Business Time Tracking: The Basics

by Taryn Shaw

Do you have a hard time keeping track of your weekly tasks and how long they take? Do you need to hire but can’t figure out what to effectively take off your plate? Do you need help determining where your operations aren’t as efficient? 

Time tracking allows you to improve your operational efficiency, especially in a service-based business. Gathering reliable data on how long different types of jobs take, how much time you’re spending driving to and from work sites, and how much time you are spending on administrative tasks can help you make better decisions about your pricing structure and time management. 

Let’s take a look at a few of our favorite time tracking apps that not only improve your productivity, but can also be integrated with larger task management platforms such as Trello and Asana. 

Toggl Track

Toggl Track is a user-friendly time tracking platform that helps freelancers, microbusinesses, and larger teams track where the time goes.

Each timesheet is tracked in real time with one click, and you can tag specific projects or client names to each task. When you have a clear report of what was done, when it was done, and the time it took, it makes it easy to accurately bill your clients.

Toggl Track has a 30 day free trial to determine if it’s the right platform for you and your business. After 30 days, you can choose between several different plans. (Available as an app for iPhone and Android. It works offline by saving the time offline and when you return online, the times will be synchronized automatically. It also has browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox).

Pros: 

  • User friendly
  • Free plan is a great option for startups with less than 5 employees
  • 100+ integrations (meaning it is compatible with over 100 apps and browser extensions such as Asana, Evernote, Google Calendar, Outlook email, Slack, Xero, etc.)

Cons: 

  • Can be pricey for small businesses
  • No invoicing or scheduling features

Hubstaff

Hubstaff is a seamless time tracking app that uses GPS location to automatically clock you in and out of geofenced job sites, which are virtual geographic boundaries defined by GPS or RFID technology that enables software to trigger a response when a mobile device enters or leaves a particular area.

This app works from anywhere with the push of a button to start and stop tasks. Hubstaff understands the problems that service-based industries face with employees forgetting to clock in and out of job sites, determining how much time in a day is spent driving, and it has the ability to accurately pay employees and invoice clients. They offer a free 14 day trial, and there are many plans to choose from once your trial period is up.

(Available as an app for iPhone and Android. Hubstaff works without internet connection – it will store your time and activity data locally while you’re offline and then upload it to the server once a connection is available. It also has a browser extension for Chrome).

Pros:

  • Saves time with mobile reports and automatic employee clock in/out times
  • Alerts you if you’re about to go over budget for a project
  • Over 30 integrations
  • Accessible anywhere

Cons:

  • Continuously using GPS location will dramatically decrease phone battery life
  • Poses an ethical concern of tracking employees
  • Need to purchase the most expensive plan to receive deluxe benefits, such as geofenced time tracking, having more than one user, expense & budget tracking, or the ability to generate invoices and payroll via the app

Forest

Forest is an intuitive timer app that boosts productivity by keeping you on track at the office, studying, or while hanging with friends.

The way this app works is by “planting a seed” in the Forest whenever you need to get work done. You choose the amount of time you want to set aside for said task, and the seed will gradually grow into a tree during the timer period. 

In a world where we have become addicted to scrolling without even realizing we are doing it, it’s easy to procrastinate or allow the distractions of social media to interrupt your work flow. If you find yourself using your phone for non-focus related purposes, the app will notify you that your tree will wither away and die – an incentive to return to the timer app to get back on track with your tasks. 

Forest partners with tree-planting organization Trees for the Future, so the more trees you successfully grow in your forest, the more coins you earn to spend in the real world to plant trees!

When you spend these virtual coins in the app, the Forest team donates to Trees for the Future and creates planting orders. To this day, Forest has planted 1,386,261 trees around the globe. 

The app is a one-time purchase of $3.99, but that seems like a small price to pay for a fun way to stay focused, improve yourself, and help our planet at the same time! (Available as an app for iPhone and Android. Forest works offline and has a browser extension for Chrome). 

Pros:

  • Builds healthy time management habits while breaking the aimless scrolling habit
  • Plants real trees

Cons:

  • Due to budget constraints, the number of real trees each user can plant is limited to 5, though they are introducing limited time events that will allow users to plant more real trees.
  • May not be as effective for large companies who need to integrate payroll and scheduling

Every business will have different priorities. Take into account what you need out of a time tracking software, as well as what your budget will allow. The free versions of certain platforms are often more than enough for new businesses, but as you grow you will need your time tracking app to expand with you.

Remember, it is your business, and you get to make the decisions.


Want more from Outgrow Your Garage?

-If you’re looking for business support, stop by our co-working sessions! Twice a week, we virtually bring business owners together from a variety of industries to work on their businesses, share insights, and troubleshoot issues.

-Check out our full online business course catalog for all of your operational needs! Select a course based on what area of your business you need help in, and pay a one time fee for unlimited access to its content, activities, and resources.

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