Time Tracking

The Flux Capacitor of Efficiency: Understanding Time Tracking Spreadsheets

August 14, 2023
IN THIS BLOG

Simply put, time tracking is about knowing how many hours your employees are spending on all tasks. Why does that matter? Because just like how Doc and Marty fine-tuned their adventures in the DeLorean, you’re going to need that info for project optimization, budget decisions, and team selection.

Of course, your business needs – and individual projects – will determine what you decide to track specifically. However, the benefits of time tracking make it clear you cannot underestimate its importance. It can certainly be the determining factor between successful project completion and failure.

Companies track time in various ways and spreadsheets is one of them. And that’s what we’ll be discussing today, i.e., how you can build and use your own time tracking spreadsheet, whether they’re the most effective way for tracking, and if not, what alternatives are available to you.

TL;DR

  • Tracking employee time is important to keep track of performance and productivity
  • Companies use different methods for that, and one of the methods involves using spreadsheets
  • Aside from spreadsheets, there are other more effective ways of doing this, such as using a time tracking tool
  • Back to the Future is untouchable. Watch the trailer here:

Also Read: Why Modern Organizations Need Time Tracking Software

Fueling Your Efficiency Flux: Unveiling Time Tracking Spreadsheets 

Many companies are still using pre-built/custom spreadsheets for tracking employee hours. When used in combination with other time management tools, a time tracking sheet can help teams and departments manage their productivity and performance. 

Some of the key insights managers can gain from a time tracking template include:

  • How each team member spends their time at work
  • Time spent on individual tasks and entire projects
  • Hours spent liaising with or updating clients

Therefore, managers can identify present performance and predict productivity for future projects. 

A time tracking sheet can be as simple as having two columns – one for task name and the other for time. That said, the most useful templates have much more to offer. They let users pencil in additional data, such as notes, edits, and labels. A time-tracking template can also include automated formulas companies can use to calculate salaries and billable hours.

But the best time tracking spreadsheets are custom-made, like Doc’s DeLorean, to answer all your business’s needs. 

It’s time you learned how to make one yourself.

Also Read

Building Your DeLorean Dashboard: Creating Your Time Tracking Spreadsheet

While there may be many paid options out there, you can track employee time with your very own spreadsheet.

That said, before you rev up your time circuits, put your Flux Capacitor to good use! Think about the following points:

  • How do you distribute employee salaries
  • What’s the number of pay periods in your company
  • Which project management system your firm uses
  • What about vacation time
  • Which rules apply to employees taking sick leaves

And so on.

Seems heavy, doesn't it? But creating a custom time tracking sheet is just one of the four options available to you. The others are:

  • Use a pre-built Google/Excel template as is
  • Modify a pre-built template to suit your needs
  • Create your own timesheet in Google or Excel
  • Get Back to the Future and begin using automated time tracking

Whether you’re going for option 1 or 2, a template can be a good starting point. Additionally, most companies are already using Excel and Google Sheets. Therefore, either can be your go-to tool. 

Use a Pre-built Google/Excel Template

While a pre-built sheet may not be the most effective way of tracking time, it can do in a pinch – and it’s better than not doing anything! 

Below we list the different types of timesheet templates available and the best use cases for each:

1. Daily Time Tracking Spreadsheet

Best for people who need to monitor hourly performance, so use the daily time tracking spreadsheet if you’re a:

  • Freelancer
  • Independent contractor
  • Have to switch from task to task in a single day

Available options:

2. Weekly Time Tracking Spreadsheet

Best for people who receive weekly payments, so use this spreadsheet if you need to do the following:

Available options:

3. Bi-Weekly Time Tracking Spreadsheet

Businesses paying employees every other week should use this template. 

Available options:

4. Monthly Time Tracking Spreadsheet

Monthly payrolls can be based on these sheets.

Available options:

Create your own Timesheet in Google or Excel

You can make your own spreadsheet for time management daily using the two most commonly used tools mentioned above. 

Here’s our five-step guide for the process:

Step One

Begin with a New Workbook.

 

Step Two

Make relevant columns in your time tracker sheet.

Step Three 

Create categories.

Step Four

Add as much detail as needed.

Step Five

Insert formulas into your time tracking template.

You can also make a similar template in Google Sheets.

Also Read

88 MPH to Productivity: Things to Add to a Time Tracking Spreadsheet

Project time management requires more than just time-blocking expertise. While we’ve mentioned the essentials you should add to a time recording sheet, you should also consider making one that allows:

  • The customization of time intervals
  • Automation of calculations via formulas
  • Color coding of different classes for easy tracking
  • Multiple ways of viewing the spreadsheet, such as by tasks, date, projects, or time
  • Integrations for extended functionality
  • Room to add custom fields on the tracking sheet

Regarding those custom additions, depending on business needs, you might want to add the following:

  • Employee number/location
  • Hours not spent working, such as PTOs, sick leaves, and flex-time
  • Project (hours allocation)
  • Manager (verification)
  • Due dates (meeting tight deadlines)

Also Read

Avoiding the Biff Tannen of Time Tracking Spreadsheets: Complications, Limitations, & Alternatives

The main reasons companies–and individuals–opt to use time tracking sheets are:

  • Ease of setup and usage
  • Affordability

And while those reasons may make them desirable, they don’t make spreadsheets the most efficient way of tracking your team’s time.

