How to Integrate Time-Tracking Into Your Workflow

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“Meh, now I have to find time to capture time” – that’s the usual employees’ reaction to introducing time-tracking. And it is understandable: they need to get familiar with a new tool (while they are already using a bunch of various apps in their workflow!), to track how much time they spend on each particular task, and to actually open the time-tracking system and enter their hours. It takes time and effort – so it’s not surprising that people are rarely excited about time-tracking.

Time-tracking is meant to help people save time, not waste it. Is it possible if you’re adopting yet another tool for it? The answer is yes – provided that you’ve harmonically integrated time-tracking into your team’s workflow. How to make it possible?

Adopt right practices

When implementing a new routine practice, take into account basic rules that are commonly used for reducing time and effort spent on it. With a timekeeping system, the following simple rules help save more time and achieve better results:

  • Track time regularly. At the end of a workday, it’s often tempting to postpone time entry for the next day. But in the morning, you come in and immerse in sorting your inbox, chat with coworkers, or process an urgent request – while time-track remains forgotten. After few days, you cannot reliably remember what you’ve been doing and how long. Needless to say, the attempts to recall all activities and log correct hours are both time-consuming and futile.
  • Don’t track time in advance. What seems to be a practical solution against forgetfulness, actually ruins the key idea of time-tracking: getting accurate data on work hours and optimizing work time. You can rarely predict how long specific task would take, so hours logged in advance mean enormous time and effort required to edit them.
  • Keep your time-tracking structure simple. With a multi-level hierarchy of projects, tasks, subtasks etc., figuring out what to track time to easily turns into a challenge. Make your time-tracking hierarchy as simple as possible, define your employees’ permissions for accessing specific tasks, and prepare a clear instruction for the employees.
  • Automate your time-tracking. Use timers to count your work hours at the desk and on the go. If your time-tracking solution offers a mobile app or a browser extension with a timer, it can be a convenient way to automate your timekeeping routine.

Move some processes to your time-tracking system

Having to use yet another tool when you are already using tons of them – that’s the common problem with time-tracking at the start phase. In that case, it’s reasonable to try merging some processes in one solution. Timesheet systems have additional features that allow this – so it’s definitely worth moving some operational and administrative processes to them:

  • To-do lists. If your workflow involves following to-do lists or if any employees prefer to have a checklist, a timesheet itself can work as a list of tasks planned for the day. Log time for your tasks, and see what you’ve accomplished today.
  • Absence management. Such tasks as capturing employees’ absences or paid time-off calculation can be managed with a time-tracking solution. Most of them support tracking both work and leave time, and allow to set up time-off calculation rules. Sometimes, monitoring the balance between planned and actually worked hours is also available.
  • Invoicing & billing. If you’re billing your customers on the basis of how much time your team members spend on their projects, it’s convenient to use your timekeeping system’s billing module. This way, you’ll be able to create detailed reports on work costs and issue invoices directly from the time-tracking tool.
  • Workflow management. Timesheet solutions sometimes also allow to organize work management process with a Kanban board, task statuses, and workflow visualization. So it worth implementing a timekeeping system that has these features, and moving your workflow management to it.
  • Project budget monitoring. Time-tracking systems with a billing or finance module can be used to track project budgets – in the form of alerts when the budget approaches the planned figure, or reports that show how much project works cost and how that cost is accumulated.

Avoid double data entry

As much as you try to move all routine processes to a single tool, it’s possible that you still need to enter the same data in different tools. For example, you’re intending to track time in a convenient system that includes accounting and invoicing features, but your client’s requirement is using Jira. Or, say, you need to use QuickBooks for accounting and your billing process is based on hours logged in the timesheet. That said, manual entry of work time data in several tools is an unreasonable way to spend work time.

If that’s the case, it is definitely worth investing some time and effort in automating data transfer between the software you’re using for different processes. There are several ways to organize automated data entry, depending on available integration solutions:

  • Native integrators and connectors. Developed by the vendors of timekeeping software, native solutions mostly allow a convenient and straightforward integration process. Typically, they include rich data transfer options and have an intuitive interface for setting up how the data needs to be transferred. The downside is that they work for a single tool only and cannot be used for integrating your timekeeping software other solutions and systems.
  • Special integration solutions. Software tools developed for integrating different systems, for example Zapier as the most popular one, or similar products, make integration process as simple as possible. However, this solution usually supports generic integration options and configuring it according to any non-typical requirements usually is complex and time-consuming.
  • API. If your timekeeping tool has API, you can use it as a flexible solution for exporting timesheet data and importing it to other systems. This option is the most configurable one, so your data transfer process can be organized with minimum adjustments. While working with API requires certain technical skills and specific knowledge, it allows to automate data entry in the most productive way.

Summary

Time-tracking is meant to optimize the way you use your work time and help you get more organized. If it consumes more time than saves, it’s worth researching what can be improved in your time-tracking routine. Learn more on common timekeeping practices, organize your work processes to harmonically include timekeeping, and automate data exchange between your timesheet system and other tools you’re using in your work routine to enjoy effortless time-tracking.