Are you tech-savvy? Do you geek out over each new tech update to your iPhone or favorite software? You love learning about each new feature so you can add them to your arsenal of conveniences.

You may be one of those people who makes the most out of the additional features you get on your tech. It’s your thing. You love it and you’re good at integrating the new features into your daily routine. 

It’s safe to say that you are the type of person who likes to make the most out of what you have.

Not everybody is like that. Other people don’t enjoy iPhone updates or learning how to operate more features on their devices. These are the people who ask a teenager to tell them how to use the newest updates on their iPhones. Maybe that sounds more like you. 

Raise your hand if you just want somebody to tell you what the features are and how to use them. 

Well, what if you have brand-new time tracking software?  Do you know how to put it to the most effective use possible for your business? It’s okay if you don’t because we’re going to tell you what you need to know to make the most of your time tracking solution. 

Use the Timer

Using a timer to track time is considered by many the best way to measure and improve productivity. A timer allows you to accurately capture how long it takes you to complete each task or goal. How much better would this be when you have multiple projects that require you to track time?

You can also use a timer to monitor how long you spend on activities such as meetings, emails, and administrative tasks, giving you an overview of how much time is spent doing what. It also helps make sure that tasks are completed in a timely manner so that deadlines can be met.

You could fill out a manual timesheet … but why do that when you have an app that does it for you? With manual timesheets, it’s not always possible to capture exactly how much time has been spent on each activity as there can be inaccuracies due to human error when estimating the amount of time taken for individual tasks.

Don't get bogged down by minutiae

It is important to be aware of the importance of tracking time, and the need to be mindful of not taking on an excessive workload. An effective approach to improve efficiency and productivity is to only track significant activities instead of every single little thing. By understanding when it’s appropriate to track time and what deserves an entry, you can have more balanced work-life routines while still maintaining a high level of output.

For instance, having clarity as to what should be logged in as a time entry versus not being tracked at all can help avoid unnecessary burnout or exhaustion. A general rule would be that if any activity takes less than fifteen minutes, it wouldn’t need to be accounted for in terms of timekeeping records.

Track your non-billable activities

Tracking even non-billable activities is an important part of managing your time and ensuring you’re charging a fair rate for services. While it might not make sense to include these activities in invoices, they’re still vital when it comes to calculating your real hourly rate. Doing this will help give you clarity on whether or not a project is worth doing, how accurate your estimates were, and whether or not to raise prices for future projects.

Using time tracking software makes it so that you can easily access detailed reports about how long each task takes you to complete so that you can get accurate data on job times which helps determine pricing for future clients. Tracking your time also helps ensure that you don’t overwork yourself–leading to burnout–by making sure you’re not spending too much time on a single project.

Manage time and resources

Projects are key to properly managing time and resources. By grouping entries into meaningful categories–departments, clients, activities, jobs, matters, work orders, processes–time tracking data become much more valuable as reports can be created to make use of the collected information. 

This also provides an opportunity to subdivide projects based on clients or other criteria that make sense for your business. If you have multiple departments involved in completing a task or project it can be helpful to group them into separate client groups for reporting purposes.

Not all projects need to be associated with real customers/clients. While this is certainly useful in many instances where customer service is required, an internal perspective can also be beneficial from time to time as well. This allows for better management of resources between different departments and even teams within each department. 

Categorize time immediately

If you want to ensure that your time tracking is accurately organized and easy to manage, don’t wait until later to categorize it. Having a regular practice of noting this information as soon as it’s entered saves time down the line when organizing, reviewing, or trying to make sense of reported times. 

To enforce the habit, use the required fields in whatever system you are using, making sure that there is a minimum level of data needed with each entry. For example, one such field might be ‘project’—so that team members cannot submit their allocated time without specifying what project it was for. This small step makes a big difference and prevents inaccurate or missing information from slipping through the cracks later on.

Take advantage of extra features

Timer apps can make our lives easier and more efficient, but there are some features that may not be noticed off the bat. Take advantage of extra features when using a timer to work smarter, not harder.

For starters, enabling idle detection is a great way to help you remember to stop the timer when taking breaks or away from your computer. When the app notices that you haven’t been active recently, it will alert you with a prompt asking if you want to discard any idle time that may have accrued while gone. This prevents slowdowns in productivity resulting from having to manually start and stop timers too often. 

Setting up reminders allows users to forget about manually starting and stopping the timer. If the app notices your timer isn’t running within a designated time frame, it can send you notifications so that based on your schedule it begins running again automatically whenever you log back on. 

Additionally, advanced features such as automatic start/stop let users take their hands off the wheel completely for certain tasks and use pre-defined triggers instead such as logging into Windows or opening certain programs like PowerPoint or Excel. By making use of all these tools available when using a timer, workflow efficiency can increase dramatically with little effort.

Know what your time tracking data needs to answer

It’s not enough to track time—you need to derive actionable insights from the data in order to make the most effective business decisions. This requires knowing which questions need to be answered by time tracking data.

The first question you may have is “What are we actually working on?” To answer this one, start running a weekly report. Group by project and then subgroup by task so you can get an overview of how your team allocates its energy from week to week.

Other important questions such as “How much should we bill our customer?” will require more detailed information from your reports. Be sure to exclude any non-billable entries. With these steps outlined for each necessary inquiry about your time tracking data, you can begin extracting meaningful answers that will help steer your business in the best direction possible.

