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What you should know about Time Tracking Software
Time is the only truly finite resource we have. Money, health, connections, and so on, are resources we have in our lives that can come and go as life moves on, but time is the only thing that when gone, you can never get it back.
This is why Time Management is so important for businesses of all sizes and in all industries. Businesses, just as we, have a finite amount of time – the same amount we do. So, a business that manages its time well can do more and become more successful.
But Tracking time is not easy. Manually filling in timesheets is, in itself, a time-consuming activity. Having employees record their activities in-detail is exhausting and time-wasting, and it’s basically like you’re running in a circle; you are wasting time trying to track time to become better at managing time.
Luckily for us, there is this magic solution called “software,” which can not only do things for us, but it can do those things more accurately, and without interfering with the workflow.
A Time Tracking software will do just as its name implies; it will monitor, track, and record time spent by employees on tasks and projects. They can either be a part of more extensive project management solutions, such as Zoho Projects, Wrike, and others, or they could be stand-alone tools such as HubStaff, RescueTime, Toggle, and others.
Before we go into the intricacies of how a time tracking software can help your business, let’s first take a minute to learn how it works in the first place.
How Time Tracking Works
Time Tracking is not complicated; the solution monitors your activities and keeps a record of them. However, there are a couple of different methods of time tracking, and various tools use different methods. Let’s take a look at a couple of the most common ones.
- Create your project and task
In this method, you create a project or a task, and when you start working on it, you select the task and press start, and when you are finished with your work, you press stop. The solution will record how long you’ve spent on the task and will log it into your timesheet. You will be able to use this information for future billing later on or for measuring productivity.
Some time tracking solutions will give you the ability to make manual changes in the logged time later on (for cases such as when you start working and forget to press start until later).
This solution is beneficial in giving managers an overview of how much time tasks and projects take to be complete, which becomes very handy when creating deadlines.
- Monitor and Track Time Automatically
This is often done through a desktop application, and this is the more ‘fun’ way of doing it. The app will automatically track your activities, the web pages you visit, the applications you use, etc. It will record all this data, and you can view it in graphs or download reports with all this data.
If you are a manager, some applications will also take a snap of the screen and save it so you can not only see the number on the screen but an image of what your employees are working on at the moment – a pretty neat and fun feature if you ask me.
These two are the most common methods of tracking time, and most time, management solutions use either one of them or both of them.
Why Use Time Tracking Software?
There are numerous time tracking software benefits, and these are the main reasons why you would opt for a time tracking software in the first place. These benefits include:
- Better Focus
When employees can track their own time, they can learn how they spend their time. This kind of – sometimes brutal – reality check gives users an overview of how productive they are and what activities take up most of their time. This means they can learn to become better, more productive.
Managers will also be able to help their employees with better managing time spent on tasks. They also allow managers to extend deadlines when needed.
- More Accurate Billing
Client Billing can be an issue for some businesses when they don’t know exactly how much time and effort are needed to complete a project. A Time Tracking software will tell you exactly how much time your employees have spent on specific tasks and projects; you can charge clients the right amount.
- Faster, Easier, and More Accurate Payroll Management
Since you can track employee time, you will be able to use the timesheets for payroll purposes. This can become critical for businesses that have employees that work odd hours. It’s also perfect for remote teams. Time Tracking software means you can pay your employees the proper amount, which is better for everyone involved.
- Save Money and increase profit!
When companies have a clear understanding of their workflow, managers can address any problems or issues that may be holding the business back. Even small issues will not go under the radar and will be picked up, so they can be addressed before they pile up and turn into more significant problems.
- Better Workflow
Time Tracking Software gives managers a bird’s eyes view of everything going on within their business, so they can learn how employees spend their time, what projects take more time than expected, and if there are any issues that need to be addressed or modifications that can be made to improve the workflow of their business.
- Estimate more accurately
Thanks to the reports that the time tracking solution will create for your business, you will be able to get a deeper understanding of how much time and effort a project needs. This kind of experience and more in-depth knowledge means you will be able to estimate the time and cost of accurate projects with higher accuracy.
This also means that you will become better at managing projects, and will know precisely what and how long your team needs to complete a task or a project.
- Empower your employees
When you use a time tracking solution, your employees will be in control of their vacation and sick days. They will be able to access all this information as soon as they want, without having to ask HR or a manager for this info.
This also means less unplanned absences, since employees will be able to plan their schedules ahead of time.
- Improve transparency and communication
Some employees will feel that the installation of a time tracking solution is an assault on them or a sign that the company doesn’t have its trust in them – which is often not the case at all.
