Wouldn’t it be nice to go back in time and meet all the deadlines you’ve ever missed?
For most of us, time is a rare commodity; it's something that we never seem to have enough of. Time management and tracking have become essential tools in any project manager’s arsenal, allowing them to accurately track and measure their team's performance.
Project teams often struggle with managing deadlines due to poor communication, inadequate planning, and over-ambitious goals – but project time tracking goes a long way in fixing these issues.
And that’s not all. Did you know that aside from keeping tabs on the team’s progress, project timesheets can be used to identify areas of improvement?
Learn more as we explore how project time tracking can be used to identify weak areas and optimize your team's workflow for maximum efficiency.
What is project time tracking?
Let's kick off this guide by establishing what time tracking is in project management – a process that helps managers and team members monitor how much time is spent on each task. Time tracking involves noting start and end times for tasks and the amount of time spent working on them.
This allows project teams to gain insight into their workflow, identify areas of improvement, and take corrective action where required. It's used for accurate billing purposes, too.
Project time tracking benefits
From reducing project costs to improving productivity, there are many benefits to using time tracking in projects. Here's a list of the most important ones:
- Improved accountability
- Visibility of project progress
- Accurate billing and invoicing
- Improved productivity
- Reduced administrative overhead
Even better, accurate time tracking allows project managers to determine where time is being wasted and identify areas of improvement. This helps them make better use of their team’s resources, ensuring that each project runs as efficiently as possible.
Let’s take a closer look at how this works.
How to optimize time tracking to identify areas of improvement
It may seem like a dream, but project time tracking can actually make finding areas of improvement as easy as glancing at a timesheet.
Certain methods are available to ensure that your time tracking efforts are optimized for maximum efficiency. If executed correctly, these methods can help you not only know what to improve but also how to do it.
1. Establish your current practices: Making a paradigm
No, it's not as complicated as it may sound. A paradigm setup is simply a set of practices that you currently have in place. This includes your team's workflow, the way they communicate with each other and their customers, and how tasks are allocated and completed.
For example, a remote team may have a group chat for communication, use an online project management tool to assign tasks and rely on email or a customer service ticketing system for client inquiries.
Taking note of these practices will give you an initial idea of how your team currently works, allowing you to identify where improvements can be made.
Once you know what processes are in place, it's time to put project time tracking into practice and start analyzing the data.
2. Use time tracking for time and cost analysis
After assessing your company's needs, you can then execute project management by organizing active projects in your time tracking platform. This will give you a clear picture of past, present, and future projects, which will help you better forecast the resources needed for upcoming tasks.
The next thing you need to do is to track and analyze employee time entries. It's essential that you review these time entries regularly to identify any areas of improvement.
To analyze the data, you can create reports and graphs that will help you identify trends in how your team works. This includes identifying which tasks take up more time than they should or if there are any tasks that have been taking longer than expected.
Don't forget to use such reports to analyze cost-effectiveness, as they provide insight into how much money is being spent on specific activities or projects.
Tip: You can easily recognize patterns of inefficiency by comparing reports from different projects. When doing this, you should focus on tasks that take longer than expected or require more resources. This gives way to increased project profitability, as well as improved team performance.
3. Develop actionable strategies for improvement based on your finding
Are we going to be able to meet our deadlines? How much time are we spending on each task? These questions can be answered by analyzing employee time data. To ensure that active projects stay under budget, you must have actionable strategies in place based on the analysis of this data.
If you find that a certain task takes longer to be completed, then it would be beneficial to look at ways to streamline it or allocate additional resources to complete it faster. You could also determine whether there are any tasks or processes that should be eliminated altogether as they take up too much time and resources without providing value.
Let's say you see long-time entries for communication between teams and members. In that case, it could be time to look into alternative tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams, which allow for faster collaboration.
That said, you can learn some common areas to examine when looking for efficiencies, including:
- Workflows: It's usual for teams to be stuck in a loop, repeating processes or tasks that could be automated.
- Communication processes: As mentioned earlier, it's essential to review communication processes and determine whether a better collaboration tool is available.
- Resource allocation: Are you allocating the right amount of resources to the right tasks? If not, then you can re-evaluate and consider investing in better tools to reduce time spent on mundane tasks.
