As a small business owner or freelancer, your job is to do good work and satisfy your customers or clients. That certainly keeps your to-do list long and you busy. To simplify the time management process, it's a great idea to track your work hours and your employees' work hours with daily time logs. This way, you can see patterns that can increase productivity in real time, like spending too many or too few hours on your projects. Invoicing will also become the simplest of your administrative tasks — simply log time as you go and do an easy tally when it's time to be paid.
Here, we'll go over what time logs do and how to create and maintain one. You'll see how utilizing a daily time-tracking system will simplify your business processes, help you see productivity patterns, and elevate efficiency.
What Is a Time Log?
Managing multiple processes at once can be chaotic — especially when it comes to time tracking. Time is your most critical resource, so use it wisely. A good time-tracking system can help you keep your billable hours current so you don't waste time at the end of the month trying to recreate an activity log from scratch.
A time log is exactly what it sounds like: a current count (in hours) of your time spent on any given project. Consistency is the key to a good time log; complete it daily while the hours are fresh in your mind. If you maintain this daily practice, your billable hours will always be current and invoicing will be a breeze.
Keeping a daily time log is absolutely key to understanding how you're spending your professional time (bonus points for keeping a personal daily time log). Using a time log is an easy way to see how much time you're spending on each project in your queue and, perhaps more importantly, where you might be procrastinating on difficult tasks or wasting precious time.
Making good use of your day is critical to your business. Using a daily time log and using your time effectively will make you more efficient by giving you an accurate picture of your work. On the other hand, not tracking your time is an easy way to spend way too many of your precious hours at the end of billing periods frantically trying to remember how long you spent on tasks and how to tally billable hours for periods of time no longer at the forefront of your mind.
How Do You Make a Time Log?
Creating a time log is easy to do. Just follow these steps:
Create the Time Log Structure
On paper or on a spreadsheet (Microsoft Excel is a good option), add columns for information you want to track (e.g., project name, task, date, start time, end time, total hours, and notes). Throughout the day, jot down entries.
Organize Tasks to Be Done
Organize tasks by daily, weekly, monthly, and, if applicable, quarterly goals. Put the most important projects (or highest-grossing or most influential to your business's success) at the top as a reminder to tackle these project tasks first.
Map Out Tasks in Time Allotments
Work ahead on your daily time log and assign tasks on certain dates to account for the time needed to complete them. This will give you a better overall feel for how long the project will take and the resources you'll need to be successful. You may see patterns that can help you project future growth or the need to bring on more or fewer employees over the span of any given project.
Log All of Your Time (Billable and Not)
Log your time daily and don't just log billable time spent accomplishing project tasks. Include non-billable tasks like commuting or internal meetings. This can help you notice things that you might have otherwise missed. Perhaps distant vendors can be replaced by local ones if you begin to see you're spending too much time commuting to locations or on administrative tasks that could be done by other team members.
Review and Improve
Thoughtfully review your time sheets on a weekly basis to see patterns. Are you spending too much time on projects that net you less money? Could you adjust how much time you spend on tasks on your more lucrative projects? A quick review of past months could help you use your time in the wisest way possible to be successful. Where can you improve to see positive growth for your company? What changes should you incorporate to be more successful and use your time more wisely? Adjust accordingly.
The Benefits of Using a Time Log
There are so many benefits to using a daily time sheet, including:
Give your clients or customers peace of mind with full transparency into how many hours you've spent on their project. This will also help you project how many hours (or days, weeks, or months) you will need to complete all the tasks asked of you with no surprises come invoice time.
Make yourself accountable by keeping track of the amount of time you're spending on project tasks versus non-billable time. This will also help your employees keep track of their time and be more mindful of productivity during working hours.
See where you're spending the most time and make sure that lines up with the hierarchy of your projects. For example, your best clients or customers — those who make you the most money or give you the most market visibility — should occupy the most time on your time sheets. Keeping a daily time log sheet will help you see those patterns and make better-informed decisions about where to spend your time.
Using a Time Log to Improve Efficiency
Once you have a good time log system and behavior pattern in place, you should notice some areas for general improvement. These may include a heightened sense of focus on your project's tasks. For example, if you're constantly being interrupted by your phone, you might see that on your daily time log. If you notice that there are too many periods with no billable hours, it might be prudent to set some standards around your work schedule.
A daily time log will also help you make the most of your time. If you know you only have a few hours to spend on a given project, you are much more likely to use your time purposefully.
You may also see things that simply reflect your working style. Perhaps you want to schedule meetings in the morning or afternoon depending on your natural energy levels. Further, it might make more sense to set your phone to "Do Not Disturb" during peak working hours and get back to other requests during lulls in your schedule. You can easily fix minor hiccups like these with a quick glance at your current and past time sheets.
Quickly and Easily Manage Your Company Finances With Skynova
In addition to managing time efficiently, small businesses also need to be able to track their finances — and all the paperwork that comes with that task. That's where Skynova can help with simple and easy-to-send templates. Open a template, complete a quick edit, and save or email it.
In addition to professional invoices that are easy to use, Skynova offers many other templated documents. Check out Skynova for all of your business's needs, including accounting software, business templates, and software products.
Notice to the Reader
The content within this article is meant to be used as general guidelines for accounting and business services and may not apply to your specific business situation. Always consult with a business professional or attorney for specific and individual advice.