Who Likes Timesheets? (Not You).

A few weeks ago we ran a little survey (as you may have noticed). This time around, we mostly did it with marketing in mind, but we did find a few things that we thought it’d be interesting to share with you as well.

Now the broad idea was to get a quantitative sense of how everybody’s doing with Toggl. Of course, we chat with you on Twitter a bit and we even fly out to meet you (starting with that very soon, by the way), but every now and then, you need to take a look at the bigger picture of who your users are, and where the mood stands.

Quite a lot of you took the time to answer our questions (14,363 Togglers to be exact), so thank you! We appreciate it, we really do.

But OK, back to that “interesting information” bit. Namely we found that:

Not everybody’s crazy about time tracking.


OK, I’m being a little provocative here as this conclusion is tentative at best.

But what the survey results did show, is that people who tracked time in teams and did so “under orders” were somewhat less likely to recommend Toggl to others. So it’s not so much that people don’t like it, but that it’s not something they tell their moms about either. Somewhat more of a chore then, and somewhat less of a cool thing to bring out at parties.

Also, I keep saying “somewhat”, because when you look at top and bottom promoters side by side…

top promotersbottom promoters

…then we see it’s not exactly a massive rift. But the bottom promoters do track more because of management – and because tracking is required of them. Keep in mind this is fresh, raw data, and a more comprehensive look into the results is still to come.

But still, the reason I picked out the correlation is not entirely random.

Namely, when we go out on our Toggl user meets, we do hear that people sometimes have – to varying degrees – trouble convincing their teams to adopt the time tracking habit. Even though the management people always has really good reasons and clear goals for using Toggl (a couple of awesome real-life examples can be found here and here).

The Shadow of Timesheets

Every now and then, we take a swing at branding Toggl as the anti-timesheet. But lets be honest, Toggl and timesheets play in the same ballpark – it’s just that Toggl is simpler, more flexible and less fascist.


The trouble with the classic timesheet concept, however, harks back to the ancient Fordist principle, that work must be measured in time. So as long as we punch in at 8 AM and punch out at 5 PM, the management is happy.

If you work on an assembly line, that principle probably still applies. As for the office crowd, we now obviously know that there are better ways to measure the quality of work – for example, by actually measuring the quality of your work.

Timesheets, however, have always been associated with the relatively inane concept of filling an office spot for a preset number of hours and worse yet – with the agonising one-on-one performance reviews should one fail to occupy a seat for long enough.

So really, a timesheet is two things – flawed in its concept and oppressive to the worker.

Trust before tracking

Yet, you can’t not track your time.

The reason the time tracking market has stayed competitive, is because ultimately we still need to understand where our time is going. As a species, we are terrible at guessing time, so unless you know where it’s going, you’re really taking wild guesses (and wild guesses aren’t great for business).

But you can’t track your staff’s time if you’re staff doesn’t know what it’s good for.

Last week I had a chat with one Toggl user (I’m looking forward to publishing the interview in the second half of this week) and the issue of scaling time tracking to bigger teams was something their team had experience with. I’m not going to cover the full interview right now, but we both agreed on one main point.

That main point is this – your team needs to know that you’re using time tracking to improve the organisation, not monitor the individual.

So it’s not about knowing if people are working – and they can always run a timer and sit on Facebook – but how they’re working. More over, it’s about the organization as a whole, and if the organisation can find new ways to manage itself better (starting with management, by the way).

“Your team needs to know that you’re using time tracking to improve the organisation, not monitor the individual.”


By the way – we tend to overestimate how much time we spend working. So even if your work week consists of 45 “working hours”, you’re really not spending all those hours on task and on point. Time slips away here and there.

Take meetings. They’re known time killers – but not because your team is terrible, but because people don’t necessarily think about the time they can steal. Which makes sense, because people probably have other stuff to think about.

So the trick really is to get them to think about time (but not the timesheets).


We’ll be digging into the survey results soon enough – in the mean time, here’s a quick overview of the talks we’ve had with other Togglers so far.

If you think you have something interesting to say about time tracking, shoot as an e-mail and we love sharing user stories with our readers!

By On August 4, 2015