Excel Time Tracking: How to Do It, and Its Shortcomings

If the first tool that comes to your mind for time-tracking purposes is the almighty Excel, you might want to ponder on that for another moment.

We get it, it’s no wonder MS Excel is your go-to choice, as you’ve probably been exposed to it for countless functions already. And it’s been effective, we’re not debating its benefits or functionality.

But rather challenging you to see that Excel time tracking can take your business/processes only to a point, whereas an application designed specifically for this purpose, frees up time for decision-making and helps scale faster.

Looking for an automated and effective time tracking alternative to Excel?

Still, in this article, you will find a step-by-step guide on tracking time in Excel and its downsides, a free Excel timesheet template created by us, and an automated time-tracking tool loved by 10,000 teams: Timeular.

Time tracking in a spreadsheet

Regardless of the purpose of time tracking in Excel, you’d first need to understand the process and learn how to create templates. Here’s a step-by-step process of how it is typically done:

1. Create a time tracking template 

  • Open a new Excel spreadsheet & start labeling columns; 
  • Label with Date, Employee Name, Project/Client Name, Task Description, Start Time, End Time, Total Hours, and any other relevant details (like Billable or Non-Billable hours)

2. Set up data validation

  • Use Excel’s data validation feature to create dropdown lists for common entries, such as project names or tasks, to ensure consistency.
  • Apply data validation rules to prevent incorrect data entry (e.g., the end time cannot be earlier than the start time).

3. Incorporate formulas

  • Insert formulas to calculate total hours worked. This can be done by subtracting the Start Time from the End Time.
  • If the template tracks billable hours, include a formula to multiply the hours by the hourly rate.

4. Distribute the template

  • Share your time-tracking template with your team. This can be done via email, a shared network drive, or cloud storage platforms like OneDrive or SharePoint.

5. Track time daily or weekly

  • Ideally, the team fills in their time entries daily or weekly, inputting the necessary information in the respective columns.

Read also: How to measure team productivity.

6. Compile the data: 

  • At regular intervals (weekly, bi-weekly, monthly), collect the filled templates from all employees.
  • Compile the data into a master sheet for overall analysis and record-keeping.

7. Analyze the data and create reports:

  • Use Excel’s features such as PivotTables, charts, and filters to analyze the compiled data for insights into workload distribution, project costs, or productivity.
  • Generate reports as needed for better management, billing, payroll purposes, or process optimization.

8. Regular updates and maintenance

  • Regularly update the template to add new projects or tasks and remove completed ones.
  • Modify the template as necessary to adapt to changes in workflow or reporting requirements.

9. Review and validation

  • Periodically review the time entries for accuracy and completeness.
  • Follow up with team members for any discrepancies or missing entries.

Read also: Ways for keeping track of employee hours

Using Excel pre-defined templates

If you’re looking for a simpler way of tracking time in Excel, to speed up your process, you can use one of the time tracking templates we created for you:

Time tracking template to track employee hour

6 Excel’s time-tracking limitations

As presented above, the steps to create your time tracking sheet in Excel involve a lot of time, firstly to create the system, and then maintaining it, while keeping everyone accountable for filling it in. While Excel can be versatile, it is prone to human error and requires significant manual effort, particularly for larger teams. Even if you use a predefined template, you’ll stumble upon challenges such as:

  1. Lack of scalability – as your business or team expands, you may find that Excel is outgrown too, and most probably will struggle to keep up. Once you get past several employees or a volume of data, it gets difficult to make sense of it;
  2. Error-prone due to manual input – manual data entry from many stakeholders using it, comes with a likelihood of errors. Inputting hours, client or project names can lead to inaccurate time records;
  3. Limited reporting capabilities – Excel lacks sophisticated reporting capabilities, and makes it difficult to gain insights into productivity or efficiency at a glance;
  4. Lack of automation – Excel lacks features such as automatic stop-start timers, or tracking work for its users in the background automatically, while they perform their tasks.
  5. No real-time data – As Excel isn’t inherently a collaboration tool, timesheets are filled in and collected from teams at specific times, which does not offer a bird eye view of the current state of a project or task. 
  6. Security and data integrity: The Excel files can be prone to corruption, loss, or even unauthorized access. 

