How to Use Time Tracking to Finish Projects Faster
Are you looking for ways to improve productivity and finish projects faster?
Maybe you’re interested in time tracking but not sure if it’s the right fit for your business?
Read on to find out how you can use project time tracking to finish work faster.
Let’s get started.
What is time tracking and why you need it
For the purposes of this guide, time tracking involves tracking and recording the time employees spend working.
It allows you to gain a better understanding of how employees spend their time at work and simplifies the process of evaluating employee performance.
Time tracking also helps you:
1. Identify bottlenecks that cause employees to spend more time than necessary on tasks and projects.
A good time tracking tool will allow you to set hours or budget limits so that no task goes over without your knowledge. This can be useful for identifying bottlenecks before they become an issue.
If you’ve planned for a task to take a couple hours and it’s already had 5 hours tracked with no progress in sight, you might need to adjust expectations or deadlines. There could be a number of reasons for this: confusion on the task itself, wrong skill/task fit, or not enough time allocated, to name a few.
Either way, work can start piling up fast when tasks take longer than expected.
Accurate time tracking that sends you daily timesheet recaps for your team and alerts when tasks go over budget are key to preventing bottlenecks.
2. Increase productivity and implement strategies to improve individual productivity.
Some time tracking tools offer productivity-focused features such as activity rates that look at keyboard and mouse usage while tracking time.
These rates can be used as trends to identify dips or increases in productivity. In the case of a dip, managers can check-in on that team member. A lot goes into productive work — the environment, morale, workload, and a host of external factors.
Seeing changes in activity rates and making the effort to address them can make the difference for overall productivity and team morale.
3. Improve project estimates and track time spent on projects more accurately.
We all want project estimates to be as accurate as they can be. But this can only happen when you’re able to compare estimates to actual hours through reporting and detailed timesheets. How does that work?
Let’s say you budgeted 10 hours for an initial design prototype, but it actually took 3 full workdays. Detailed time tracking can help you factor this in for your next estimate, while providing proof of work that illustrates exactly why more time is needed. Random screen capture, for example, might show that the illustrations were much more detailed than initially planned. The client is thrilled with the outcome, but you’ve under-budgeted for the work required.
This is crucial to know for future projects, as you’ll then be able to charge the appropriate amount, plan timelines accordingly, and avoid souring a client relationship by having to go back and update the estimate.
While there are many ways to track employees’ time (e.g., by using paper timesheets or swipe cards), businesses looking to automate the process should consider using dedicated time tracking software (such as Hubstaff) to streamline employee time tracking.
How to get started with time tracking
Implementing time tracking, while relatively easy to do, still requires careful planning. Here’s what you need to do to implement time tracking at your company:
Create a time tracking policy
Before you implement time tracking within your business, you’ll want to create a time tracking policy that outlines how and when employees should track their time.
Having a time tracking policy will ensure that all employees are tracking time properly. It will also be a helpful resource for employees that might have questions about what is and isn’t allowed when tracking their time.
Your time tracking policy should include information on:
- How to use time tracking software: outline step-by-step instructions on how employees should track their time, including information on how to use the time tracking software you’re going to implement
- What to track: include a detailed explanation of what tasks employees should track, and let them know if they need to add any notes to their tracked time
- Examples: provide a few examples of typical situations employees might find themselves in, and explain how they should track their time in each of those situations
Choose the right time tracking tool
As a project manager, you need to keep track of your team’s work schedule. Once you’ve created a time tracking policy, you’ll need to choose a time tracking tool that fits your specific needs.
Sure, if you’re just starting out, creating a timesheet in Excel may suffice. But when looking for a real time tracking solution, you’ll want to pay attention to the following:
- Ease of use: ensure your employees won’t have problems tracking their time by looking for a time tracking solution that’s easy to use with an intuitive user interface
- Features: scope out advanced time tracking solutions, such as Hubstaff, that offer a whole host of features apart from time tracking – such as geofencing, project budgeting, and payroll management
- Integrations: choose a tool that integrates with solutions you already use, such as your CRM system or accounting software
Bonus: Time blocking templates
Get employee buy-in
Finally, you’ll need to find a way to get employees on board with tracking their time.
This is a crucial step, and the easiest one to get wrong.
To get employee buy-in for your new time tracking initiative, you’ll want to:
Explain why you want them to track their time
Let employees know how the company will benefit from time tracking. You’ll also want to explain how employees themselves can benefit from tracking their time (e.g., improving their productivity, preventing burnout, having proof of their work, etc.).
Address employees’ concerns
Make sure employees know that you’ll do everything that’s necessary to protect their privacy and that they’ll have access to all their time tracking data at all times.
You should also let them know that you’re not implementing time tracking because you don’t trust them, but rather because you want to identify bottlenecks and try to improve productivity.
You’ll need to train your employees on how to track their time effectively. This will prevent employees from getting frustrated because they don’t know how to use the time tracking software or track their time properly.
Lead by example
Start by tracking your own time for a month, analyze your time tracking data, and find ways to improve the way you work based on the data you’ve gathered.
Then, present your findings to your employees and give them a hint of how they could benefit from using time tracking as well.
Use time tracking to finish projects faster
Now that you’ve implemented time tracking at your company, it’s time to use it to finish projects faster. Here’s how:
Figure out how much time each task takes
The first step involves finding out how much time each task takes. Analyze the time tracking data you’ve gathered and make a note of the average time needed to complete each particular task.
Use this information to plan projects more effectively and make more accurate project estimates.
Identify the most efficient team members
Next, analyze each team member’s performance and see how much time it takes them to complete specific tasks. Find which team members complete particular tasks the fastest, and then try to assign those tasks to them every time.
You should also identify average and under-performing team members and look for ways to improve their performance.
Determine task dependencies
List out all the tasks your team needs to complete to finish a project, and then determine which tasks depend on other tasks being completed first.
This will allow you to understand which tasks you need to do sequentially, as well as which you can work on concurrently.
Learn more about Project Management Dependencies
Devise a fast-track approach to completing projects
Armed with the data you gathered in the previous steps, you can now devise a fast-track approach to completing projects.
Use your time tracking data to create an accurate project estimate, assign the most efficient team members to project tasks, and look for opportunities to work on tasks concurrently.
Best time tracking tools
With so many time tracking options available, how do you choose the best one? We’re here to help you review some of your options.
Use a dedicated time tracking tool
Tools like Hubstaff or Harvest were created specifically to make managing employee time tracking easy. Track time, run reports, and create employee time sheets with this dedicated time tracking tool.
Learn more about Hubstaff.
Things get even better when you integrate Hubstaff with a project management tool such as ClickUp. The time you tracked shows up as time logs within tasks. Everything’s in one place, so it’s easy to see how much time was spent and what was accomplished.
Use a project management tool with integrated time tracking
Already using a project management solution like ClickUp? Instead of adopting another platform in your workflow, consider using the time tracking options within the platform!
Your employees can track their time for the projects and tasks they are already completing, and you’ll save time by completing and managing your work all within the same platform. Gone are the days of switching between platforms and going back and forth trying to find the exact information that you need.
Learn more about time tracking in ClickUp.
Over to you
Have you implemented time tracking at your company? What has your experience been like, and how has it improved your team productivity?
Let us know in the comments!
We’d also love to hear any other tips you might have on finishing projects faster.