A timesheet, essentially, is a tool—either physical or virtual—designed for the meticulous tracking of work hours. 

A Brief History of Timesheets

The history of timesheets traces back to the 19th century, originally referred to as “time books.” This initial method of tracking employee hours worked was crucial for calculating wages and involved physical sheets. Workers would use stamps on time clock machines to record their arrival and departure times, setting the foundation for modern time management tools.

By 2024, the way we track timesheets has significantly evolved with technology. Modern timesheet software, now essential for consultancies, freelancers, and solopreneurs, simplifies the recording process to just a few clicks. This shift represents a leap towards greater efficiency and precision in managing time.

If you came here looking to learn more about timesheets, you came to the right place. By the end of this article you should know everything there is to know about timesheets, and tracking time. 

The Basics of Timesheets

Timesheets are the base on which hours of work by an employee are recorded. It is the key for exact salary computation, client billing, and compliance with labor laws and organization policy. Summing it up, below is an overview of what the timesheets tell:

  • Employee Details: Beginning with basic details of an employee such as Name, Employee ID, Department, and sometimes position or title.
  • Time Entries: They log an employee’s worked hours, noting dates, start and end times for a day, and total day hours.
  • Task or Project Allocation: If an employee is assigned a task or project, they report hours in regard to tasks or projects the assignment is on.
  • Total Hours: In totality, all hours worked are a summation of regular hours worked, overtime hours, and different leaves.
  • Approvals: Usually, the timesheet is signed off by a supervisor before processing the hours worked.
  • Accuracy and Compliance: Ensuring that the timesheet is accurate is important for the payroll, billing, and to be compliant with the law.
  • Integration: Verified timesheets can be fed into any payroll or billing system, hence facilitating accurate payments or bills for the client.
  • Recording: For audit, analysis, and compliance purposes, timesheets must be securely stored and maintained.
  • Communication: Guidelines of timesheet completion maintaining correctness and uniformity.
  • Goal Alignment: It contributes to appraising time efficiency towards set objectives.

What Are The Purposes Of a Timesheet?

Timesheets are crucial for consulting firms and freelancers for various reasons:

Firstly, they simplify tracking attendance, leaves, and overtime, ensuring compliance with labor laws and fair employee treatment. This data helps HR monitor workforce efficiency, identify discrepancies in work patterns, and improve productivity.

With respect to management, timesheets provide a detailed breakdown of time spent on projects, allowing for analysis of productivity trends and areas of concern. This information is essential for making smart decisions about resource allocation, project scheduling, and setting realistic deadlines. When it comes to freelancers and consultants in particular, this helps your tame scope creep. Which occurs when you spend too much time on a fixed price project. 

Additionally they are key to financial management by ensuring all billable hours and non-billable hours are accounted for, leading to accurate invoicing and payroll. Timesheets aid in controlling project costs, budget forecasting, and effective cash flow management.

Finally it aids with transparency with Clients: For consultants and freelancers, gaining client trust is paramount. Detailed timesheets ensure transparency in work accounts, boosting client confidence in billing accuracy and project progress. This transparency fosters healthy client relationships and can lead to repeat business.

The purpose of timesheets goes beyond simply the 4 points mentioned above. Some other purposes of timesheets include:

  • Project Costing
  • Performance evaluation
  • Billing and invoicing
  • Data Analysis and reporting.

Paper versus Online Timesheets

You’re probably weighing whether to keep your timesheets old school with pen and paper or jump into the digital age. Having been around the block a few times in the consulting world, I’ve seen both sides of this coin. So, let’s hash it out, shall we?

The Case for Keeping It Old School

It’s kind of wild, but yes, paper timesheets are still kicking around. There’s a certain appeal to them. They’re straightforward, cheap, and don’t require much beyond a pen and a printer. Plus, for the less tech-savvy among us, they’re as simple as it gets. No need to worry about forgetting a password or getting locked out of an account.

But, and it’s a big but, paper timesheets can be a bit of a gamble. They get lost, coffee-stained, or accidentally tossed. When it’s time to dig through your archives to find that one day’s work from six months ago, you might as well be looking for a needle in a haystack. And honestly, who hasn’t faced the dreaded moment of realizing a crucial piece of paper has gone AWOL?

