Quality time tracking data is critical for measuring your productivity, accurately estimating project costs and billing your clients. Most web professionals log their time after the fact – using a calendar, an Excel spreadsheet or an online timesheet.
But there are some very good reasons to log your hours in real time using a timer-based tracking tool. Timer-based tools are quick and easy to use, reduce the potential for human error, and provide the real-time data you need to better serve your clients.
Here are a few compelling arguments for tracking your time as you work as opposed to using a calendar-based or timesheet system.
A good time tracking tool should complement your work style, not clash with it. Manually entering times and activity descriptions is inherently time-consuming and cumbersome (exactly the reason so many developers and designers are resistant to time tracking in the first place).
Real-time apps allow you to track time as you go by hitting “stop” and “start” on project timers. When you’re finished for the day, you’re finished. Because your hours have already been captured, there’s no need to spend an extra 15 minutes entering your time.
More Accurate Data
If you log your time after you’ve finished an activity, you’re relying on your memory to reconstruct what you’ve been working on. Unless you can count on zero distractions and perfect recall, you’re likely to make a mistake now and then.
Not only will a timer-based system make it faster and easier to record your time, it will also significantly reduce the potential for error; and more accurate data means more accurate invoices, better project estimates, and the assurance that you’re getting paid for every minute of your hard work.
Better Customer Service
Tracking your hours as you go also allows you to better serve your customers. Good timer-based apps include detailed, real-time breakdowns of your time usage, which means you can more closely monitor your clients’ project budgets and identify challenges early, not after the fact.
You’ll also be able to answer your clients’ critical budget questions on the spot and make adjustments as necessary based on actual – not estimated – time expenditures.
Choosing the Right App
You’ll find that there is certainly no shortage of time tracking apps on the Internet, both downloadable and web-based; and since most offer a free trial period, you can test drive several until you find the tool that’s right for you. There are a few important considerations to keep in mind when reviewing your options, namely price, functionality and usability.
With regard to price, you’ll discover that time tracking apps range from free to $12 and up per user, per month. While a no-cost tool may seem like a no-brainer, many free apps offer only scaled-back functionality or limited projects and users. On the flip side, bear in mind that the most expensive app isn’t necessarily the best.
Take the time to review all available options until you find a full-featured product you can afford. Rest assured, it’s out there.
Likewise, be sure you’re paying only for functionality you need. Many time tracking apps also include invoicing, which is great if you don’t have an invoicing tool, but unnecessary if you do.
Avoid accounting headaches and extra costs by choosing an app that allows you to produce custom reports you can import into your existing invoicing tool.
A time tracking app can’t do anything for you if you don’t use it. While timer-based tools are undeniably more efficient than timesheets, when it comes to usability, not all apps are created equal.
As you review your options, pay attention to how quickly you can start, stop and switch between projects as you work. If it’s more than a couple of clicks, you can probably do better.
Regardless of the app you choose, a real-time hours tracking tool is an investment worth making. Over time, you’ll see your productivity go up, your administrative overhead go down, and your customer service improve thanks to accurate, up-to-the-minute data.