- Task prioritization: Refocusing your team's efforts on the most important tasks can help you meet deadlines and get active projects done faster.
By having actionable strategies in place, you will be able to make the most out of your time and cost analysis, thus ensuring that your tasks are completed on time and within the project budget. Read on to learn some examples of action plans you can follow.
Examples of effective strategies for improving efficiency through time Tracking
Priorities, priorities, priorities. Remember that identifying areas for improvement is followed by the next pressing matter: planning and executing. To do this, you need a strategy. Here are some of the most effective ones:
Automate or streamline processes whenever possible
If you receive unlimited projects or tasks, it can be easy to get lost in the details. To avoid this, streamline processes by automating and simplifying them. Consider using tools like Zapier or IFTTT that allow you to automate mundane tasks and free up time for more important things.
Don't be afraid to use time trackers to better keep tabs on billable hours and adjust your team's workload according to their time availability.
Placing task management software can also be helpful. There are platforms that let you automate tasks and prioritize them according to their importance, assisting team leaders in maintaining a healthy workflow.
Use integrations and technology in progress monitoring
Unlimited projects (yes, again) are no match for the power of integrations and technology. This means that you can get better insight into how your team is performing in real-time by using software that offers progress monitoring capabilities.
You can also measure the efficiency of your customer support processes by using automated tools like chatbots or AI-based solutions, as well as integrating customer feedback platforms.
If your company uses browser extensions, payroll software, or inventory management apps, you can check with your time tracker provider whether they have an integration option available. Should the answer be yes, then you can say goodbye to manual entry and hello to smooth processes.
Create accountability through regular reporting
Time tracking reports are essential for creating accountability and staying on top of your team's progress. Make sure that your time tracking platform allows you to create time reports on a daily basis. This is to help identify areas of improvement and recognize successes.
To make intuitive and detailed reports, you should also use performance metrics, such as billable hours, project completion rates, customer satisfaction scores, and much more. This will enable you to better plan for the future by understanding how different teams work best together and how they can be improved upon.
Take advantage of time trackers that have additional features that allow you to create visual reports quickly. Doing so will help speed up the process and make data easier to understand.
Steps for tracking billable time for projects
Among workforce management apps in the market, the time and attendance segment accounts for the majority of revenue (around $2.4 billion in 2020).
With its market size ever increasing, it’s no surprise that there are many companies starting to shift their focus towards time tracking solutions. So if you're new to this, don't worry; we’re about to discuss exactly how you can start using time tracking tools to track billable time for projects.
Step 1 – Invite your team
Have your team members join the platform and create accounts. This way, they can start tracking their time spent on each project or task right away. Try to look for platforms that have an extra layer of security for your team, like authentication via email or a two-factor identification process.
Step 2 – Set up billable time rates
Set up a pricing plan for each type of billable hour worked by your team members. You’ll need to decide what rates you want to charge per hour, as well as any additional fees associated with certain services (like travel expenses).
Make sure you communicate these rates clearly with everyone involved in the project so there is no confusion about how much should be charged for every hour worked.
Step 3 – Track time spent on each task
Once your team is set up, they can begin tracking the time spent on each task. Time tracking software allows them to log their hours in real-time and provide detailed information about how much time was spent on a given project.
Should it be required, you can also have a look at what they do for each hour they log, allowing you to keep an eye on their progress.
Step 4 – Track time inside other apps
Time tracking software can integrate with other apps such as project management solutions, browser extensions, or task management software. This way, you can easily track how much time was spent on a given project without having to manually enter data.
Doing so is especially helpful when working with remote teams, as it takes away the need for manual entry into different systems and makes it easier to keep up-to-date records.
Things you should avoid when tracking time
We are just humans, meaning we're capable of overdoing things. Time tracking software should not be used to micromanage or overly control your team members, as this can lead to a hostile working environment and decreased morale.
1. Don't make it a tedious house chore.
Decreased productivity and increased burnout – these are just two of the consequences that come with a tedious time tracking system. Make sure you have intuitive and user-friendly software so your team can easily log their hours without feeling like it's too much of a hassle.
