How to Fill Out Time Sheets Like a Pro

How to Fill Out Time Sheets Like a Pro

A step-by-step guide to walk you through time sheets, from start to finish.

How to Fill Out Timesheets Like a Pro

In 2015, an infamous study estimated that incorrect time sheets cost the U.S. economy $7.4 billion a day. That figure was based on unbilled time spent on digital communications, like email.

Fast forward to 2023. Many resource management tools have been entirely digitized. With remote work becoming normalized — as well as increased demand in the service industry — the value of time entry cannot be understated.

That said, some places are still calculating payroll using old-school approaches. In those cases, you might need to learn how to fill out a paper time sheet.

The Big Picture

  • Time recording methods, such as time sheets, aren't just necessary for payroll — they're a part of legal compliance.
  • Your time sheet data can be used for effective project planning, resource forecasting, scheduling, and budgeting.
  • An online employee time sheet system automates the time tracking process and makes generating reports much easier.
  • What Is a Time Sheet?

    A time sheet is a record of work hours. These documents may also include working time spent on specific tasks, jobs, or projects.

    Time sheets have uses beyond time tracking. For example, they can be used to track progress and productivity as well as forecast resources. Complete time sheets are used for processing payroll.

    Different workplaces will have different time sheet requests. Some may simply ask employees to log total hours worked. Others may ask for detailed information, like a list of tasks completed.

    Need an example? We’ve got a free time sheet template to help.

    Types of Time Sheets

    Show Infographic

    There are six common types of time sheets. While most of them have to do with time-based intervals (i.e., weeks or months), project time sheets offer a different way to measure progress. Allow us to explain:

    • Daily Time Sheets: A daily time sheet breaks days down into small segments (typically, hourly blocks). Daily time sheets often allow the most space for adding details on tasks completed.
    • Weekly Time Sheets: A weekly time sheet is a document that asks employees to log hours worked during a five- to seven-day period. They may also log which project or task they worked on for that day.
    • Biweekly Time Sheets: A biweekly time sheet is similar to a weekly time sheet. The difference is that biweekly time sheets span two weeks (14 consecutive days or 10 business days).
    • Monthly Time Sheets: A monthly time sheet is a document where employees can log hours worked for an entire month. These are best for workplaces that pay monthly.
    • Project Time Sheets: A project time sheet tracks the time taken to complete a specific project (or assigned subtasks). Typically, employees will enter the date work was completed.
    • Timecard Sheets: A timecard sheet records the start and end times of your shifts. Typically, this includes in and out times for breaks. Many timecard sheets span an entire pay period (often, this is biweekly).

    Time sheets aren’t exclusive to the workplace, either. Personal time sheets can provide a ton of insight into how you spend a day. For example, business professor Dorie Clark was stunned to learn she was dedicating more than two hours a day to reading (like many other professionals, she felt like she wasn’t reading enough).

    Similarly, students are often encouraged to use time sheets to manage their workloads. One study suggested that as many as 75% of college students find time sheets to be useful to keep track of their academic productivity. Time blocking is another effective time sheet management strategy that helps with time management both on and off the clock.

    How to Make a Time Sheet

    Ready to give time sheets a try? How you fill it out depends on the style of time sheets you’re provided. But, generally speaking, an employee time sheet will typically require the following info:

    • Your name;
    • Dates;
    • Start and end times; and
    • Task descriptions.

    Here’s the nitty-gritty.

    Filling Out a Daily Time Sheet

    Step 1: Write your name, date, and start time

    Writing your full name (first and last) is recommended. It will make it easier when it comes time to process the time sheet for payroll.

    Step 2: Write down your first task

    In the description field, you’ll want to record exactly what you’re working on. It’s best to do this when you first start the task because it will be easier to keep track of your progress. If you haven’t yet, include the time you started your task.

    Step 3: Record your task end time

    When the task is complete, write down the time you finish it. If your time sheet template allows it, record the exact time, down to the minute. If you’re completing multiple tasks quickly, it may be easier to list each task within a given time block.

