What are Timesheets?

A timesheet is a physical or software-based tool used by businesses to give their employees a means to record the time they’ve spent on a task or project. If you want to pay employees or bill contractors in units of time, you’ll need to keep strict records of billable hours. Timesheets are therefore a critical requirement for many service industries.

Tracking time with timesheets isn’t merely a way to pay teams and contractors, however. As project-based work becomes more common, timesheets have also become invaluable for businesses to monitor their time and keep projects on track.

Timesheet software is the most common way to keep track of time in modern business.

ProjectManager.com weds timesheet software with cutting-edge project management software for a comprehensive tool that takes care of your project and time management needs. Sign up for a free trial today to see how much more efficient you can be when you combine time management with project management.

A screenshot of ProjectManager.com’s timesheet software interface, with a button superimposed on top that says “Click Here to Try the Timesheet Software.”

Timesheets and Project Management

We’re long past the age of office workers clocking in and out on an antiquated punch card machine, but that doesn’t mean timesheets are no longer in use. In fact, their utility has only increased as project management tools have become more advanced.

Project management is modern, knowledge-based work, which requires the tracking and processing of large amounts of data—and that includes time spent on tasks. Some project teams working in consultancy or agency environments will bill for the time that their team spends on projects using this data.

Savvy project managers, though, make full use of rigid adherence to online timesheets to identify avenues of optimization and improvement. The real value of timesheet tools is that they provide an easy way to see what the team is working on, at any time, and if that work is being properly executed.

With proper use of a team’s timesheets, you can easily see

  • Who is working on what
  • What tasks are still outstanding
  • What tasks are going to overrun their scheduled time
  • Who is really busy and logging lots of hours
  • Who isn’t recording many hours and may have capacity to pick up more work

Elements of a Project Timesheet

Timesheet systems generally include the following data:

  • The name of the user: This is the person who is completing the timesheet. Managers may have access to complete timesheets on behalf of other people in the team.
  • Date: Timesheets typically show a week to view. The date field lets you navigate through the calendar and enter your working time for a particular week.
  • Project: Timesheets can group tasks by project (this is how it works in ProjectManger.com) to make it easier for the user to see what they are recording at a glance.
  • Task: The list of tasks that the user has been allocated to work on that are not yet marked as complete.
  • Copy Last Week: If you’re working on similar or the same tasks each week, you can auto-populate the timesheet with last week’s tasks rather than have to input them again.
  • Days of the Week: The rest of the timesheet columns display the days of the week. Mark the hours worked on each task against the correct days.
  • Percentage Complete: See what percentage of your tasks are done.
  • Auto-totals: Columns and rows will automatically total so that you can see at a glance how many hours you have worked in a day or on a particular task.
  • Submit: If an approver has been assigned, the timesheet when ready can be sent to that person to review.
  • Notes: Add comments and upload files to timesheet entries to remind yourself of what the task was about or to note why it took longer (or less time) than expected.

You’ll also typically see lines on the timesheet that do not directly tie back to tasks on the project schedule. These lines could represent things like sickness, vacation time, team meetings, training and so on. These tasks take up time during the working week, but don’t necessarily contribute directly to a project.

A screenshot of ProjectManager.com’s interface, showing all the different timesheet elements that it displays.

As you can see, you can get lots of valuable information to assist in your project time tracking and management!

What is Timesheet Software?

Timesheet software is used to track the work hours of teams and streamline the payroll process. Modern software offerings have also expanded to include features that track the time it takes to complete each task and helps managers keep the project on schedule.

Project management training video (pr8kt5nlbn)

In fact, nearly every aspect associated with time management in a project can be monitored and tracked with timesheet software. Beyond just collecting the time a team works on a task, software can keep track of scheduling, resources and other variables that are associated with a task’s execution.

Managing time is a key component to bringing a project to a successful conclusion. Project managers need to monitor the time in their projects accurately to reduce costs and stay on track. The better your timesheet software does this, the better it is for your project.

Traditional Timesheets vs. Online Timesheet Software

Timesheets keep track of team hours—that’s a necessity—but is it worth investing in an online timesheet software, or could a classic spreadsheet suffice? Certainly, smaller organizations that don’t have to keep track of dozens of employees might get by without. But once an organization scales up, so too does the complexities of ensuring proper payment to their employees.