This is why it’s important to communicate with your employees and have a discussion on how the use of time tracking tools can help everyone, and that it can help employees through incentive programs and improved transparency.
When managers make changes in employee’s schedules, they will be able to see it and discuss with their managers these changes directly. They will also be able to see the status of their requests – approved, pending approval, or rejected – and discuss the implications of the decision with their managers.
When employees are also able to view their schedules ahead of time, they will be able to schedule their out-of-work activities so that they can achieve the life-work balance we all strive to achieve.
Transparency and communication can only make the workplace better, and time tracking software can help significantly with that.
Why is time tracking software essential for business?
As mentioned in the beginning, time tracking is essential for businesses. In today’s hyper-competitive business world, millions of small businesses try to make it all over the world- literally, millions. This makes the marketplace super competitive.
With all the technology and knowledge in our hands, businesses are expected to do more, but we still have the same amount of time every day. With so much work to do and so little time to do it, it has become crucial for businesses to know exactly where exactly does time fly!
Increasing employee productivity is not only good for business, but so is empowering your employees by making them in control of their workloads. Some enterprises use time tracking as an incentive for bonuses, and by doing so, they increase the sense of urgency in their employees.
Another issue that so many businesses suffer from is overly time-consuming tasks, which are tasks that take so much more time than anticipated. Time tracking allows managers to identify these tasks, if there are any, and be able to handle the solution either by removing the task altogether or by extending its deadline.
Time Tracking software also improves communication and transparency, which helps employees view any changes in their schedules and workloads and discuss those changes with their managers directly.
Managers will also be able to view timesheets, approve or reject entries, and discuss matters with employees – such as how long a specific task will take or why an employee hasn’t submitted his work on time.
Who Uses Time Tracking Software?
In reality, anyone can use time tracking software – and I’m not business-exclusive here, I mean anyone who needs to record what he spends his time on and can use the solution to increase productivity and improve the accuracy of client billing and payroll. Time Tracking software is used by project managers, business owners, employees, and freelancers.
Time Tracking software can be even used by anyone looking to decrease the distractions in his digital life, gain control of their lives, and limit their use of social media platforms. It can be used by students who want to make more time to study and high-level corporate managers who want to make more time to spend with their friends and families. As I said, it can be used by anyone, and not business people only.
Time Tracking Features
We now know how a time tracking software can help your business become more successful, but what exactly does it offer to achieve those great results? Let’s check out some of the features provided by most time tracking solutions out there.
- Time Tracking.
I think this one is pretty obvious, right? This is the core functionality of time tracking software. The accuracy and depth of tracking differ from one solution to another, however, and there are some solutions that can track even offline activities such as meetings and phone calls.
Time tracking software will track and record every hour and minute you spend working on a project and record those in a timesheet that can later be used for more accurate billing and payroll. Time Tracking software also allows users to visualize their tasks and projects in a timeline, and this also helps managers to estimate deadlines more accurately.
Online timesheets is not a feature offered by all-time tracking solutions, but most do. A Timesheet will centralize all recorded work (billable) hours and can act as an attendance report since it also tracks absences, holidays, and time-offs. You will be able to export these timesheets in CSV or PDF and use it for invoicing and payroll.
- Project Management
Some Time Tracking solutions come as part of a more extensive project management suite, but some stand-alone time tracking tools also feature lightweight project management tools or have some project management features or add-ons available.
Notifications and reminders can be sent to employees to remind them of an upcoming deadline, so they don’t fall behind on schedule. They can also be notified about urgent tasks that need immediate attention. These notifications can be sent on the dashboard or as emails and text messages.
- Online Invoicing
Some Time Tracking solutions can automatically generate billings and quotes based on your inputs, such as rates. This also means more transparency as customers will be able to see more details as the tool tracks billable time to the minute, and so you can both avoid any issues or disputes.
- Automatic Wage Calculations
Similar to invoicing, sometimes tracking solutions will automatically do wage calculations using the information on the timesheet. This means not only more accurate payments but also faster calculations.
- Reporting and Analytics
You can create reports, graphs, and summaries in seconds. These will give you a complete view of the time spent on tasks and projects without skimping on the details. You can also see analytics on budget and find out where can you cut down costs. Some solutions come with pre-designed templates and customization options, so you can create the exact reports you need.
Time Tracking Software Issues
Even the sun has spots on it!
My point is: Nothing is perfect in this world, and time tracking solutions are no exception. Let’s briefly discuss some of the most common issues with some time tracking solutions so you can avoid them when looking to choose one for your business.