Why Digital Might Just Be Your New Best Friend

Moving your timesheets online is like upgrading from a flip phone to a smartphone. Sure, there’s a bit of a learning curve, but once you’re over that hump, it’s smooth sailing. Your data’s backed up in the cloud, so it’s tougher to lose than your sunglasses. Need to find something? A quick search, and boom, there it is. No more flipping through folders or drawers.

Integrating digital timesheets with other tools you’re already using for project management or invoicing is a game-changer. It’s all connected, so everything from tracking time to billing clients becomes more streamlined. Plus, seeing your team’s hours in real-time means you can make decisions on the fly, without waiting for paperwork to shuffle through the office.

Many digital timesheet systems even come with time-tracking features. This means you can see exactly how long tasks take, making estimating and planning a breeze. Some even auto-magically turn those tracked hours into neat reports or ready-to-send invoices. It’s like having an admin assistant who never takes a coffee break.

So, What’s It Gonna Be?

Choosing between paper and digital isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation. It’s about what feels right for your team and your workflow. If you’re on the fence, why not try a little experiment? Give both methods a whirl for a month and see which one makes your life easier.

For teams spread out across the map, digital timesheets are a no-brainer. They cut out the logistical nightmare of collecting paper from who knows where, making the whole “working from anywhere” dream actually workable.

How Timesheets Work

Timesheets are essentially a way for companies to keep tabs on how much time their employees are spending on the job, as well as on breaks, or even on vacation. It’s a pretty straightforward process. Employees jot down their work hours, break times, and any days off they take, on a daily basis. This info then makes its way to HR managers or gets input directly into a timesheet system. Once it’s in the system, it can either be filed away for future reference or reviewed and approved by a manager before being archived.

Most of the time, your employer will have a set of rules about how and when you need to fill out your timesheet. These rules are usually laid out in a timesheet policy, which should give you all the details you need, including which specific system or tool you should be using, how your time will be verified, and the deadlines for submitting your timesheet. You might be asked to submit your timesheet daily, or maybe just at the end of each workweek.

The regular updating of your work hours is a big part of keeping everyone accountable. It’s up to you, the employee, to track and report your own time. This setup discourages slacking off since there’s always the possibility you’ll be asked to show proof of the work you’ve reported. In other words, it’s a system that encourages staying on task and makes it harder to waste time on things that aren’t work-related.

How Do I Integrate Timesheets Into My Workflow?

So, you’ve realized the value of timesheets but are scratching your head on where to begin? It’s all about figuring out what your company really needs. Typically, businesses use timesheets mainly for handling payroll, which might only require rounding up those hours once a month. But let’s be real, expecting employees to remember every single thing they did after a month is like expecting someone to recall what they had for lunch three weeks ago on a Tuesday. It’s just not happening. That’s why there’s a variety of timesheet formats to choose from, based on how often you want to track time:

Daily timesheets – Employees jot down their hours at the start and end of each day.

Weekly timesheets – Everyone logs their hours for the week at its end.

Biweekly timesheets – You get the drill every two weeks, workers send in their hours.

Monthly timesheets – Timesheets are submitted once a month on a date you decide.

Semi-monthly timesheets – This option splits the month in half, with timesheets due twice.

If the thought of implementing timesheets feels like stepping into a quagmire, breathe easy. It doesn’t have to be a complex affair.

These days, online timesheet apps are a game-changer, making it a breeze to log work hours, especially if they’ve got a user-friendly interface and come with handy guides or video tutorials. Transitioning from the paper trail to digital tracking is smoother than you’d think, especially if you take a bit of time to explore and test the tools out there that seem like they’d gel well with your team’s workflow.

Try systemX for free now to see for yourself! 


Now that you’re clued up on what a timesheet is, from its rich history to the different types available and how to implement them in your organization, it’s clear that embracing timesheets can streamline your operations, ensure accurate payroll, and boost productivity. Whether you decide to keep it traditional with paper or go digital, the important thing is to choose a system that aligns with your team’s needs and workflow. Timesheets aren’t just about tracking hours; they’re a tool for better management, transparency, and efficiency in your daily operations. Armed with this knowledge, you’re now ready to make timesheets a valuable part of your work process.