reporting solution ensures that there’s automation in administration. Think of features such as a simple flextime solution product that integrates with something such as Microsoft Outlook’s Calendar while enabling manual entries to be made, and then allows for time entries to easily be approved by supervisors, plus the ability to add expenses and rates to them. It should be able to generate standards reports, share data with ERP, CRM, Excel or other systems, and have a built-in role-based permission system.
How to Track Time the Best Way
Any discussion of how to track time in your business also involves knowing how to implement time tracking in the organization. If you are a freelancer or out on the road, it might be trickier having to convince yourself, but we’reconvinced you’ll be able to pull it off.
Time tracking involves three main elements: time entry, approvals, and generating reports. The only real possible way to get these done effortlessly is by use of a software application. Otherwise, geo-fencing, paper spreadsheets, and swipe card-based systems all involve practically setting up a whole new time tracking department in your organization and dedicating (some might say wasting) time, resources, manpower, energy, attention, money, and even sacrificing trust and togetherness in pursuit of something that a great timesheet reporting solution could do for you.
Why Time Tracking Software Is the Best Solution
Now that we are informed enough to answer “what is time tracking” and understand that knowing best how to track time is the crux of time reporting, let us understand what to look for in the time tracking solution we are going for.
What we want to do is something akin to the stationary action principle in Physics; do the least that gives us the most in terms of result. Empower existing systems, power them up, and let growth compound itself. We understand that this cannot be done in a manual way using a timer or a stopwatch – nor is a dedicated and separate timesheet suite needed.
Our example throughout of something that works with Outlook is a good example because it does not require manual output and is a process that is automated and inoffensive. Other processes such as accounting and billing systems, project management systems and resource scheduling solutions can usually also share data both ways with this.
Time tracking also allows us to make use of the full power of data analytics.
When time entries are automated through the Outlook Calendar, to continue on that line of thought, everything is streamlined. Since the activity, organization, and projects are already in the calendar appointment, nothing new needs to be manually inputted.
Data is presented in a uniform manner which can make for a timesheet reporter to work its magic and give us valuable information in a matter of seconds, if we consider the aspect of time, or at no additional cost if we look at it from the point of view of the accounting department. What this means is that you build on what you have.
Time tracking does not need to be a huge fuss, nor a drain on your organizational resources. The same data pool can be used for time tracking as well as making relevant inferences from it for information to be used in other systems such as your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions. This makes for better budget analysis, and even allows you to identify any kind of discrepancies more accurately, should the need arise. Time tracking empowers you to let the data speak for itself.
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