The problem of Time Logging
Time management and logging can be a problem for some people. Being a sole trader working largely from a home office, I find that I have constant interruptions with phone calls or urgent emails. The result is that I frequently have to drop what I am doing, then check out or research the problem which the clients has raised. How do I log the time for both clients so that subsequently I can bill them correctly? Jotting things down on post-it notes or other bits of paper is what tends to happen but is not a good solution. The a few weeks later, when a task is finished or signed off, I need to collate all these random items to raise an invoice.
The other scenario is the site visit, never knowing how long it is going to take to sort a problem. I generally fall back by recollecting what I listening to on Radio 4 as I arrived and then drove away, then use this for another entry in a post-it note or whatever.
Being innately dis-organised doesn’t help either!
Things have got better; I have just started using TimePunch from a German software house. Once installed on my PC it allows me to set up projects or clients with and add tasks or activities for each of them. The “TimePunch Watcher”, in effect the programs stopwatch, sits in the system tray. With a click of the mouse I can set it going and if interrupted or whatever; I can log a break, or switch to a different project. Should I forget to use the Watcher, items can be entered manually later.
But the winning feature for me is the mobile version which is available for Windows Phone 7 (versions for Android and iPhone are in the pipeline). With this I can time and log my site visits on the phone – the app includes a stopwatch for automatic logging. Then later this can be synchronised to my desktop and hence all the entries are in the one place. The synchronisation is only one-way from phone to desktop, but that is good. Once complete the phone entries can be deleted thus freeing the phone’s memory. The only quirk is the 2 or 3 stage process involved. Pressing the ‘sync’ button on the phone app uploads the items to the TimePunch server, and also produces a unique access code, which is then entered into the desktop. The server also sends you an email with the code.
On the desktop database, entries can be marked as ‘paid’, and the list can be filtered by date range or project. If required entries can be exported to Excel or PDF files, and forwarded to the client. The program is very flexible and includes features which I have not yet explored. The data stored in a Access database, which should allow personalised queries to be run.
For larger businesses, there is TimePunch Pro. This uses either an Access database or an SQL database on a server. Your staff can log all the time spent on particular clients or tasks, on top of which they can also account for breaks, holidays, sick-leave or journey times. It helps with vacation planning and provides reports on individual employees. NO wonder they called it ‘TimePunch’!
Trial versions can be downloaded and licenses purchased via the website:- http://www.timepunch.de/?lang=en