One advantage of an online timesheet compared to the old-fashioned way of logging hours is that you can customize them to fit the structure of your business. Not all companies are the same—they work in different sectors and have different needs when processing payroll. Online timesheets have the flexibility these businesses need to get their timesheets tracking more accurately.


The problem with paper or even a digital spreadsheet is that they’re data islands. While they’re functional they don’t go beyond the basic needs of a timesheet. For example, an online spreadsheet has a central repository that can then be tapped to generate reports that give managers insight into how their teams are working and information to track the time in projects.


Having an online timesheet software means that it can be electronically locked, keeping anyone from changing the information held within. Once a manager approves the timesheet, they can secure it to make sure that what arrives at payroll is the same as what they saw. No one can come in and fudge the numbers.

Easy Access

Paper timesheets have to be physically distributed, and even digital copies must be sent electronically. However, an online timesheet software is accessible anywhere and at any time. If you’re managing teams who work in different locations and time zones, they can log into their timesheet when they need to update it without requiring you to send it to them.

This doesn’t even speak to having timesheets that are integrated with a larger project management software and can update automatically as teams submit their status. While not being completely dismissive of the classic timesheets of yesterday, the online timesheets of today are what the workforce of tomorrow needs.

Must-Have Timesheet Software Features

The following timesheet software features are crucial, and should be kept in mind as you compare and contrast different offerings to make your choice.

Make Data-Driven Decisions

Accurate monitoring requires accurate time tracking. Online timesheet software that automatically updates in real-time gives users a current picture of the hours their team is logging. Better data drives successful projects.

A screenshot of a dashboard in ProjectManager.com

Submit Secure Timesheets

Keeping timesheets protected and making sure that they can’t be tampered gives teams and managers confidence in the payroll process. Look for timesheets that can authorize a person to approve them, and once approved, locks the document to insure its integrity.

A screenshot of a timesheet in ProjectManager.com, about to be submitted for approval

Automation Improves Efficiency

Features that streamline the timesheet process save time. Timesheets should have an auto-fill option to populate the timesheet with recurring tasks that have been assigned to a team member. When tasks are repeated, they should be easy to copy to the next timesheet.

A screenshot of a auto-fill function on the timesheets in ProjectManager.com

Share Timesheets With a Click

It’s important to have a simple way to get your timesheet where it needs to go—whether you need to export it as a PDF and email it or print a paper version. Ideally, you want a tool that can export it to your manager, who in turn shares it with payroll.

A screenshot of a timesheet about to be exported in ProjectManager.com

Get Deep Project Insights

Timesheets are a potential well of information, if used properly. You want to tap into all that data with reports that can be filtered to show what you want to see, and then shared with stakeholders to keep them updated on progress.

A screenshot of a timesheet report in ProjectManager.com

Add Files and Comments to Timesheets

The ability to attach files and comments to your timesheets is important. If, for example, your team submits a timesheet with more hours than expected, they can attach a file of their deliverable to justify the extra hours. A timesheet should have unlimited file storage to do this.

A screenshot of a list of files attached to a project in ProjectManager.com


Timesheet Example Template

To get acquainted with a typical timesheet, we’ve created a free timesheet template for newcomers to play with and explore on your own. It’s a typical, one-week timesheet that includes cost-per-hour calculations, overtime and vacation considerations.

If you decide to eventually use ProjectManager.com, the above Excel template can be directly imported for you to continue your work.

A screenshot of the timesheet template provided by ProjectManager.com.

How Do You Complete a Timesheet?

The easiest timesheets to complete are those that link automatically to your project schedule. You’ll save a lot of time on entering the task data if all you have to do is pick the tasks from a list. Whether it’s automatically integrated, and therefore pre-populated, or not—you’ll need a list of tasks on your timesheet before you can complete it.

Best Practices for Online Timesheet Software

Timesheet software is a key component in tracking time spent on tasks and projects to make sure you stay on schedule.

ProjectManager.com has an integrated timesheet feature that works together with all the tools on our software to make using timesheets easier, while giving you greater transparency into your project’s progress. Here’s a quick walk-through on how to use timesheets on our software. Sign up for a free trial and follow along to get your projects moving smoother than ever.

1. Create Your Project

Timesheets are much easier to manage when you have an idea what tasks employees will be working on ahead of time.We recommend you begin with laying out the tasks that you’ll need to reach your final deliverable.

You can create a blank project to start with in the software, or you can use one of our industry-specific templates to get started.

