I Keep Timesheets For Myself

Timesheets are only wastage of paper for some, for some they are evidence of the work, for some they translate into money and for some they are just more things to talk about at meetings. I have had a love-hate relationship with them. I started by disliking them, but later realized what I could gain from them.

Timesheets were one of the bigger changes for me when I started on my own. Not that I did not keep them when I was working for someone else, but this time they did much more for me. Of course I did not understand this early on, it took some shocks and unknown factors to take help from them.

Today, most of my clients do not ask for them, I still keep them though, for myself. They act as a good record of my efficiency and also work as a great feedback on how I planned something and how it happened. In my opinion, the most unscientific aspect in software development is estimation. In spite of hundreds of tools and thousands of formulae it still is the most challenging equation to get right.

I use timesheets to verify the time and effort against what was estimated. It gives me a chance to think about the difference, and include that the next time I work on something similar. I can also calculate how much time do I spend in designing, coding, documentation and communication. Another very important thing in any process, whose significance I learnt from the Theory Of Constraints, was buffers. Buffers can be very effective to tackle with the unknown factors and unexpected events. Timesheets are a great place to record the buffers and their effectiveness.

I have been asked about what tools I use to maintain my timesheets. I have tried several tools, but they could never capture what I wanted and the way I wanted. I would in fact encourage every software professional to design his/her own timesheet and only then think about the tools. Keep it simple so that it is not a lot of effort to record the data and give some small amount of time to put in the details. I usually set the marks while working and add in the details at end of the day or on the next day.

If you dislike timesheets or think it is too much trouble to maintain them, it is quite possible that you are not using the right tools. Think about what you want to get from them and then start using tools. The data and how you want to see it matters more than the tools and the formats. Timesheets are useful, they are not only records, they can contribute a lot to your process.

Discussion [Participate or Link]

  1. Binny V A said:

    There is a much simpler alternative that I use – get a time tracking software. Its much simpler to maintain.

    There are many free time trackers available. If you need my recommendation, go with Slim Timer. Although this is not what I use – I use a custom software that I created – which was inspired by Slim Timer.

  2. Jayan said:

    I too fill out a couple of timesheets each week. Simple timesheets tailored for our own unique needs would be extremely useful for tracking and learning from our time spending patterns. And hey, I found a screenshot of your article in today’s Indian Express. Good yaar.

  3. Abhijit Nadgouda said:

    Binny, I did try using timers. However, I have realized that a lot of my activities are away from the computer, and I end up using paper + pencil to mark them. I realized that I did not need automation to record, but to retrieve the details as I wanted.

    Jayan, I think timesheets should be custom designed, and evolved as we realize our strengths and weaknesses. Have you given it a try?

    Jayan, where did you find the screenshot? Was it in a supplement or in an edition? I want to know, the first instance I can say that this blog was featured in … 😉 It is quite interesting that our tools like trackback and pingback completely fail when the medium changes. The content is portable, but the communication is still not!

  4. Jayan said:

    Yes Abhijit, one is a custom built tool within our organization which has a lot of features like starting and stopping tasks, adding comments and stuff. The data and workflow is connected to a few other enterprise applications too. The other is a simple excel based sheet that I fill daily to guage my effort.

    The article with a screenshot of ur blog with this post appeared in the the 3rd page of the City Express Supplement. You’re getting popular ;).

  5. nile said:

    MetriQ is the solution for you. Fully automated, no stopwatches, no timesheets to complete. Just click the software you use, and MetriQ times you automatically. Every second is captured, ready for reporting, invoicing etc. Come, try for 30 days free, and see we mean it when we say Hands-Free software! There website is http://www.metriq.biz

  6. Why Do Companies Keep Measuring Only Time | iface thoughts said:

    […] am not against timesheets, but more to measure efficiency. Whereas a lot of companies seem to use them to only keep a log of time, not to track whether the […]

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Abhijit Nadgouda
iface Consulting
+91 9819820312
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