Do a weekly time audit

Without accurate records, it’s impossible to know how long a task takes and if deadlines are being met. For this reason, it’s important that you audit the time entries regularly. Doing so can help ensure that all time is properly labeled, categorized, and attributed to the right projects or tasks.

Auditing time should be done at least once a week but preferably more often. This helps ensure that all data is up-to-date and that any discrepancies can be caught quickly so they don’t cause more problems down the line. 

By running an audit, you might find entries without project labels or ones that are too short or too long compared to their expected duration. Finding these issues means you can rectify them quickly with minimal disruption to the team.

Estimate time of a project

It’s important to accurately estimate the amount of time a project will take in order to avoid costly delays or unexpected budget overruns. This can be tricky, as people often don’t have a good grasp of work time and are often poor at estimating effort and duration. To this end, it can be useful to come up with a project timeline together with the team, not to use it as an exact guide but just for fun. 

Unsurprisingly, you’ll more often than not find that the actual results differ from expectations. Such discrepancies between estimated and real-world tasks provide valuable data that can be used when planning future projects—with enough data points collected over time, accurate projections can eventually be made and any pitfalls avoided.

Begin with a pilot program

Time tracking can be an effective tool for improving workplace efficiency, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all process. That's why introducing a time tracking system in a large organization should start with a pilot program so that the effectiveness of the system can be evaluated before fully rolling out. This will also help ensure that all employees are on the same page when it comes to the new software and that each department knows what their responsibilities are under the new system.

A pilot program allows for testing, collecting feedback, and making changes as needed. Most importantly, it helps to reduce friction from everyone adapting to this change at once by having users become comfortable with how the system works on a smaller scale first. By starting with a pilot program and focusing resources on just one area or department first, you have much more control over how well-received and successful the time tracking system will be. 

Limiting engagement to a small team lets you improve processes quickly while requesting feedback through surveys, polls, and interviews when necessary. Plus, you’ll have a small team of people who can help the remaining members of your team learn the software when it’s time for the full rollout.

Simplify data entry

Data entry can be an onerous task, so it's important to make sure you keep it as simple as possible. The best way to achieve this is by deciding exactly how detailed the timesheets need to be at the outset.

If you just need a total time for a specific activity, such as debugging something in your timesheet app, then one entry with a description and tag should suffice. Conversely, if you need to know exactly how long each part of the process took (in terms of finding the cause, coding, and testing) then multiple entries may need to be created.

Therefore, it's important to think carefully about what level of detail you require from your data entry when setting up your timesheet app. The simpler and more straightforward the data entry is, the more accurate and efficient overall timesheets will become. By proactively considering how much detail is required beforehand, data entry tasks can be made easier and take significantly less time than if all information had been entered manually afterward.

Let your team know WHY tracking time is necessary

Tracking time is an important practice for many businesses, from those that pay employees by the hour to those that need insight into employee productivity or the efficiency of workflow. Despite this, convincing employees to track time can be a hard sell unless business owners effectively communicate the why behind tracking time.

The first step in encouraging people to keep track of their time is being able to explain why it's necessary in the first place and communicating how you plan on using it. Explain how the data will benefit everyone involved–such as getting paid accurately and making money, reducing work stress, increasing client retention rates, and gaining insight into business performance–and then demonstrate, with results when possible, how unused tracked data has added value to your company. 

Once people understand there’s tangible value in tracking time and appreciate how improved productivity can affect success and job security, they’ll be more likely to take it seriously. You’ll get less resistance to using the new software.

Simplify choices for better decision-making and focus

Limiting choices and data access can help ease the cognitive burden for both employees and managers. With careful planning, employers can create a system that will improve efficiency while ensuring that each person sees only what they need in order to accomplish their job.

For example, if you have many different projects and tasks active at one time, it can be overwhelming for an employee trying to track time or a manager attempting to generate a report. By limiting the selection available in the system, you can make it easier to find the right item quickly without wasting time plowing through multiple options. 

Setting permissions so that only needed personnel are granted access simplifies the process of managing data and makes sure employees only see what applies to them. There are numerous techniques available for reducing the number of decisions users need to make, such as allowing them to mark favorite projects or structuring tasks by assigning people specifically instead of leaving all data visible to everyone.

Be consistent with project names

Having a consistent naming system for projects is of utmost importance in any organization. It ensures that tasks, meetings, and other resources related to the project can be easily found, accurately tracked, and managed efficiently over time. A clear naming standard also prevents confusion and wasted time when trying to locate the correct resources associated with each project.

When setting up such a system, administrators should define a naming convention that will allow users to quickly identify projects according to their type or purpose. For instance, internal projects could start with an asterisk (*Internal Product, *Office), or else clients-related projects might start with the first two letters of the client's name (MSFT, GOOG). 

ID numbers could be included in projector titles so all relevant information is at hand (e.g. P1). Establishing this kind of uniformity makes it easier for everyone involved to remember and understand how they can categorize their entries logically.

What’s next? 

Now, you’ve got time tracking software and you just need to make the most of it. You can follow all of these helpful pointers to do just that. 

We are passionate about time tracking and its ability to improve your work-life balance, saving you time, energy, and money. We can help to make sure you’ve got the best time tracking software for you. Reach out to Harvest or start a free 30-day trial to learn more about the platform.