Let’s discuss the limitations of spreadsheets and alternate ways for accurate time tracking:

Limitations

More Time Spent Time Tracking than Working

A part of what makes spreadsheets less employee-friendly is the huge amount of time that goes into maintaining and reviewing them. Most of the time, data entry employees have to populate sheets manually–a laborious process. Next, managers must review the info–more time wasted. And that’s not even factoring in the countless reminders going out to employees so they’d fill their timesheets.

More Time Spent Guessing than Time Tracking

Various studies have shown almost 88% of spreadsheets are riddled with errors. Such mistakes are significant enough to leave a tangible impact on companies, including:

  • Revenue losses
  • Financial failure
  • Financial fraud

We all know Marty made it to the Clocktower at exactly 10:04 pm. Phew, what a relief! Now imagine asking him to account for how he spent his time before that. We’re talking exact hours and minutes-based reporting. Can you be sure his guesses are accurate? That’s what happens when most employees fill their individual timesheets manually. Many of us don’t even bother opening the sheet all week and only get to it at the end. In other words, if Marty can’t recount how many minutes he spent outrunning Biffy, what hope do we have of getting the time right?

More Time Spent Excel-ing than Excelling

Finally, while you certainly can generate reports and foreplan business decisions using a spreadsheet, the rest of us aren’t Excel gurus! In other words, it takes even more time for us to calculate things like billable hours

What’s more, if you can’t draw insights from the time tracking method your company uses, you’ll only be left reacting to money-making opportunities rather than acting on or creating them! For instance, say you just closed a project. Knowing how much time was spent on each task and how each member did time-wise can be valuable info in future project planning.

Complications

1. I-Work-from-Home Employees

The post-pandemic workplace is a different breed. Some companies realized how much they saved on operational costs by staying digital and never returned to the office. Then there are others with hybrid and completely remote employees on their payrolls. 

But while remote work is a reality–multinational companies have been doing it for ages–it can also make spreadsheet-based methods a chore. Managers can send as many reminders to their teams to fill in their timesheets as they want, but following up in real-time can be difficult. 

2. I-Need-Flexibility Employees

The pandemic force-shifted our priorities to what really matters, i.e., our families and health. Each day, more employees place flexible scheduling at the top of their priority lists. Even if they don’t, this measure is known to boost morale and productivity. 

That said, preventing scheduling conflicts can create even bigger headaches for your managers with spreadsheets to fall back on! They need intuitive and easily customizable tracking solutions they can use for individual employees. 

3. I-am-Burned-Out Employees

Just as insights from time tracking can sniff out business opportunities and improve resource allocation, they can also help managers monitor employees’ mental and physical well-being! Employee burnout is a real possibility as is overworking. 

Your time tracker should have the capability to provide managers with useful snapshots of employee performance. For instance, they can determine which tasks took the longest to complete. Then they can reach out to specific employees and figure out the reason behind flagging performances together. And so on. 

Alternatives

So, what should you do if you cannot work with your time keeping Excel template? Well, make it less of a hassle with automated time tracking

And we may be biased, but we’d recommend you do it with timegram! It has none of the limitations or complications associated with spreadsheets discussed above.

Besides being easy to use and efficient, it makes extracting useful information so much simpler. Once on, it keeps running silently in the background without intruding. Your employees won’t have to enter any info manually or have to guess their hours – or fudge them –  as everything is tracked automatically! It even lets you manage projects from one place, add time spent on work to relevant tasks, and even measure performance based on actual and estimated time. 

But that’s not all. It allows you convert billable hours into invoices automatically with just a few clicks – how cool is that?

timegram is all about making the managers’ jobs easier. It simplifies project and team management – one of the essential features all time trackers should have!   

Check out how it works

Also Read

Conclusion

The time tracking spreadsheet has been in use for a long time now. However, it’s time to pull a Marty McFly and try something new. An efficient time platform comes with many benefits, including the elimination of timecards, manual data input, and human error. It can speed up work processes, like payroll processing, and make them more accurate. Finally, with an automated time tracking tool, like timegram, you can glean valuable insights for successful project completion, resource allocation, team engagement, and manager/team empowerment.

Take it for a spin today!

Also Read

FAQs

1. How do I create a time tracking spreadsheet in Excel?

Creating an Excel-based time tracking spreadsheet is easier if you use a pre-built template. Scroll above to grab the one that suits your needs. Then follow these steps:

  • Download your template of choice
  • Check out the categories and classes
  • Subtract the ones you won’t need and add others
  • Start putting in identifying information of your employees/team members
  • Fill in the pay rates
  • Enter the types and numbers of hours worked
  • Verify and save the sheet

2. What is the best spreadsheet for time tracking?

Excel and Google sheets are the most commonly used tools when it comes to spreadsheet-based time tracking. While they’re great for streamlining personal time management issues, they don’t have enough range of functionality for businesses. We’d suggest using automated time trackers, such as timegram, for that purpose.

3. Why is time tracking important?

From the impact it can have on individual and company-wide productivity and efficiency to better decision-making, time tracking is very important. When time allocation to different tasks and of different employees is clear, managers can improve the way they handle projects, payroll teams can bill and invoice more accurately, and executives can use real-time data and insights in decision-making. In other words, you should track time to make informed decisions and optimize performance. 

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Midhat Hadi

About the author

Midhat Hadi successfully caught herself a PhD in Botany. When she's not gloating, she writes fiction and blogs.

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