A screenshot of ProjectManager.com’s interface, where you can choose a template to help you start crafting your project.

2. Invite Your Team

Assemble your team. Choose members who have the experience and skillset to tackle all the tasks required to get the job done.

In the software, invite team members to the project. They will be notified by email that they have been added.

A screenshot of ProjectManager.com’s “Manage Users” interface, where people can be invited via email to the software.

3. Add and Assign Tasks

Tasks are the building blocks of your project, and thoroughly planned out task lists direct your team throughout the entirety of the project. Therefore, practicing proper task management, with clear direction and other details, is essential.

Assign tasks to team members and add labor costs. Add the estimated hours for each task for team members to know what’s expected of them. Once hours are logged, you can monitor your budget.

A screenshot of ProjectManager.com’s “Assign People” interface, where you can select teammates to work on a project.

4. Designate a Timesheet Approver

Assign someone from the team who will receive the submitted timesheets. This person (usually a manager) will make sure that the billable hours match the tasks completed.

Under the Manage Users tab, choose an approver who the team member will submit their timesheet to for review. This person will be the gatekeeper between the team member and payroll/HR.

A screenshot of ProjectManager.com’s Manage Users interface, where you can select the timesheet approver.

5. Have Team Members Log Their Hours

Each team member is responsible for tracking the hours they work on a task. This information is then collected on the timesheet.

Log hours on individual tasks, or log them on the timesheet. You can also click auto-fill to pull in all the tasks assigned to you.

A screenshot of ProjectManager.com’s hour-logging interface.

6. Review the Timesheet

Much of the timesheet process in ProjectManager.com is automated to save time and increase efficiency. However, there still needs to be a person who looks over the timesheet to make sure it’s correct before passing it on to payroll.

After the requisite amount of time has passed (typically weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, or bi-monthly), it’s time to review the timesheet before submission. View the timesheet by clicking time on the primary navigation menu. Set the week you want to review.

A screenshot of ProjectManager.com’s email alert interface.

7. Submit the Timesheet

Submitting the timesheet to the approver on the team who approves them is the next step of the process.

In order to ensure you submit your timesheets in a timely fashion, you can set up alerts that can be set up at a certain day/time every week. You will be reminded by email.

A screenshot of an automatically sent ProjectManager.com email, reminding users to update their timesheet.

8. Approve Timesheet

The approver will receive the timesheet and must look over the hours and tasks to make sure there are no mistakes. If there are discrepancies, then the timesheet needs to go back to the person who submitted it.

If the approver rejects the timesheet, the submitter will be notified. There will be a field in which you can explain any discrepancies and can resubmit. Once approved, the timesheet is locked.

A screenshot of ProjectManager.com’s interface, showing the “Approve/Decline” interface that the timesheet approver will see.

9. Make Reports

Now that your timesheet is approved, you can take your time tracking even further by using reports. Reporting is useful to go over all of your data and identify bottlenecks, overages and other discrepancies.They are also an essential tool for keeping stakeholders in the loop.

You can make reports from timesheet data for individual users, or projects over a specific date range to get more detailed information on progress. Customize and share reports as a PDF or spreadsheet for when you have a stakeholder presentation.

A screenshot of a timesheet generated by ProjectManager.com, which displays all of the timesheet info in an easily digestible file.

ProjectManager.com is a trusted, award-winning software that has helped project managers complete over 2 million projects. Access to our robust timesheet management tools can be just what you need to unlock the next level of productivity.

Start making your timesheets now, with a free 30-day trial to ProjectManager.com!

The Many Uses for Timesheets

We touched on this earlier, and now we’ll take a deeper dive into the benefits of timesheets beyond just tracking time and paying employees.

To build a database of historical information.

The data output from time tracking comes in the form of timesheets that show how long an individual spent doing a particular task. This is valuable data, because many of those tasks will happen again in the future. Your time tracking data repository will let you estimate better in the future because you can draw from real-life data.

For example, let’s say you estimate that preparing the wireframes for a new website will take 5 days. You put that on the project schedule and it automatically feeds through to the timesheets for the relevant resources. They complete the timesheets with the actual time spent on doing the wireframes. The wireframes take two people 4 days, so that’s 8 days of effort in total.

The next time you come to estimate the task for creating wireframes, you can use the real data of 8 days and create a far more accurate project schedule.

