Time Management at its best

Time tracking apps have a terrible reputation because they're mostly associated with employee monitoring. As much as some people hate it, it's very often a necessity, but not because of the lack of trust. When you charge by the hour, you have to know precisely how many hours to charge. We'd like to show you time tracking doesn't have to be that bad and showcase its benefits, as well as its simpleness when using ActiveCollab.

calendar and clock

Why is time tracking important?

We're not fans of employee monitoring, and we're strongly against any form of screen spying, so we'll focus only on resource management, planning, and charging by the hour.

Venturing into a new project also means estimating the effort necessary for completing each part of it. An accurate estimate will ensure correct due dates and no deadline anxiety. Of course, unpredictable events may come your way at any moment, but you can only do so much about including them in your plans. When your team keeps track of the amount of time they spend on each task or project, you'll be able to compare these records to the given estimates. This will provide you with great insight for future planning.

Here's an example. You ask the content writer how long will it take them to wrap up a 1000 word article for a client, and you ask the designer the same question, only regarding the illustrations needed for the said article.

The writer estimates 16 hours, the illustrator 20, so you set the due date to be three days from the moment they start working on it. In the end, it turns out the writer tracked 22 hours (6 hours more than planned), and the illustrator 18 (2 hours less). It's not easy to make accurate predictions, especially when it comes to creative work, but these estimate vs. reality comparisons can help you plan better in time.

All this applies to solo freelancers, small teams, and large companies with many different departments.

We're all too familiar with setting a deadline for ourselves that we can hardly accomplish and then end up pulling all-nighters. The same goes for waiting around on a colleague to finish their part so we can take over.

We're here to say: it doesn't have to be that frustrating!

Real-life feedback from our customers

Improve the way you work with ActiveCollab Project Management and additional features.

We use an hourly billing model for most of our clients, so accurate time tracking is essential. Luckily, it’s one of the best features in ActiveCollab. We can track time on projects and tasks and even choose between billable and non-billable activities.

David Blinov - testimonial author

David Blinov

Partner
The F Company

The Stopwatch improvement has helped a lot to record hours on projects. Thanks to ActiveCollab, we can now say that we have three years of hours recorded and attributed to projects.

Borja Gramage - Testimonial author

Borja Gramage

Organizational development
Arisnova

Many different teams have discovered ActiveCollab positive sides. Read it all in customer stories

5-step guide to time tracking

From an idea to a decision whether your team should be using a time tracker and how to introduce it to the day-to-day.

Define why is time tracking needed

Before making any investments in terms of effort, time and money, think about why you want to do this in the first place. Discuss it with your team, see how they feel about changing the way they work.

If this activity is already established in your company, take a chance to reexamine it. Perhaps your team doesn't need to clock in or out at all!

Choose your weapon

Once you determine why you need time tracking in your company, you'll know what to look for. A simple note may be enough, perhaps a spreadsheet. However, if your needs are more advanced, or if you're managing a large team or various teams, you may need to look for an app to help you out.
There are so many options out there that we can safely say you're spoilt for choice! The process is analog to when you're shopping for clothes or gadgets: knowing precisely what you need speeds things up.

There are apps focused only on a stopwatch, meaning you can only set it off, pause and stop, and get a total for that day. Other apps are stopwatches enriched with employee monitoring instruments such as taking screenshots at random times during the day, tracking browsing and activity data.

Onboarding

If you want your team to start using the chosen solution properly, you'll need to explain thoroughly why and how they need to change their habits. Clarify the reasons behind the decision, motivate them and give simple instructions with examples. Make sure everyone is familiar with the changes they need to make to their day-to-day.

Give time to adjust and check-in occasionally

Unless it's extremely urgent to start tracking time, give the team some time to adjust to the new way to work, perhaps a week or two. Also, ask them how they're adapting from time to time, make sure to resolve any doubts and issues they're encountering. If you'd like to motivate the team, show them the benefits of time tracking and the improvements you've made after a while. Maybe you managed to charge more billable hours, or you've rearranged some tasks, and now the team is more efficient.

Quit if it's not working out

Be brave enough to admit if an app or time tracking, in general, is not suited for your team. Most apps have a free trial period or a monthly subscription, so it shouldn't be too costly to back out.

How do I use time tracking in ActiveCollab?

Let's break down each of the steps and show you what it looks like.

Set up time tracking

Create a project

1.-Create-a-project

ActiveCollab doesn't limit you, as an unlimited number of projects can be created. It's pretty straightforward: create it, name it, add a description if needed, set up a label and a category. Choose the client company this project is for, or leave the field blank if it's an internal project.

When you invite clients to a project, you'll be able to collaborate directly with them and put an end to the endless email chains. It's also possible to tick the "Hidden from clients" box on each task, note, and discussion.

Enable time tracking

2.-Enble-time-tracking

Make sure you enable time tracking on your project. Then, you can also choose one of the three budgeting types (fixed, time and expenses, non-billable).

Add tasks and organize them into task lists

3.-Add-tasks-and-organize-them-into-task-lists

This is the backbone of the way we work. Breaking down a project into smaller bites should make it easier to chew. Each task has its assignee and due date, making it easier to check who's accountable for every assignment and if they're meeting their deadlines.

Explore the in-app Stopwatch

Set off the Stopwatch on a task or the project as a whole

4.-Set-off-the-stopwatch

Note: you'll only be able to see the Stopwatch if you've enabled time tracking in the project settings. The project leader and Owner roles can always change these settings.

You'll see a play button on each task and a tiny clock in the upper right corner of a project. Activate either one of them, and voila, you started tracking time!