    Step 4: Repeat Steps 2 and 3 for each subsequent task

    On to the next thing! As your workday progresses, record your tasks and the time you spent on each. You’ll want to do the same for any paid or unpaid breaks taken, too.

    Step 5: Total up the hours

    At the end of the day, write your total hours worked in the “total” column of your time sheet. If you need help, consider using our time duration calculator. If you prefer to do the math in your head, we’ve got an explainer on how to add hours for payroll.

    Filling Out a Daily Time Sheet

    Filling Out a Weekly, Biweekly, or Monthly Time Sheet

    Step 1: Write down your name and the date range

    Again: it’s best practice to write your full name (first and last). This makes it easier when it comes to processing payroll. You’ll also want to record the date range for your time sheet (i.e., start and end dates).

    Step 2: Record your start time

    Write down the time you started your shift. Most weekly, biweekly, and monthly time sheets won’t have room for you to record more specific details about your shift — they’re more focused on recording hours worked.

    Step 3: Record your break

    When it’s time to take a break, write down your "out" time. When you return to your shift, you’ll write another in time. This second in time notes when your break ended.

    Step 4: Record your shift end time

    At the end of your day, you’ll write down your final out time. This second out time notes when your workday ended.

    Step 5: Repeat Steps 2-4

    Keep it going! Record each shift's start and end times for each day listed in the time sheet.

    Step 6: Total up the hours

    At the end of the time sheet period, write your total hours worked in the “total” column of your time sheet. Again, our time duration calculator can help, or read more on adding hours for payroll.

    h3>Filling Out a Project Time Sheet

    Step 1: Write down your name and basic project info

    Just like with other types of time sheets, you’ll want to start by writing your full name. However, project time sheets work a little differently than time sheets based on dates. Instead of writing down a date range, you’ll record your client’s name or the name of the project.

    Step 2: Record your task

    With a project time sheet, you’ll want to write down the specific work you’re completing. In some cases, you’ll write a job code rather than a task description.

    Step 3: Record time spent

    As you complete project tasks, you’ll also need to give some indication of time spent. Some project time sheets will want to know exactly how much time is spent, while others are merely interested in knowing what was worked on during a given day. Refer to your template for the specifics.

    Step 4: Repeat steps 2-3

    Here we go again! As you work on your project, you’ll continue recording your tasks as well as when you worked on them. For a project time sheet, you’ll continue doing this until your project is completed, or it’s time to create an invoice.

    Step 5: Total up the hours

    When the time comes, you’ll need to total up the number of hours worked. With project time sheets, this can be particularly tricky. That’s because you may be doing piecework (i.e., when you bill for work completed as opposed to an hourly rate). If you’re doing this manually, our time duration calculator can help, or read more on how to calculate hours worked.

    Why Time Sheets Matter

    Correctly filling out a time sheet is crucial to productivity. But if an employee already practices good time management, he or she may question the value of time sheet tracking.

    The truth is that an accurate time sheet helps give the big picture when it comes to business outcomes. It’s also necessary to keep records of hours worked for legal compliance. It’s less about tracking time for an individual employee and more about optimizing the workplace as a whole.

    A good employee time sheet management system does more than just record time. It also helps keep track of billable activities, your project schedule, and general productivity. A digital system with online time sheets, plus the right features, can be a huge convenience that automates multiple manual processes.

    Why Time Sheets Matter

    Reason 1: Time sheets track project costs

    Business owners and project managers need to keep track of how much they’re spending on each project. This helps them ensure that they’re seeing a return on investment (ROI). It also helps them fairly invoice clients, distribute workloads, and assign subtasks.

    Reason 2: Time sheets help payroll

    The fun part about time sheets is how they turn into money. Your company’s accountant will use time sheets to figure out how much to pay each employee.

    Of course, paper time sheets are less user-friendly and almost always will require a little guesswork from the employees filling them out. You can combat this by using time tracking software that easily integrates with payroll platforms — more on this later.

