Productivity Tips: Filling timesheets manually is a great way to under charge - and it’s also a waste of time

A long long time ago, when I was a young programmer, in a company I once worked for, the management decided they wanted to know how the employees spend their time.

It was a product company so this information was not needed for billing, management just wanted to knows what’s going on and have better information when they plan for the future.

The development team manager quickly built a small application that lets employees fill in what they worked on, this application was equivalent to filling a timesheet, you started the application, selected one of the company’s projects filled in how much time you worked on that particular project and repeated this for every project you worked on today.

It was a disaster, the application itself didn’t have any serious problems but the basic flaw of such a system is known to everyone who ever had to fill out a detailed timesheet – at the end of the day you don’t remember exactly what projects you worked on and how much time you spent on each project.

The information in the system was inaccurate, time spent helping on other employee’s projects was usually charged to the wrong project (because no one remembers he spent an hour helping someone else in the middle of working on his own project) and after a few weeks the system was abandoned.

After that little experience I was sure time tracking is such a huge pain it should only be done if absolutely necessary – that is, only if you bill by the hour - I was wrong (obviously, as I know sell time tracking software).

The problem was not with the concept of time tracking, the problem was with filling timesheets after the fact, no one has perfect memory and when you fill your timesheet at the end of the day (or, god forbid, the end of the week) you just don’t remember exactly what you did.

The pen and paper solution to this problem is to keep a log of what you do, just write down the time whenever you switch tasks – this gets tiring and time consuming really fast, and the information you got on paper can’t be easily analyzed.

The real and easy solution is time tracking software that times you as you work – and does not require you to enter timing information after the fact, any good time tracking software can print timesheets for you as well as perform other analysis of the timing data.

Obviously I’m going to suggest yaTimer, the simple and easy to use time tracking software I wrote, but even if for some strange reason you don’t like yaTimer do yourself a favor and use some time tracking software – you’ll never want to manually fill another timesheet again.

posted @ Monday, November 3, 2008 4:36 PM

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