Time Tracking | BCBusiness

Time Tracking | BCBusiness
As archaic as timesheets sound, tracking your time at work can help you assess where those missing hours in your workday went.

Wondering where the day went when the clock strikes 5 p.m.? Time-tracking tools could keep those hours from slipping away and help you manage them more effectively.

Timesheets – tracking your time every day to see where it goes. It’s a simple concept, really. But lately I find myself frequently recommending them as a tool to many overworked business people. Why? Will timesheets magically find those hours you’re missing from your day? No, but they’ll do a great job of helping you assess just where time is going, so you can evaluate if you’re using your time in the most strategic way possible.

As a service-based firm, we’ve used timesheets from the beginning both to allow us to bill for time spent on client projects, but also for internal tracking purposes. In those early days, we actually did them on paper (gasp!), but now there are legions of excellent online tools to choose from. Most have app components, which are great if much of your time is spent on the go and not sitting at your desk (an increasing reality for many entrepreneurs).

We use Harvest, which has iPhone, Android and Windows Phone app versions. Many of my colleagues also like FunctionFox, which also has an iPhone app. Both will run the sole proprietor between $12 to 20 per month, and both have pretty in-depth reporting capabilities and even the ability to create invoices for clients based on time tracked, if that’s relevant to your business. Clockbeat.com offers a very rudimentary but free version, if you’re looking for bare-bones time tracking.

The key to timesheets is figuring out what to track, and then remembering to actually track it. On the former, you need to figure out how you can best group your tasks and what kind of data you want out of your reports. Some groupings will be obvious and be by client or project, allowing you to know how much time you spent on a project when it’s complete.

Other tasks tracked will be more internal and everyday things such as general administration, finances, email/phone, business development and sales. These things suck up an entrepreneur’s time and can be some of the most useful information to uncover about where your limited time is going. Increasingly, we’re encouraging people to set up a category to track how often they’re using social media, so they can finally answer the nagging question whether the time spent on Facebook is actually adding value to their bottom line.

When it comes to remembering to use the tools, that’s just a matter of forming a habit. One of the best ways to have some accountability is to set yourself a reminder to run through the reports you’re getting about where you time is going, on a regular basis. So, whether that’s checking in for 15 minutes every Monday to see where your time went last week, or checking in at the end of the week, doing that regular review will help keep you on track with recording your time.

If you try timesheet tracking for a set period – say, a month or one quarter – you can get a better sense of where your time is spent so you can adjust as necessary (or, in some cases, hire staff or contractors to take some unnecessary pieces off your plate). And, at the very least, it will give you quantifiable proof of why you’re feeling so exhausted.