    Reason 3: Time sheets help measure performance

    Does your employee want a raise? His or her time sheet offers an objective measurement of workplace performance. That’s because high-performing employees are significantly more productive than their low-performing counterparts — as much as 800% more productive, according to recent research.

    Of course, when deciding whether to give a pay raise you’ll want to take into account factors other than hours worked. That said, time sheets can still be helpful when looking at the big picture of worker performance.

    Reason 4: Time sheets create accurate billing

    Depending on where you work, time sheets may be used to create client invoices. In this scenario, it’s especially useful when time sheets are used in conjunction with project planning software. For example, the ability to break down costs based on specific projects or even tasks within that project can let clients know where their budget is going.

    Reason 5: Time sheets save money

    Because time sheets are so useful for budgeting, implementing time sheets can help save money over time. When collecting time sheets, you’ll see the big picture of how your workers spend their time. This will help them plan future projects and staff responsibilities in a way that maximizes profits.

    Reason 6: It’s required by law

    The U.S. Department of Labor Wages and Fair Labor Standards Act legally requires employers to keep certain records. That includes daily hours worked, total hours worked per workweek, pay rates, and total wages paid. Time sheets are one way to maintain records in order to be compliant with the law.

    Common Time Sheet Challenges

    Like anything else in business, there are pros and cons to using time sheets. However, many of these challenges can be addressed by automating time sheets with software. Allow us to explain.

    Challenge 1: Time Sheet Management

    Manual time sheets are tedious. They’re tedious for the employees to fill out. They’re even more tedious when used for administrative work or as they're processed for payroll.

    In fact, it takes, on average, five minutes and 16 seconds to process a time sheet by hand. If you have a staff of 10 employees, it will take an hour just to calculate their hours worked. That time adds up for each pay period.

    Challenge 2: Human Error

    Think about the last time you sent an email. How much time did it take to push send? 20 minutes? An hour? When you’re filling out a time sheet by hand, you’ll end up doing a lot of estimation when it comes to time on task.

    For the person processing time sheets manually, the stakes are higher. A small mathematical error could result in under or overpaying an employee. If these errors aren’t caught before payroll is complete, it can be costly for the business — even causing legal repercussions..

    Challenge 3: Resource Forecasting

    Hoping to use time sheets to gauge productivity? With paper time sheets, you’ll have your work cut out for you. Keeping tabs on project completion (and the associated costs) is a lot to do by hand.

    Even if you have a small staff, generating reports requires a lot of mental work. Properly forecasting your resources will take some serious head-scratching. Basically, you’ll feel like you’re doing a never-ending load of homework for your high school statistics class — but with money on the line.

    Why Automated Time Sheets Rule

    Modern technology can automate employee time tracking, making it easier for employees to create time entries while also reducing the workload of administrators, supervisors, and managers.

    Online time sheet software easily addresses common challenges presented by paper time sheets, helping to keep your projects on track while also taking the guesswork out of tracking time for both you and your employees. This software transforms tedious time tracking processes, such as tallying a manual time sheet, completing time-consuming work for humans with the click of a button.

    Here are some common features to shop for when considering adding an online time sheet management system:

    • Cloud-Based Time Clocks. Your employees can clock in and out using a designated device. No more guessing their start and end times.
    • Job and Project Costing. This feature allows employees to clock in and out of specific tasks, making resource forecasting a cinch.
    • Payroll Integration. When your software can integrate with your payroll provider, you can process pay periods in just a few clicks.

    OnTheClock can do all three and for a fraction of the cost of our competitors. Plans start at $3.50 per user per month (with discounts for every 10 employees). Plus, you can try it risk-free and at no cost with our 30-day free trial — no credit card required.

OnTheClock Employee Time Tracking

Written by

OnTheClock Team

OnTheClock is the perfect app for business that want to keep track of their employees' time without spending hours doing it. With OnTheClock, you can forget about the old way of doing things.

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