The Value of Timesheets

January 7, 2014 | Author: PM Hut | Filed under: Project Management Best Practices,Project Plan Development

The Value of Timesheets
By Jennifer Whitt

Timesheets can make or break a project. Several times I had a mysterious team member not submit timesheets regularly, totally ruining my budget at the end of the job. We suggest everyone associated with a project fill out timesheets, and to help with that, here are some best practices and tips.

What a Timesheet Is

A timesheet includes the project name, team member, task name or ID, date that the task was done, duration, start time, end time and the status. Any timesheet can be customized if you need to include additional information but at the very least, track the high level information.

A timesheet is a record of the amount of work or time spent on each task. Each task that is charged to the project and in your plan has time associated with it, and is what the budget is built on. As the team works through tasks, their time must be charged to the appropriate task in order to keep track of the budget properly.

Who Needs to Fill Out a Timesheet

Everyone needs to track and charge their time to tasks on the project. Time is tracked for multiple purposes, but it’s very critical to the organizations allocating funds that everyone’s time is budgeted and accounted for.

Why We Use Timesheets

The data being tracked by timesheets is used in several areas: for project costing/estimating future phases or projects; for the purpose of time management; and most importantly, for billing and payroll. Vendor partners and contractors track their time because that’s how they bill and get paid. Employees get paid based on tracking time to the project. If nothing else, timesheets are an incentive to all parties involved.

The Value of Timesheets

The value of buying into timesheets is three-fold:

  • Identifying problem task. Regularly tracking planned and actuals reveals where something goes off track, allowing you want to catch it as soon as possible. We recommend realtime tracking with an online tool.
  • Comparing planned versus actual. Tracking planned and actuals avoids the risk of getting to the end of the project and discovering that your variance is off. In most organizations, being under budget is just as bad as being over budget, and signifies a failed project.

  • Measuring project and employee performance. Timesheets allow you to see how employees, team members, contractors and vendors are doing relative to what was estimated. You might find that their performance was over or under estimated, or that someone is struggling, taking too long and needs training or support. You also don’t want to wait to the end to know how the project is performing.

Timesheets are best done realtime and online, but regardless, everyone on the project needs to track their time. These tips that have helped us, and I hope they help you too.

Jennifer Whitt, PMP is a speaker, trainer, Certified Performance Coach, author, and company president of She is a PMI-certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and knows how difficult it can be to make time for classroom or online learning so she has developed a new way for Project Managers to Earn n’ Learn while on the go. For more information, please visit

2 people have left comments

When done properly timesheets are an invaluable tool for understanding project status, efficiency metrics and billings. However, the biggest challenge with timesheets is accurately documenting the work activity so that timesheets are correct. The paradox is that to be effective, most systems would require a worker to stop working on the task at hand to track their effort. This breaks focus and wastes tremendous time.

The alternate is to find an automatic solution that captures work activity and can intelligently assign the proper work codes for effective analysis. Until recently, this was a pipe dream!

CreativeWorx ( has developed a solution that effortlessly captures how time is spent and intelligently assigns jobs codes to automatically generate timesheets. Their product TimeTracker supports applications like Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint; Adobe Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator; Microsoft Exchange and more. (Full disclosure: I am one of the founders.)

There’s a free version, so if you’re interested in accurate timesheet data with less work to capture it, check out CreativeWorx TimeTracker.

Mark wrote on January 8, 2014 - 2:26 pm | Visit Link

Using timesheets to measure doneness of your project is like using a smoke detector to measure the doneness of your toast, by the time the alarm goes off it is too late.

In addition time spent is not costing because it is based on the faulty assumption that all hours are equal. We know this to be false, yet ignore it. It is like still saying “but what if we fall off” even though you know the Earth is now round.

Lastly, more often than not, timesheets are lies. I have asked hundreds of professionals if they have ever falsified a timesheet (up or down by the way) and every single one has admitted that they have done so. In many cases, they say almost all of their timesheets have at least one falsehood. Folks do not put actual time time spent, they put what the believe is should be, sometime more, but more often less. To base future work on these figures is crazy.

Ed Kless wrote on January 9, 2014 - 1:17 pm | Visit Link

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