What Is a Timesheet in Project Management?


Timesheet is a concept that rarely gets a lot of good press among employees. And it's no different even among the press. Admittedly, timesheets often live up to their bad reputation: nobody likes to sign a ton of papers just to "prove" they had worked several hours on a given task.

On the other hand, timesheets can be an ultimately beneficial tool for both managers and their team members. The key is to look at the timesheet as a process with a clear purpose, provide everyone with an option to follow it regularly and support the process with ongoing communication. In this article, we will outline a couple of ways in which you can gather insights from your team's timesheets and make a case for timesheets despite their notorious reputation.

Let's start with an important question:

Project timesheets — what are they?

It's pretty simple - timesheet management is a practice of monitoring and analyzing your personal and team timesheets as records of working hours across all your projects. Timesheet management also involves taking different actions, such as calculating employee payroll or invoicing the clients based on time records in the timesheets related to the appropriate projects.

Historically, the working time used to be summarized on a sheet of paper - hence the name, timesheet. But we're all about helping you end this barbarian tradition. It's 2020, and online timesheets are much more convenient and readily available. However, there are multiple options here: you can go from simple spreadsheets to all-encompassing project management tools.

As we already mentioned, timesheets are notorious for being shunned by employees. Let's dive a bit deeper into this topic and try to debunk the myth that is frequently brought up in workplaces worldwide.

Timesheets for Employees

In most cases, timesheets have been used to prove that people have done their work. You can see how things can get problematic when it comes to trust and accountability. First of all, this can help create an environment where people feel their timesheets and time records are more important than the value of their work output. It doesn't feel right to continually prove your contribution or have the feeling you're closely watched (and/or tracked) by your managers and supervisors.

Furthermore, this doesn't directly incentivize people to be more efficient at work. There's no incentive to find a better solution if logging your time in the timesheet is the ultimate goal. It's even possible to log more hours if there's a bigger picture behind the process, which might invite shady behavior, leading to higher costs for the same amount of work. However, we're not ready to claim that getting paid by the hour is necessarily bad.

This article won't go into detail about using timesheets and internal hourly rates to determine your employees' monthly earnings. We understand that it's a critical use case for agencies and businesses using payroll software and/or working with freelancers or other subcontractors paid on an hourly basis.

Here's the final nail in the traditional timesheet's coffin: it's tough to remember how much time each individual on your team spends working on something. This is why filling out paper timesheets or stylized spreadsheets at the end of the week or month is closer to writing Star Wars fan fiction than aggregating reliable business data.

With everything in mind, it's safe to assume that filling out a timesheet will yield minimal results unless you and your team agree on these fairly basic principles:

  • Before you start with timesheet management, there's an understanding of the timesheet's purpose, and everyone on the team sees the value
  • Timesheets are filled out regularly and truthfully
  • The quantitative timesheet data is supported with additional information and regular communication that provides a more descriptive account of the work
  • The timesheet is readily available and easy to use

How to start with timesheet management

While many teams still rely on simple spreadsheets to aggregate their total time records, most businesses have moved on from actual sheets of paper. Moving your time records into an online time tracking and timesheet management app is a step in the right direction. A timesheet within an online platform can be easily updated and accessed by multiple team members at all times.

Then the entire issue comes down to semantics - it's still a sheet that needs to be filled with time records.

However, using a timesheet within a powerful project management software makes the entire experience much more convenient. ActiveCollab's time tracking suite comes equipped with a Stopwatch that can be switched on and off on all your tasks in just a couple of clicks.

Using a platform where you can also plan and organize your timelines and schedules will give you additional value in comparing the planned working hours and time estimates with the actual utilization and the total sum of all time records across all projects. Data-driven project managers can use these real-time insights to evaluate their project's state and optimize the workflows and processes where needed.

With this article, we've only scratched the surface when it comes to making the case for how timesheet management supports project managers in delivering their projects. However, we hope you're now more open to giving timesheets another go and trying out a potential all-in-one solution for your entire project cycle - from a proposal to an invoice with a sprinkle of billable time records.

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. 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.

Time management software