Time sheets and best practices.

One of the things I consider a ‘best practice’ is having a weekly time reporting requirement. Basically, the more often you report your time, the more up-to-date and accurate your reporting will be. The longer you wait, the less accurate the reporting becomes and in general the less billable time you will have. People tend to forget exactly how much time was spent working and will, by default, enter enough time to account for their billable work, but won’t remember those little 15 to 30 minutes tasks they completed on the side. Those omissions add up. If you are working by time and material, then weekly is the least often I recommend you record time.

The next step up is daily recording. This isn’t such a clear win as it can get pretty oppressive depending on the type of work. I do it because I have found that it takes less time to put the time in at the end of each day than wait until the end of the week. By then, I have to reconstruct my day by looking at my calendar and email and that takes much longer. My recommendation is to encourage daily recording and require weekly reporting.

Another counter-intuitive recommendation is to start your recording week on Saturday. This gives you a Saturday to Friday week - which is going to seem weird. Most people are used to starting their week on Sunday or even Monday, but Saturday is odd. But for time recording it just works better. The reason it works better is not obvious.

Rethinking the work week

For one thing, having the week end on a Friday means that time is due on a regular work day. If the due date is Saturday then people will put it off, get distracted during their weekend, forget, then maybe do it on Sunday, maybe not. Ideally, all the time is in on Monday so you can do approvals. When it isn’t, then that just delays everything. You want to give yourself as much lead time as possible to get that time sheet done.

Another thing, Saturday time sheets makes people work their weekends in advance of the work week instead of at the end. This puts a stop to all sorts of shenanigans. If you want to take off early on Friday, you have to work extra the previous weekend and not just wave your hand and say you’ll work a little (maybe) over the weekend to make up for it. This also increases billable time, as the schedule stops a lot of games that some people might try otherwise. It also encourages people to expect to finish their work by Friday and to not work over the weekend. If they do work the weekend, it’s because they are looking ahead and being proactive as opposed to playing catch up and being reactive.

Reporting time weekly, and starting your time sheets on a Saturday might seem like minor adjustments, but this can have a large impact on your organization. It’s because while small, they affect everyone, every week. Small habits done consistently over long periods of time can amount to big changes.