Press pause or upload the time records

5.-Press-pause-or-upload

Once you set off the Stopwatch, you'll see it running in the upper right corner. If you'd like to stop tracking time on the project as a whole, for example, and start tracking hours on a specific task, just open the task and press play. The previously activated Stopwatch will automatically pause. You can also shuffle between the previously activated Stopwatches or upload them as time records.

When you decide it's time to upload a time record, you'll see it rounded up to certain intervals. Edit the record or upload it as is. This is not the only place where you can add time records. Each team member can add them from their personal Timesheet (My Work > Timesheet). Very handy when someone forgets to start the Stopwatch!

Note: Stopwatch settings such as rounding intervals and minimum entries can be set up and changed by Owner roles.

Include the whole team

Invite your team to the project

6.-Invite-your-team-to-the-project

If you already invited the people you work with to ActiveCollab and created one or more teams in the People area, you can invite whole teams at once. You can also invite people one by one or by their email if they haven't joined your workspace yet.

Create job types and set hourly rates

7.-Create-job-types-and-hourly-rates

If you're running a marketing agency, you're well familiar with the different hats your team members might be wearing. So, you can create as many job types as you need, for instance, graphic designer, SEO specialist, social media manager, and then assign each of these roles their internal hourly rate. These rates can be changed, but they won't affect what you're charging your clients. To illustrate quite plainly, the internal hourly rate for the job type SEO specialist could be $10, while you're charging $15 from one client and $20 from another. When the SEO specialist tracks 10 hours of work, you'll charge the first client $150 and pay the specialist $100.

Time record overview

Time tracked on a project

7.-Create-job-types-and-hourly-rates-copy

There are so many places in ActiveCollab where you can check out your teams' time records! We'll start with individual projects. The Time tab will show you all the hours tracked on that specific project. They'll be grouped by week, task, and summed up at the bottom.

Team Timesheet

9.-Team-Timesheet

If you'd like a more extensive overview, check out the Timesheet. There you'll find all the time records, week after week, by employee, project, and task. Filter out by individuals or teams, and discover the info you need. The color code will let you know at first sight if someone's been working overtime (orange), less than their daily capacity (red), or just as many hours as they should (black). Expand by their name to see exactly which tasks or projects they've been working on, or collapse for a birds-eye view of the entire team. Also, if you'd like to drop a comment on a task, open it directly from the Timesheet.

Time report

10.-Time-report

An even more thorough analysis can be found in the time report, where you can look for and group time records by plenty of criteria. Sort them out by day, week, year, a custom period. If not by their date, sort them by client, task, job type, and many more options. Once you filter out the information you need, you can export it as a CSV file.

Estimated vs. tracked

11.-Estimated-vs-tracked

Estimating the number of hours you'll be spending on a task is challenging and very imprecise initially. Still, it gets easier in time as experience teaches us how to estimate our work correctly. If estimates are important to your company, our report gives an overview of the estimated vs. tracked hours, as well as the percentage of the actual time put in a task compared to its estimate. Filter out the results by person, project, or task, and see what needs your attention.

Sarah is running a small digital agency, and their main line of business is (re)branding. Her team consists of designers, writers, and video experts, and they're juggling several projects at the same time, each for a different client. Just like Jim, everyone has their tasks, and some are internal, so they're hidden from clients. The whole team tracks time on both tasks and projects, and Sarah reviews them quickly in the time report. She can immediately tell if someone's putting in extra hours and if they need a hand.

67%

67% of all the ActiveCollab users track time directly in ActiveCollab, which helps them further in delivering fast and secure Invoices.

Time tracking FAQ?

Q
A
  • Is time tracking part of your plans, or do I have to pay extra?

    The integrated Stopwatch and the Personal Timesheet are part of the Plus and Pro plan. The Team Timesheet, time estimates, and invoicing can be additionally purchased with the Get Paid Bundle.

  • How do I know if someone's been working overtime?

    The default daily capacity can be set up in the System Settings, but you can also change it individually on the People page. For instance, the default can be 8 hours per day and 4 hours per day for those working part-time. When they track time, the Timesheet will show their daily total. If it exceeds their daily capacity, the number will be orange. If they tracked fewer hours than their set capacity (3 hours in total that day, for example), the number would be red. Note: Only Owner roles can edit System Settings and individual daily capacities.

  • Why is the Time report not showing all my time records?

    Don't forget to upload your time records! If you only let the Stopwatch running without adding the tracked time, it won't appear in the Time report. You can upload your time records at any time, multiple times a day, once a day, at the end of the week or the month.

  • Can we define and preset a value to which a time record is rounded up when uploaded?

    Sure! Go to System settings > Edit Time and Expenses Settings > Stopwatch Settings > Rounding Settings. You can also set up a Minimum Entry here. These settings can be accessed through the Stopwatch as well. Note: Only Owner roles can edit System and Stopwatch Settings.

  • Is it possible to edit already uploaded time records?

    Yes. Find the task where you uploaded the time record you'd like to edit, open the time record and change time, job type, assignee, (non)billable status, date, or delete the record altogether. If you'd like to edit time tracked directly on a project, go to My Work > Timesheet > Click the time record to edit > Click the total > edit all fields.

  • Who can view other people's time records?

    Owner roles can view all the time records everywhere (Time tab within a project, Timesheet, Time, and other reports). Member+ (with the permission to start projects, manage people, and use reports) can view only their tracked time in the Time tab within a project. However, they can view everyone's time records through various reports. Member+ (with the permission to work with invoices and estimates) can only view their time records in a project's Time tab as they can only access invoicing reports. Member+ (with both permissions) can view only their tracked time in the Time tab within a project and everyone's time records through various reports. Members can only view their time records in a project's Time tab and within My Work > Timesheet. However, if they're a Project Leader, they'll be able to see the Time tab within that project and everyone's time records in it. Client and Client+ roles can't view the Time tab within a project, nor any report.

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