Timesheet templates: the good, the bad, the pointless
September 3, 2019
It’s hard to imagine a world where timesheets don’t exist; they’re the backbone of how we track projects, understand profitability and get paid. But they can be shockingly time consuming, which is why it makes sense to expedite them using a preformatted template.
The internet is riddled with timesheet templates, so you’re spoilt for choice, but finding a good one is another matter. Here’s a walk-through of the four main timesheet templates you can expect to encounter – including a verdict on their relative quality, utility and efficiency.
1. Excel timesheet templates
On Excel, there are a number of templates you can select as a baseline for your work. From there, you can fill out all the data in your invoice with a note of the work performed, using color tags for different kinds of work.
Excel timesheet templates are great for handling super basic timesheet needs for small-scale work. Most people are familiar with the program, so there’s little downtime on training.
Excel timesheet templates can be time-consuming and fiddly to fill in – so there aren’t huge gains in terms of efficiency or billing accuracy. Since Excel isn’t cloud-based, you also run the risk of losing your time entries if something happens to your computer mid-entry. From a brand point of view, Excel timesheet templates can also look a bit dated and require extra work to revive.
2. Google Sheets timesheet templates
Most people appreciate the credibility of tools like Google Sheets, which, as a cloud-based tool, ensures you never have to worry about losing your work. The process is almost identical as before – either copy and paste an Excel template to Google Sheets, or trawl blogs for homemade versions.
It’s pretty much the same as the Excel experience with two extras: cross-device accessibility and crash-proof templates.
Ultimately, Google Sheets timesheet templates suffer the same problem as their Excel counterparts – they still require you to manually fill out all your data. It’s all too easy to enter one too few 0s, or miss a piece of work that carried on from the previous month. This extra monthly admin also adds up – you have to swallow the cost of preparing and submitting timesheets each week or month.
3. Manual timesheet app templates
A quick Google of ‘timesheet app’ reveals a minefield of manual timesheet software. These apps essentially pull your time tracking and timesheet creation admin into one convenient space. Most use a spreadsheet interface peppered with manual timers, so you can track time on different tasks and log them directly to your timesheet. When you’re ready, you can then export data for a particular period using the software’s ready-made timesheet template.
Timesheet apps centralize all your timesheets and time data in one neat space, which you can often access on-the-go from mobile devices. They also usually offer reporting features and project breakdowns, which are handy when it comes to invoicing, billing and taxes.
They’re a step above basic timesheet templates, but they still rely on inaccurate and time-intensive manual input. Instead of plugging in your hours, they require you to keep manual timers. Many people forget to turn these timers off and end up just guesstimating what they worked on, undermining the whole point of keeping a timesheet.
4. Automatic timesheet apps
Automatic timesheet apps do exactly what they say on the tin. They track everything you work on each day and use AI to create highly accurate timesheets for you. You don’t have to manage timers, break down tasks or type out your hours – since everything works itself out for you, time essentially tracks itself. Just select the date range you want to bill for and export it using a professionally designed template – with the option to share it with clients via a private URL.
If efficiency and accuracy are what you’re looking for in a timesheet template, these are a no-brainer! Automatic timesheet apps solve two perennial problems in one – error-prone manual time tracking and time-intensive manual timesheet entry –effectively removing the monthly timesheet burden. Timesheet designs themselves are highly customizable, and offer a ton of simple filters, making itemized breakdowns as simple as a click.
As with manual timesheet apps, these tools require a lot of fancy development work, so require a fee. If your work is infrequent or doesn’t prioritize accuracy, a hand-built Excel or Google Sheets method may suit you better.
A final note on methods
At present, the majority of timesheet templates are manual instead of automatic. While they might use some handy equations to get to your end timesheet faster, they don’t solve the main problem with timesheets that costs businesses thousands of dollars each year.
When you create a manual timesheet:
You create huge room for human error when calculating hours
You waste productive time calculating hours and inputting your data
You run the risk of overlooking hours that are actually billable
Automated timesheets can make a world of difference to overworked, burned-out teams who want to focus on the job they were hired to do – instead of admin. It dramatically reduces the inaccuracies of human error, and frees up more time for meaningful productive work.