- No offline functionality
However, stable your internet connection is, it can be easily lost at any time by anything – even a mouse chewing on wires. Some time tracking solutions don’t track time once you go offline, which can render the whole thing useless if you have a weak connection or experience connections drops often.
Look for solutions that can track time even while offline and can synchronize data once the connection is restored.
- Expensive solutions and limited free version
If you are a small business, then every penny is important. You are always trying to find ways to save money and make your business more profitable. Unfortunately, some solutions do not offer the value that justifies the hefty price tag, and worse still, there are solutions that market their ‘free versions’, not telling the consumers about its limitations and ‘hidden’ costs and fees.
Thankfully, there is some excellent free time tracking solutions out there that are excellent and would satisfy the needs of small businesses; you only need to know where to look and what to look for.
- Lag in or Lack of Updates
In today’s world, computer applications are updated more frequently to improve their form and function continuously, to make them more secure, and to add new features to them. You don’t want to be the one left behind because the solution you’re using doesn’t get regular updates or because the vendor takes its sweet, sweet time to update it.
- Lack of Automated Notifications
Forgetting is a blessing and a curse. As a human race, it’s something that’s just integrated into our minds. Even the best and brightest of us forget things from time to time.
What use is a time tracking software that doesn’t remind employees to enter their data or to check the changes made by managers in their deadlines and schedules? Automation capabilities are necessary in any software you choose, and our case here is no exception.
- Wastes Time
Software that requires a lot of manual data entry, is buggy, or takes forever to load, can waste much of your precious time. I mean, what is the point of having a time tracking software that spends your time? You are better off without it!
Check for detailed user reviews and see what the common issues and complaints are. Is the software buggy? Does it take forever to load? Does it require much manual data entry? Etc.
Types of Time Tracking Software
There are three types of time tracking software:
- Manual Time Tracking Software
- Automatic Time Tracking Software
- Time Tracking tools as part of a project management solution
Let’s discuss each of them in more detail:
- Manual Time Tracking Software
With a manual time tracking software, the user has to select the project or task, start the timer, work on the task, and when finished, stops the timer. These solutions give users more freedom with their time tracking, as you are not always monitored, and you can still keep track of time spent on tasks.
- Automatic Time Tracking Software
The quickest and easiest method of tracking time, as it requires you to do nothing. The software will automatically monitor your activities and keep a record of them in a timesheet without any interference from users.
However, even though this method is effortless, the issues with it are that it can’t always correctly identify work from play. For example, it can record what you’ve spent an hour on YouTube as entertainment, while you were publishing your company’s video, or that you’ve spent hours on Pinterest while in fact, you were researching an upcoming project.
- Time Tracking tools as part of a project management solution
This is a more comprehensive but also more complicated approach to time tracking. Usually, with these solutions, you will be able to access tasks and files, collaborate with other team members, create better estimated and detailed reports, set budget limits, track attendances, allocate resources to projects, share ideas with other members, have discussions with managers, and almost anything related to making managing your projects a smoother and more natural experience.
This solution is more comprehensive and gives users many more features and capabilities, but it can also be overwhelming for those with not enough experience in managing businesses due to the more complicated approach used.
Another issue here is that some of the options offered in this category are not good enough to be the jack of all trades, and can’t do both jobs as well as it would’ve if it had focused only on project management or time tracking.
How to Choose Time Tracking Tool
The process of choosing the right time tracking tool for your business can be complicated and a bit confusing. So, what I am going to try to do is make this as simple to you as it could be.
- General Considerations:
- What devices do you use?
- What is your workflow?
- What are the features you need?
- How intuitive or easy is it to use the software?
- What is your budget for the software?
- Are you a freelancer or a business? If you’re a business, what is the size and field of your business?
- Consideration of the features of the time tracking software:
- What Type of Time Tracking Software do you need?
- Do you need billing, invoicing, and payroll features?
- Do you need Clock in/Clock out functionality?
- Do you need it to be location-based?
- Do you want some specific features?
- What level of customizability do you need?
- Integrating the software into your workflow
- Does the software integrate with the accounting solution you use?
- Does the software integrate with the payroll you use?
- Can it export its reports, graphs, and sheets in different formats?
- Does it run well on the platform you use?
- What are the data storage options available?
Answer those questions, and you will be able to narrow down your list to a couple of solutions. After you’ve done that, it’s time to dig a bit deeper by going through customer reviews of the solutions. Try to read as many reviews as you can, and take notes of what are the common complaints and issues.
You can also see the tutorials on the software to get a feel of how it would be like to use it. When you feel comfortable enough with a solution, go ahead and try it. It is recommended you sign up for a free trial before committing to be sure this is the solution for you.