When looking for time tracking software you may be wondering what features will be the most beneficial to you. Unless you’ve already been using time tracking software, it’s hard to know for sure. There are so many different software options to choose from that researching and testing them all is typically an overwhelming and exhausting experience.
To help whittle down your list of candidates we’ve put together this list of what we consider to be the five most essential time tracking software features. These are features that go above and beyond basic time tracking and leverage your data in ways that will increase productivity and profitability.
This list is based on our sixteen year history of helping consultants, teams, and small businesses all over the world track their time accurately and efficiently. If the time tracking software you are considering includes these features, and implements them well, it should be on your shortlist.
#1 | Weekly Timesheets
A weekly timesheet provides an overview of your week framed by the projects you worked on. In the context of day-to-day work a timesheet is indispensable for gauging your efforts and making sure higher priority projects are being addressed. Reviewing your weekly timesheet at the end of the each day reduces the risk of projects being neglected or overlooked.
Additionally, weekly timesheets provide a historical accounting of your work that are useful for two reasons. First, past timesheets can be approved and therefore locked. This enables you to generate reports and invoices for clients with confidence that the data won’t be altered after delivering them.
Second, timesheets provide a historical context of not just the number of hours, but where that time was spent. Looking back at past days and weeks you will be able to correlate your mood with your work. For example, feeling tired at the end of a workday may not be an anomaly. Your timesheet could reveal you worked on a tough project or were at your desk too long.
#2 | Task management
In the same way that a weekly timesheet frames your efforts by project and by day, tracking time on tasks provides meaningful structure. The powerful combination of task management and time tracking not only tells you exactly where your time is going, it adds a layer of transparency to reports and billing that will fortify client trust.
When you break down a project into smaller, manageable tasks, you also create structure for capturing time in more detail. For productivity purposes, this data is indispensable in analyzing project timelines and budgets. Plus, your historical time tracking data becomes a powerful forecasting tool for estimating future work.
The ability to tie your time back to a task makes client billing a less painful process and builds client trust. When a client can see a report that details exactly where their money is being spent, it reduces the number of questions and speeds up getting paid.
#3 | Reporting and Analytics
Time tracking software needs to provide more than just an accounting of your time. Good reporting and analytics will give your data context and meaning by utilizing both high level visuals and detailed tabulations. Use these reports to gain perspective on your projects, then dive deeper and analyze exactly where your time is going.
When you can catch and fix productivity and profitability issues before they become a problem it’s much easier to keep your projects on time and under budget. You can’t draw these project-wide conclusions from one person’s weekly timesheet. The best time tracking tools will transform your data into powerful visualizations for making more informed decisions.
#4 | Invoicing Options
Client billing is a painful and laborious process when you have to tally billable hours from paper timesheets, spreadsheets, or incompatible time tracking software. I’ve consulted with companies who will spend countless, unbillable hours each week creating client invoices. The process is cumbersome and prone to error.
Time tracking software with invoicing options will create client invoices from your data in seconds, not hours. And, because the process is largely automated, the resulting invoices are beautifully detailed and accurate. Invoicing features make it easier to get paid and give you back those unbillable hours.
#5 | Mobile Time Tracking App
The key to tracking time effectively is to be diligent until it becomes habit. It requires dedication and faith that the benefits will outweigh the effort. A mobile time tracking app increases your chances of success because it enables you to track time from anywhere.
It’s not uncommon for teams to struggle with filling out weekly timesheets when they are busy with billable work, away from their desk, or done working for the day. Whether you are stepping into a meeting or on the train home from work, having the app on your phone decreases odds of time going missing.