The Value of Timesheets

By Jennifer Whitt

Timesheets can make or break a project. Several times I had a mysterious team member not submit timesheets regularly, totally ruining my budget at the end of the job. We suggest everyone associated with a project fill out timesheets, and to help with that, here are some best practices and tips.

What a Timesheet Is

A timesheet includes the project name, team member, task name or ID, date that the task was done, duration, start time, end time and the status. Any timesheet can be customized if you need to include additional information but at the very least, track the high level information.

A timesheet is a record of the amount of work or time spent on each task. Each task that is charged to the project and in your plan has time associated with it, and is what the budget is built on. As the team works through tasks, their time must be charged to the appropriate task in order to keep track of the budget properly.

Who Needs to Fill Out a Timesheet

Everyone needs to track and charge their time to tasks on the project. Time is tracked for multiple purposes, but it’s very critical to the organizations allocating funds that everyone’s time is budgeted and accounted for.

Why We Use Timesheets

The data being tracked by timesheets is used in several areas: for project costing/estimating future phases or projects; for the purpose of time management; and most importantly, for billing and payroll. Vendor partners and contractors track their time because that’s how they bill and get paid. Employees get paid based on tracking time to the project. If nothing else, timesheets are an incentive to all parties involved.

The Value of Timesheets

The value of buying into timesheets is three-fold:

  • Identifying problem task. Regularly tracking planned and actuals reveals where something goes off track, allowing you want to catch it as soon as possible. We recommend realtime tracking with an online tool.
  • Comparing planned versus actual. Tracking planned and actuals avoids the risk of getting to the end of the project and discovering that your variance is off. In most organizations, being under budget is just as bad as being over budget, and signifies a failed project.
  • Measuring project and employee performance. Timesheets allow you to see how employees, team members, contractors and vendors are doing relative to what was estimated. You might find that their performance was over or under estimated, or that someone is struggling, taking too long and needs training or support. You also don’t want to wait to the end to know how the project is performing.

Timesheets are best done realtime and online, but regardless, everyone on the project needs to track their time. These tips that have helped us, and I hope they help you too.

Jennifer Whitt, PMP is a speaker, trainer, Certified Performance Coach, author, and company president of She is a PMI-certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and knows how difficult it can be to make time for classroom or online learning so she has developed a new way for Project Managers to Earn n’ Learn while on the go. For more information, please visit

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