Three ways to track your time

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I have been a web developer for the last 14 years, ever since discovering SLIP and PPP with my 14.4 BAUD modem. In that time I have worked with several different methods for tracking my time. Whether I was working as a freelancer, or as an employee for technology companies and web design agencies, time tracking was always an important factor of my day-to-day workflow. As a freelancer, time tracking is crucial for billing clients and getting paid. As an employee, project managers depend on time tracking to keep projects on schedule and to avoid going over budget. In my experience as a web developer I have worked with three different methods for tracking my time. Each method marked an evolutionary step in my time tracking skills.

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Three ways to track your time

  1. 1. Three Ways to Track Your TimeI have been a web developer for the last 14 years, ever sincediscovering SLIP and PPP with my 14.4 BAUD modem. In that time Ihave worked with several different methods for tracking my time.Whether I was working as a freelancer, or as an employee fortechnology companies and web design agencies, time tracking wasalways an important factor of my day-to-day workflow. As a freelancer,time tracking is crucial for billing clients and getting paid. As anemployee, project managers depend on time tracking to keep projectson schedule and to avoid going over budget. In my experience as a webdeveloper I have worked with three different methods for tracking mytime. Each method marked an evolutionary step in my time trackingskills.
  2. 2. 1) Paper TimesheetsMy first experience with tracking my timewas using paper timesheets. The ideawas to keep a freshly printed template atmy side, filling it out as I moved from oneproject to the next.Here is a PDF of thetimesheet created for Pelago »
  3. 3. Pros of Using Paper Timesheets● Paper timesheets are portable. You can carry them with you to meetings or on the road.● The tactile quality of pencil on paper is refreshing in contrast to staring at a computer screen all day.● It’s better than nothing, which is why we implemented them in the first place.
  4. 4. Cons of Using Paper Timesheets● If time isn’t tracked in real-time it becomes increasingly difficult to account for it with each passing hour.● It is hard to track time on paper accurately when jumping around from project to project.● There were plenty of days when I would touch more projects than could fit on the sheet.● The data was useless unless entered into software that could run reports.● Paper timesheets are tree killers. One paper per day per employee adds up.
  5. 5. 2) Excel SpreadsheetsAfter settling in comfortably with paper timesheets our next need wasfor reporting. We needed to crunch all that data into meaningfulfeedback that we could use to quickly and accurately bill clients andplan new projects. We started entering our tracked time into Excelspreadsheets. This method enhanced our use of paper timesheets andimproved our time tracking for the next few years.
  6. 6. Pros of Using Excel Spreadsheets● Finally, we had a way to run reports on our data.● Excel spreadsheets are digital files that can be backed up and archived more effectively than paper timesheets.● Excel spreadsheets are universal enough that the learning curve for new employees is small.
  7. 7. Cons of Using Excels Spreadsheets● Entering all that data into Excel took several hours per week, and was no fun at all if we fell behind.● The data was only accessible if you had Excel and were on our LAN.● We couldn’t get at granular views of the data, or crosstab it the way we wanted.● We still had to rely on paper timesheets and had to wait until an admin entered the data into Excel to run reports.
  8. 8. 3) Web-based Time Tracking Sof twareWe reached a critical juncture a few years ago where our frustrationswith paper timesheets and excel spreadsheets were becomingunbearable, and the web was maturing into a medium that couldhandle more advanced web-based applications. The advent of thelightweight framework gave us an opportunity as a web developmentagency to escape the linear clutches of traditional development. That iswhen we developed a web-based time tracking service, which wedubbed Intervals. For those still tracking their time using papertimesheets or Excel spreadsheets, I highly recommend abandoningthose methods in favor of using a web-based time tracking service.
  9. 9. Pros of Using Web-based Time Tracking Sof tware● Our billable time increased by 30% after adapting web-based time tracking into our day-to-day workflow.● Track your time at any time from anywhere.● Keep track of multiple projects at once.● Easily generate detailed reports and send client invoices.● Accessible with Windows, Mac, or Linux.● Data is tracked in real-time; no more weekly data entry.
  10. 10. Cons of Using Web-based Time Tracking Sof tware● If you already have an established analog method for tracking time, you will have to enter or import that historical data.● Requires Internet access.● Small monthly fee
  11. 11. Check out the Inter vals blog for more ar ticles…The Inter vals BlogA collection of useful tips, tales and opinions based on decades ofcollective experience designing and developing web sites and web-based applications.www.myinter vals.com/blog

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