Simplifying Timekeeping

Wednesdays are simplicity days at SimpleProductivity blog.

Photo by Marcin Wichary

Throughout my entire career, I have had to track and report on my time. As a consultant, it led to the generation of client invoices, as well as status reports on the projects. Nothing was more brain-wracking than coming to the end of the month and having no idea what exactly I worked on!

Now, as an employee, not only do I have to keep track of how much time I spend on each item of work, but also to keep my time in the payroll system so that I am paid accurately (I am an hourly employee, not salaried).

Keeping track of what you do is a good habit, even if you don’t have to report on it. Here are my tips for making this easier:

Enter Time Every Day

If you have a time tracking system, update it every day. Not only will this save you a lot of effort at the end of the month, but it will also allow you to catch errors.

It takes much longer to do the data entry for an entire month than it does to do it while the information is fresh in your mind. You may remember that you took a few hours this morning to visit the doctor, but in twenty days, you may forget, or struggle to remember what day it was and how long you were out of the office.

Entering time daily can also help you catch errors, particularly if you are entering in multiple systems. For example, I recently noticed that while my time card said I had worked 7 hours (and I had), my itemized time sheet only added up to 6. I had mis-keyed an entry and it had taken a whole hour off.

Keep Notes

Even if you enter your time every day, keeping notes about what you did during the day. I may touch ten billable tasks during the day, but unless I keep notes as I am working, I may not recall all ten when I enter my time. I find that having a notebook and jotting down what I am working on, start and end times, saves me a whole lot of effort at the end of the day, when all I want to do is get out of the office.

I also jot notes of what I am doing in my personal wiki, along with the other notes on the tasks. This allows me to see when I last worked on something, and what the last thing I did was.

This has had a side benefit. When one of my contracts got involved with a lawsuit from a disgruntled employee, I was able to pull out my notes during the deposition and give a definite answer to a question about something that was said during a meeting – I hadn’t been at that client that particular day.

Keep Your Own Time Sheet

I like automated time sheets, simply because I have difficulty adding without a calculator (I maintain that my ability to do arithmetic was destroyed by higher math, but that is a subject for another time). At the same time, I also know that things can go wrong, and that information is not always available when you need it.

In 2008 I was laid off from my contract suddenly and without warning. The next day my employer laid me off (via email) and cut access to my company systems. I no longer had access to my time sheets. Yet I needed those time sheets to make sure my last paycheck was accurate and to prove to the unemployment commission that I had been working the hours I claimed.

I do three things: I track my own hours in my wiki, so I know exactly how many I worked and what I spent them on. I track my vacation in a separate spreadsheet, so I can double-check the company calculations (they have been wrong on numerous occasions). And I keep PDF versions of every time sheet I submit.

Do you submit time sheets of any sort? How do you make it easier? Share below.

Photo by Marcin Wichary