For billing clients

This one is pretty obvious. As we explained at the start, if your commercial model relies on charging clients for your time, then you need to know how much time to charge them for. Timesheets also give you the detail so you can spell out exactly what you did on a project.

This is helpful if ever your invoices are queried, and especially when work takes longer than planned because of changes the client requested.

To manage your workload

People are often surprised when they start to track their time, because they can see exactly where they are spending the most effort. And it isn’t always where it should be.

Timesheets can be really helpful in pointing out why you aren’t as efficient as you think you should be because they flag up where your time is going. This helps you manage your workload more efficiently, both during a single day and also over a longer period of time like a week.

How Often Should You Fill Out A Weekly Timesheet?

There is no hard and fast rule about this, but generally it’s better to complete them as soon as you can so you remember what you spent your time on.

If you don’t have that many tasks, it’s likely you can manage it by completing them once a week. If you have a lot of separate tasks to do in a day, though, then it’s better to spend a few minutes recording your time just before you log off for the day.

How To Manage Absences and Vacations on Timesheets

Sometimes you won’t want to record time against project activity because a staff member is off sick or on annual leave.

The easiest way to manage this is to set up an ‘admin’ task called ‘Sickness’ or ‘Vacation’ and have them record their normal working hours against that instead.

When a period of downtime affects everyone, such as closing the office for a holiday, you can change the working hours in the master calendar so that your team doesn’t have to record time on those days.

Should You Keep Timesheets Confidential?

Timesheet data shouldn’t be kept confidential because, in theory, your team should know what you are working on and vice versa. There’s really nothing sensitive in the high level task name for the vast majority of project scheduling information. If it has been scheduled, your team can see the scheduled task anyway.

Timesheets – Good or Evil?

Managers tend to fall into two camps when it comes to time tracking: they either understand the value of doing it and are huge supporters, or they don’t see the point and believe it undermines trust in the team. If you fall into the second camp then, hopefully, this will explain why you should be reconsidering tracking time on your projects.

It’s a truism that you can only manage what you measure. Successful project managers know how far through their project they are at any time. This information helps them establish whether they are ahead or over budget and whether they are likely to hit their upcoming deadlines.

Unless you know how long a task has taken, and can compare that to how long it was scheduled to take, then understanding the performance of your project is much harder.

How to Overcome Resistance to Using Timesheets

One of the concerns that you may hear from managers is that the team will hate using timesheets. Because of this seemingly commonly held sentiment, it can be daunting to move to time recording when you haven’t previously worked like that. Introducing time tracking where it isn’t already in practice is a huge cultural change for many organizations.

If there is resistance in your organization, take a step back and ask why there is that level of opposition. It could be because

  • They feel timesheets are a lot of work.
  • They feel micromanaged.
  • They feel that timesheets could be used to penalize staff who don’t log enough hours.

The best way to deal with these concerns is to sit with the team and explain what you are doing to address them. For example, if they are worried that completing their timesheets will be a hassle, show them how easy it is to click and submit using online time tracking software.

When you know why team members are resistant to tracking their time you can manage their concerns individually.

How to Save Your Team’s Time When Using Timesheet Trackers

Time tracking in itself is an additional task to do. However, it doesn’t have to be onerous.

If you regularly complete the same tasks for the same projects, you can use the common “Copy Last Week” feature to auto-populate your timesheet for this week. Either hit save straightaway, or make a few tweaks and submit it.

A screenshot of ProjectManager.com’s interface, showing the “submit weekly timesheets for approval” button.

You can even save time when you’re creating a bespoke timesheet for the week. If your time tracking software links to your project schedule, you can “Auto-Fill” to pull through the tasks that you have been assigned, saving you the job of typing them out. The added benefit here is that they’ll automatically feed your time data back to the project schedule, which updates the task to show how much effort has been spent on it to date.

Next Steps for Time Tracking

The easiest way to see if time tracking will be of benefit to you and your organization is to simply commit and start recording your time on tasks. The hardest aspect of keeping time is maintaining the habit.

When applied properly, timesheets will quickly become the norm for your team, and completing them will be another aspect of collectively achieving success. Soon, you’ll wonder how you ever managed to run your projects without the rich data that time tracking will provide.

It won’t be long before your estimates improve, your confidence in hitting deadlines is bolstered and your project success rates increase.

Now that you know everything you need about timesheets and tracking time, it’s time to get started! Sign up for your free 30-day trial of ProjectManager.com and start tracking time on your tasks today.

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