Master your time sheet skills

Posted in executive director / policy / staff team

Master your time sheet skills

Executive directors are never truly off the clock. Yes, we can take holidays. Yes, we can lean on our teams and hire admin support. But if a major system fails, it will be the executive director who will answer some serious questions about why it happened. So, we add a few minutes after work, a couple of early mornings during the week, and maybe an easy half hour on the weekend. The result is a bunch of extra hours that are messy to record and hard to reference when wanting to take time off in lieu.

Work the hours AND take the time off.

I don’t know a non-profit executive director that will sit idly by during an emergency, when a vendor calls in the evening, or when a member of the team needs to talk after work. It is our job to keep all systems humming along.

Those extra hours DO add up, and we want to be able to take some time off here and there to create a nice balance of work/personal time. So, we start recording all the little extras, and maybe get frustrated because the time sheet becomes rather long. Or, we set some weird arbitrary limits, like not recording any work time less than 15 minutes, and then maybe become equally frustrated that we are donating hours.   

I have a 4-step approach that I use for my time sheet, so I can record all the miscellaneous work hours and take that time off as I need it. 

Record it all.

Step #1. I record ALL my hours. If I’m at my desk 2 hours early, then take an hour off mid-morning, I record it. If I have an important report that I want to work on in the quiet evening hours, and then start a little later the next day, I record it. If I work through lunch, I record it. If I need to work on an issue with a vendor that only has time to talk to me in the evening, I record it. You get the idea.

Recording all the details means you don’t have to rely on memory if questioned about your work and non-work hours, months later. (..and the questions always seem to come months later.)

Summarize the official time sheet but detail the personal.

Step #2. In my non-profit, we use spreadsheets for our time sheets. What I record on the official time sheet is a summarized version of my day. I record my start and end hours, along with the topics of what I worked on. Then personally, if I used 30 minutes for my lunch hour, 12 minutes to make a call, and 8 minutes to reply to a personal email, I don’t note the individual start and end times of each item. I record a total, and deduct it, e.g., -50 minutes, from the total hours of the day. I let the spreadsheet formulas handle the math.

Keeping the official time sheet summarized and uncluttered is a more professional way to record the information.

I DO record many tiny details on my own personal unofficial time sheet. I do this in 2 ways. Either right on the spreadsheet, but outside of print range, so it isn’t viewable and isn’t official, or manually as notes in my day planner.

Keeping full personal details in a place that can be quickly accessed on short notice, is a strong back-up if anyone ever questions the validity of the hours recorded, or why I took a day off.

Allow for recalibration right up until the end of the operating year.

Step #3. Some months it is difficult to know if I should be taking time off to use up banked time, or let it carry forward while I use up my vacation time. What seems like a good plan one month might not make sense, or fit policy, several months later. So, I allow for recalibration of any time sheet right up until the end of the operating year. It is, admittedly, a lot of extra paperwork if I make adjustments from months prior, but having the ability to be flexible in meeting my hours is one of the perks a non-profit can provide to its employees.

Share all these tips with the team.

Step #4. I share my approach with everyone on my team and encourage them to use these processes for their own time sheets. Having everyone use this recording system helps to ensure no one feels someone else is getting special treatment. I record the details in an operational policy and then allow employees to create their own flexibility within those parameters.

We all have different needs.

Many non-profits have operational systems that simply don’t require fixed start and end work times. When rigid work hours are forced, the organization will have an unhappy team and a high turnover of employees.

Instead of treating everyone as having the same needs, embrace the differences. Employee happiness increases when a single parent can expect to pick up their kids from school every day, the fitness enthusiast can plan in an extra day away each month for their competitions, or someone who struggles with mental health can take a break during the day to re-set. That flexibility will benefit the non-profit when there comes a time for the team to work overtime.

Your turn.

Your turn. What do your time sheets look like? Do you follow strict start/end times? Are you expected to work extra hours but can’t use the time when you need it? I want to know! Please use the form on the side of the page to let me know, ..or send me an email, ..or message me on socials.


>>>Note: Want to read more about why I believe time sheets are essential, even for salaried employees? Read my post on Is a Time Sheet Needed for a Salaried Employee.

Hi, I'm Christie. I help executive directors develop the systems and processes needed to run a non-profit.

I learned early in my career, there is no non-profit school. Browsing the internet for resources from big-city experts doesn’t provide practical solutions to balance the budget, write a work plan, or conduct an employee evaluation. Leadership development tips don’t really resonate when you are also taking out the recycling and cleaning the washroom.

I created so non-profit leaders never need to wonder how to do the job – no matter how big or small that job is.

I have been the executive director of small-team, small-budget, non-profits for 20+ years. My experience isn’t theory. It is the real, operational, and practical solutions I use every day.

I love my work and I want to help you love yours too.

© Christie Saas 2024 All Rights Reserved

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