2. Don't overanalyze all of the hourly rates logged.
Time tracking should be used as a tool to get an overview of how much time was spent on specific tasks, but it shouldn’t be used to try and find out why certain tasks took longer than expected or why some were completed faster than others.
If anything looks suspicious, talk to the person involved directly instead of trying to analyze data from the software.
3. Don't be afraid to call it quits.
Similar to breakups (in a way), there are times when you have to call it quits with the time tracking software you’re using. If it’s not working as expected or if your team is feeling overwhelmed, then look for an alternative that better fits their needs.
Make sure to initially set training sessions and have a Q&A session before they start using the time tracking software to ensure everyone is comfortable with it. This will make sure that you get all the data you need without creating any unnecessary stress for your team members.
4. Don't neglect breaks.
Long working hours, according to the World Health Organization, are linked to a higher risk of heart disease and stroke.
This only makes it totally essential to remind your team members to take regular breaks while they’re working. This will help them stay focused and motivated, which in turn will lead to better productivity levels overall.
Encourage them to step away from the project every now and then so that they can come back with a refreshed perspective.
5. Don't forget to reward success.
When your team does something great, make sure you recognize their efforts and reward them for their hard work. Give out bonuses, organize team outings, or arrange special events – anything that shows how much you appreciate the effort they put into making the project successful.
Searching for the best time tracker: Things to consider
Now that we've established the basics of project time tracking and how it can identify areas for improvement, let's look at how you can choose the best project time tracking software.
The primary goal is to make sure your team members are comfortable with the system and that it will provide you with accurate data so you can take actionable steps for improvement.
Before looking into specific software packages, create a list of features you are looking for in the software. Think about what data you want to capture, how often it needs to be updated, and any other reporting or analysis capabilities that could benefit your team.
Once you have a good understanding of what type of system will best fit your needs, start researching potential solutions or platforms and looking into some factors that you need to consider when looking for project time tracking software.
First, make sure the time tracking software is compatible with all popular devices used in your organization. It should be accessible on both desktops and mobile devices via apps and browsers so that your team can easily access it at any time.
Look for features such as task management and assignment, custom reporting, progress monitoring, and more. Depending on the size of your project, you may need different features – so make sure to check what they offer before you decide which one to go with.
The ability to integrate your chosen software with other applications used within your organization is an important factor when making a decision. This will ensure that data collected from each source is automatically synced and accessible for further analysis.
Invoicing and payments
If the project time tracking software also offers invoicing and payments, this can be a huge plus. It will save you time and make it easier to manage finances. Even better, you can find a platform that lets you customize invoices and automate payments, which is helpful if you have a variety of clients and services.
Look for a platform that provides automated reports, either on a regular basis or when you need them. This will make it easier to track progress and ensure that tasks are being completed within the expected timeline.
Finally, consider the cost of using the project time tracking software before making your decision. Some platforms may be more expensive than others, but if they offer features that will help you streamline your processes, then it may be worth investing in them. To test each factor, we recommend looking for solutions with 30-day free trials and then upgrading when you’re sure that the features are what you need.
What’s the best time tracker?
The answer here isn’t clear-cut, because the best time tracking software should be tailored to your specific needs as an organization. This, on top of superb customer support and all the factors listed above, should give you the best experience with a time tracker.
The tool you choose should be easy to use and understand, have features that are straightforward yet effective, and offer customization options so you can make it work for your particular needs.
Start tracking time with Harvest
Our time tracking app, our pride, and joy – Harvest – has all the features listed above and more. What's more, you can do quick visual reporting that can easily be shared with team members, clients, and stakeholders.
What makes Harvest stand out from the crowd, you ask? It’s our intuitive design and user-friendly features. You can easily get started tracking time without any prior knowledge of the software. Plus, it has customization options that will let you tailor it to your organization's unique needs.
Our privacy and security measures and policies ensure that our customer's data is safe and secure, making Harvest a trusted platform with more than 70,000 customers.
Harvest also offers integrations with popular tools like Slack, Asana, Trello, PayPal, and others, so you can easily sync up data from multiple sources for comprehensive analysis.
If you're looking for a reliable time tracking solution for your organization, then Harvest is the perfect choice! Go ahead – register now, get your free trial, and see why we're the best.