Timesheets are dead. Long live timesheets

Myself and timesheets have a love-hate relationship. While I detest completing them on a day-to-day basis, unfortunately I cannot live without them.

Allow me to explain.

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If you have worked (or are working) as a practicing accountant, lawyer, consultant or in any other profession in the business of buying and selling time, you are likely to have been obliged to track every 6 minute increment of your working life.

This feeds into the pressure of having to hit your productivity target of 85% (or some other unrealistic number) week on week, inevitably leading to some creative entries when pondering what the last 15 units were spent doing.

I used to put random narrations in my non-chargeable units back in the day. It was almost a protest in addition to natural curiosity to see if anyone actually read them.

UM – useless meeting

AUMx2 – Another useless meeting about a useless meeting

LL – Liquid lunch

BS – buying snack

ES – eating snack

ITE – Inventing timesheet entries

When I worked in Corporate Finance, it was refreshing to farewell timesheets. I was involved in project based, success-fee based transactional work, meaning there was no need to keep a log of my time. However, I was working 70+ hour weeks, early hours into the morning just to get a deal over the line. Quite often I would think to myself, if I actually recorded all the time I’d spent on this project at $350 per hour, we’d probably write-off a fare chunk of it. Of course that’s “imaginary time”, yet every lawyer I worked with billed every single unit of it – plus disbursements, plus a 10% surcharge for printing! Now that is a profession ripe for disrupting.

I digress.

Moving into Startup life (or Startup Lyfe, as I like to call it) we don’t currently keep timesheets. However, we are about to implement them. Yes our packages are fixed price, so no we don’t charge by the hour. Irrespective of these factors, we will still implement timesheets.

Why?

The buzz word of the 21st Century is “Data”. And as a business owner I want as much of it as I can get.

  • I want data on what I’m spending most of my time doing to ensure I’m doing the ‘right’ things.
  • I want utilization data so I can fathom how many clients my account manager can handle without having a mental breakdown.
  • I want data on which clients are absorbing more time than others so I can understand why.

That said, let me make this clear –  timesheets should have no correlation to staff performance or how to price a job. They should be used only as an internal monitoring tool.

Despite what the anti-timesheets “futurists” say, I recommend to any business where staff utilisation is a driver of revenue to use time sheets to better understand their business.  I loathe them, but for now I see them as a necessary evil. And until a better solution to my data-monitoring problem is available, I will be forced to tolerate them.