Timeular: Effortless time-tracking alternative to Excel

Timeular is a versatile time-recording app that offers users flexible ways of tracking and managing their time.

From tracking time physically, to manually and automatically, Timeular makes it easy to stay on top of your projects and improve your productivity.

But what exactly makes Timeular the best alternative to time-tracking in a spreadsheet?

Track time in your preferred way

Choose the time tracking method that suits you best – automated time tracking, using a physical time Tracker or keyboard shortcuts – you’re able to use all this array with Timeular.

This way you’re able to speed up your tracking process, while actually enjoying it, and on top, benefit of a clean, calendar-like interface.

  • Note: In the above image, you’re seeing how automatic time tracking works in Timeular – it essentially captures all the activities you and your team performed. So that no time goes untracked!

Physical time tracker

The task timer cube transforms your time-tracking experience into an intuitive and interactive experience. All you’ll need to do is to rotate the tracker to switch between tasks, while the physical rotation will be immediately reflected on your time tracking software.

As the physical rotation mimics the workflow, it can be mastered in no time, so that you and your team cultivate a consistent and accurate time-tracking routine.

Note: Using the Tracker is not mandatory to use the Timeular app successfully.

Build a time tracking habit with a physical time tracking device

Track time seamlessly, using Timeular which works with or without the physical Tracker

Done for you reports and insights

In contrast to Excel, Timeular provides detailed reports and insights into how time is spent across different activities. This removes any manual interference, or handling Pivot tables, which can be cumbersome.

The data is generated visually, it’s intuitive to run through it, and empowers teams and managers to make quick, informed decisions to optimize workflows or enhance productivity.

Real-time data from your team

While in Excel you’d have to share a template with your team, remind them to fill it in, and wait for it to be completed even for weeks, in Timeular, you’re able to see the progress on a project in 24 hours, as a manager.

The entire team has their account, and through the employee timesheet software, their timesheets are completed as they perform their tasks.

This way, you’ll benefit from real-time data, you’ll save time and have the capacity to be proactive in preventing efficiency issues or roadblocks.

Find out more about the productivity time tracker.

Tracking billable hours

Unlike Excel, Timeular works as a billable hour tracker too, to ensure that you bill clients accurately, as well as fair compensation for every hour of work for the team. This way, you won’t need a formula to calculate hours worked.

Having the option to capture both billable and non-billable hours can help you re-think your pricing and increase your business profitability.

Manage work hours, time off and overtime

Timeular works as an employee hours tracker, and automatically logs those additional hours for your project or team, based on its overtime tracker. The system calculates automatically both overtime and shortfall hours, as per the pre-set regular hours and recorded leaves.

You’re also allowed to monitor and handle all types of leaves, with Timeular’s leave tracking system.


Timeular effortlessly integrates with the most popular tools from project management to collaboration platforms, and your go-to calendars.

These integrations allow all your time logs to be captured and synced automatically in the tools you utilize.



If this article made you contemplate at the omnipresent Excel templates, and you’ve come to the conclusion that they’re not satisfying your time-tracking needs, as they’re manually intensive, prone to human error, and time-consuming, the best alternative is to use a comprehensive time-tracking solution, such as Timeular.

Timeular is a multifaceted time-tracking platform, allowing you to track time both automatically and manually, generate visual reports without manual interference, have access to real-time data, and track billable or non-billable hours.

Such a tool will, in the end, empower you to improve productivity, track employee performance at a glance, and increase profitability, as it automates and speeds up your processes.

work hours tracker feature 1

Create a free Timeular account

Ditch chasing Excel timesheets and turn time tracking into a task so easy that your team will even enjoy it

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