Best ways for Accountants to Track Time

As an accountant in the workforce, you will likely be requested to track your time – either for billing purposes or measurement of performance and distribution of work.

If you don’t track your time accurately, it could lead to misunderstandings which could impact your career.  Perhaps you estimated that it only took you 4 hours to complete a task, since you didn’t have a time tracking system in place to measure exactly how long it took.  In reality, it took you 6.5 hours to do, but over the week you got caught up in various other tasks and forgot.  Because of this your boss will believe that perhaps this job isn’t very difficult, and expect you to do it in that amount of time the next time it is due.  The appearance of this is that you are slacking off the second time around when you report how long it really takes – 6.5 hours.  The same misunderstanding could happen the other way around too – if you say it takes 7 hours but really takes you 5, a client could become angry that you took too long to complete a job and think you are over-billing them to increase profitability.  This could result in the loss of a client and administrative punishment.

As we can see, there are dangers to not tracking your time properly as an accountant.  So how can we make sure that we are tracking it properly?  Several accountants in the field have informed me of the various ways in which they track their time but most use Microsoft Excel spreadsheets.  I’m sure this is not too surprising, as Excel is practically the industry standard spreadsheet program for accounting.  However, some people still track time with devices such as the old fashioned paper and pencil.

Some advantages Excel has over paper and pencil is that you can easily set up formulas to track trends.  You can see how much time over the past month you have been working on a certain project.  Also, Excel has a cell formatting option that allows you to display it as time so you don’t have to convert your time to fractions.  You can even use formulas with these.  For example, in cell one you can put your start time, in cell two your end time, and in cell three a formula to subtract cell one from cell two in order to see the amount of time spent.

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