It can be wasted, spent, lost, even killed, but never stopped. Time is a priceless, limited resource and, like other valuable resources, it makes sense that you’ll want to keep track of it when running a business.
Tracking how time is used in your organization is essential if you’re going to understand how to make your business scalable, more efficient, and more profitable. This article will help you understand the importance of keeping time logs and how to implement them effectively.
Before we look at the benefits of time logs and how to keep them, let’s first make sure it’s clear what they are.
What are time logs?
A time log is essentially a structured record, often in digital or paper format, that tracks various activities and their durations. These logs may cover work tasks, leisure activities, phone calls, and more.
They are crucial for billing, monitoring attendance, optimizing time and budget allocation, and enhancing team project management.
Time logs serve as a meticulous record, capturing how each minute is allocated and spent across various tasks within your enterprise. For your business, this would mean keeping track of things like time tracking data to understand how long tasks take.
Here are some commonly tracked data points in time logs:
Understanding the intricacies of each task performed is vital for effective resource allocation. For instance, is your most skilled employee spending precious time on low-value tasks?
Assigned due dates
Having a well-organized deadline framework is instrumental for project success. A comprehensive time log can help you understand how tasks are pacing against these due dates, enabling better project management.
Knowing who is responsible for what task provides invaluable insights into your team’s capabilities. This information is essential for effective team management and optimal resource allocation.
The duration required to complete tasks offers a wealth of insights. If tasks consistently take longer than expected, it’s a red flag that needs immediate attention.
Why is it important for businesses to keep time logs?
Understanding the “why” behind time logs can provide a clearer picture of their value for your business. These records serve as a strategic tool that goes beyond admin best practice, offering various benefits that can substantially improve your operations.
These benefits include:
With accurate time logs, planning is far easier. Whether it’s staffing, budgeting, or setting project timelines, accurate data allows for more reliable and better informed decision-making.
For instance, a comprehensive log of time clock data can help you understand if people are having to work extended hours during especially busy periods, which might help you make a decision to assign more staff during those days or that season.
Similarly, it will help you understand things like whether you can approve extended time off during a certain period.
Improved personal accountability
Improved measurement can bring with it greater accountability. When employees track their time and know that time tracking data is being logged and analyzed, this can improve focus and productivity. This can be particularly beneficial for remote work settings.
Though it’s important to note this isn’t about micromanaging your employees or standing over their shoulders. Give them access to the data and ask them what you can do to help them become more productive.
A benchmark for excellence
Setting quantifiable benchmarks can help your team understand what level of performance or work quality is needed. Time logs allow you to track performance over time, thereby helping you set realistic yet challenging standards for your team to aim for.
Help with prioritization
One of the major benefits of maintaining accurate time logs is the ability to prioritize tasks more efficiently. When you know exactly how much time different tasks are consuming, it becomes easier to allocate resources where they are needed the most.
If employees know they’re spending too much time on less important tasks, for example, it’s useful for them to know so they can better prioritize.
Help anticipating trends
Time logs can offer more than just a snapshot of your current operations; they can also help you anticipate future trends. By analyzing historical data, you can identify patterns in employee productivity, work hours, and other key metrics that can inform your future business decisions.
Gives understanding of project cost
Time log data could give you insight into the true cost to your business of taking on certain projects. Perhaps a client you’re working with takes so much time to manage that they’re not actually a profitable, sustainable use of your limited resources.
This data could also help you better understand how much you should charge for your services.
7 steps to keeping an effective time log
Creating and maintaining an effective time log might seem daunting initially. However, breaking it down into manageable steps can make the process much easier to implement and maintain.
1. Use specialized software (like Homebase)
While manual methods like spreadsheets can work for smaller setups, as your business grows, you’ll need a more robust solution. This is where specialized software like Homebase comes into play, making it easy to track time and have clear visibility of your time tracking data.
With the right software, many of the following steps can be automated. For instance, Homebase payroll includes timesheets and calculates wages based on time tracking data without any hassle.
That said, we’ll outline the following steps assuming you’re aiming to keep a time log manually.
2. Turn your data into a timesheet
It’ll be easier to analyze your data if you organize it into a timesheet. This will offer you a streamlined view of how time is being allocated, making it easier to identify any inefficiencies or areas for improvement.
Once you’ve collected your time log data, the next step is to structure it in a timesheet format. This can be done through specialized time-tracking software (see above) or even a simple spreadsheet program like Excel. In your timesheet, categorize the data by employee, project, and task, and include columns for start and end times, as well as total duration spent on each task.
With this layout, you’ll be able to quickly compare time allocations across different categories and identify discrepancies or inefficiencies. For instance, if you notice that a task consistently takes longer to complete than initially estimated, it may indicate the need for additional training or resources. A well-organized timesheet serves as a valuable tool for both short-term analysis and long-term planning.
3. Export the information
The real value of data comes from its ability to be shared and integrated. Homebase allows you to export your time log data in a variety of formats (for example, CSV), making it easier to perform in-depth analysis or integrate it with other business systems.
4. Analyze the data
Simply collecting data isn’t enough; the real power lies in analysis. Assess key metrics, identify bottlenecks, and look for patterns that can help improve productivity and efficiency.
For example, after analyzing a month’s worth of time log data, you notice that a certain task consistently takes longer to complete than initially estimated. This holds true across all teams and isn’t isolated to a specific group of employees. Digging deeper, you find that the task in question involves several sub-tasks that were not accounted for in the original time estimates.
The data shows that the additional time is going towards these unaccounted sub-tasks. This insight gives you the opportunity to revise your project timelines and allocate resources more accurately in the future. By identifying the actual time needed for the task, you can adjust planning and expectations, leading to a more efficient and streamlined operation.
5. Create visual representations
Graphs and charts are a great way to help turn raw data into actionable insights. They can help you present your findings to team members and stakeholders, providing a quick and easy way to understand complex patterns.
6. Use the findings for scheduling and reviews
Data derived from time logs can be referenced during employee evaluations, offering an objective measure of performance. Similarly, this data can inform scheduling decisions, leading to a more efficient allocation of resources.
7. Measure productivity throughout the year
Productivity is dynamic and subject to fluctuations due to a range of factors. Consistently reviewing your time logs can help you adapt your business strategies to these changes effectively.
Time logs: your business’s untapped resource
Time logs are more than an administrative chore. They’re a strategic resource that, when used effectively, can provide a substantial impact on various aspects of your business operations.
From more accurate planning to increased accountability, from setting performance benchmarks to smarter resource allocation—time logs are indispensable. Homebase offers a comprehensive suite of features designed to simplify and optimize the time logging process, making it an ideal choice if you’re looking to streamline and automate processes around time logs, payroll, and time tracking—and give your business clear visibility of how you’re spending that most precious resource: time.
Frequently asked questions about time logs
How can I use a time log in my business?
Time logs are versatile and can be used for numerous business functions like project planning, performance evaluation, and even ensuring compliance with labor laws.
How do I write a time log?
Starting with a time log is as simple as choosing software that meets your needs. Homebase offers a user-friendly interface and comprehensive features that make time tracking a breeze.
What’s the best app to track time in my business?
Numerous time-tracking apps are available, but Homebase stands out for its additional features like geolocation tracking, real-time updates, and easy integration with other business systems.