If you’ve ever had to keep a time sheet for work, you’ll know the pain – forgetting to stop timers, faffing with unordered notes, trying to recall what you did last Tuesday. The dread only grows when you put off the whole ordeal to the end of the month. But while we can’t remove this essential admin, we can make it more bearable – and a whole lot more accurate. It starts with asking more of our tools and less of ourselves. Here’s why the best app for tracking work hours is automatic.
Tracking work hours with timers and notes is frustratingly inefficient and tedious. Since it’s not natural for our brains to recall everything we do with mathematical precision, it’s also extremely difficult. Even if we try to get around this by logging our hours compulsively throughout the day, we end up limiting our ability to just focus on our work. But we ourselves are not at fault for tracking our work hours badly: it’s the limitations of our manual technologies that are responsible.
While there are many, the main challenges of tracking work hours manually center around these three areas:
Almost all mainstream work trackers use some form of manual timers, requiring you to start and stop timers as you move between tasks. Aside from becoming practically unworkable when you’re working across several different projects, this approach is fundamentally not user-friendly. It forces you to constantly divide some of your attention towards time tracking: to interrupt your flow to manage timers and take notes – actions which are easy to forget when you’re trying to focus on your work.
“I tried Everhour and Toggl, but I kept forgetting to set timers. I just want something I can check back on, that basically watches my actions throughout the day and reports back for my confirmation.” — Andrea, designer
To keep time data as accurate as possible using manual methods, you need to continually enter it throughout the day. That means logging your hours as soon as you finish each task – not just leaving the whole slog to the end of the week. But this constant logging amounts to a subtle attrition of your productive time – as does wracking your brains after the fact to try and reconstruct your day from memory.
“My company uses SAP Business One (MARIProject) to book hours. Ideally, I’d do it every day, but since I'm jumping from one task to another, I just never get the time. I end up spending an hour at the end of each week to book all my hours.” – Arpad, software consultant
If you do end up leaving tracking work hours to the end of the week, you risk misrepresenting your work or leaving out details entirely. The US economy alone loses an estimated $7.4 billion a day to the latter. Any company that uses a manual work time tracker ultimately leaves itself open to expensive human error, producing guesstimated time data that is virtually worthless – whether for invoicing accurately or improving operational efficiency.
“I was using Xero projects, but was keeping illegible notes on a sheet of paper in an effort to remember what I did.” – Mike, consultancy CEO
With automatic time tracking apps, the responsibility for tracking work hours is flipped: instead of telling the tool what you worked on, the tool tells you. It actively remembers your work for you, creating a flawless digital memory of everything you’ve done. You don’t have to manage timers or write anything down – everything you do at work on your computer is recorded for you to a secure private timeline.
That means you don’t actually have to divide any of your attention towards tracking your hours. There’s no need to write down every single task or how you spend every minute of the day – the whole task is outsourced to your automatic hours tracker. It can even break down your work hours down to the different apps you were using.
But it doesn’t just stop at recording your hours. Smart work trackers like Timely can then translate your activity into accurate time sheets for you – completely automatically. You just need to review and approve the draft entries it creates to push them public.
Thousands of knowledge workers and creatives across the creative service spectrum – from designers and developers, to marketers and business consultants – have already automated their essential time tracking admin, with enthusiastic results. Here’s what just a few make of the switch, based on their experience with Timely:
“It’s the most intuitive and hassle-free way to keep track of billable hours, budgets and time reporting for invoices.” – Philipp, management consultant
“You get more insight into where your time goes every day, without wasting your time constantly filling out forms.” – Dayne, web developer
“A worry-free, reliable way to keep track of your projects.” – Christopher, marketer
“Necessary if you want to take your business seriously.” – Jonathan, architect
“Time tracking without having to actually track your own time.” – Sam, designer