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How to Track Your Time in Harvest

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When you're busy working, you shouldn't have to worry about anything else other than the work at hand. You shouldn't need to be glancing at the clock, remembering when you started working, and mentally calculating your breaks. And then, when your job's finished, you shouldn't have to manually turn your time on the job into an invoice.

If you need to track time, create professional invoices, or keep a closer eye on your labor costs, you should check out Harvest. It's free to get started, scales up as your team and workload demands, runs on the web and in native apps for all of your devices, and makes turning time punches into customized invoices complete with online payment a piece of cake.

Sign up for a free account, then come back here and I'll take you through the most important parts of Harvest: setting up projects and tasks, using timers (and syncing them between your devices), and creating a quick invoice from your time sheets.

Setting Up Projects and Tasks

As soon as you finish signing up and setting your personal settings, you will be taken to the welcome screen. Here, there's quick links to all the important parts of Harvest, and once you've started using Harvest, you'll instead see a quick summary of your recent activity. Let's get your Harvest account setup to start tracking.

Harvest Welcome Screen
 

Start off by clicking the Create Projects link. Add a project name, code, invoice method, budget, and notes—or just the info you want, as the only required field is the project name. Then click Choose Tasks & People.

Adding a new project in Harvest
 

Select the Add a New Task option to start adding things to your project that you'll need to do. You will notice that two tasks have already been created for you: Admin and Project Management. If these tasks are appropriate for your needs, feel free to keep them. Otherwise, you can remove them and just add the stuff you actually need to do. Just type in your new tasks, check the box to indicate whether or not the task is billable and if it is, assign it an hourly rate.

Default tasks in Harvest
 

Once you’re done, you’ll be able to easily add tracked time to each of your tasks and projects from the Timesheets view. There, you’ll see everything you’ve already tracked, and can add new entries of already completed time or start a new timer that’ll track your time right there in your browser.

Adding new timesheet entries in Harvest

And that's it. Now, every time you've got a new project or task to take on, you can quickly add them to your Harvest account, and then start tracking the time you spend on them. You can easily turn this time into invoices later.

Using Timers and Auto-Sync

Now that you have a project and task set up, let's start a timer in the web browser. Click Timesheets on the top navigation bar. You'll notice that the page has defaulted to today's date, but you easily navigate to an alternate day using the calendar icon above the days list.

Starting a timer
 

Click the New Entry button. Choose the project and task most relevant to your current activity, add any optional notes, and click Start Timer. Your screen should look something like this:

Starting a timer continued
 

Now that you have a timer running, lets look at the auto-syncing Harvest brings to all of your devices. Download the Harvest app from the Mac App Store and launch it. Log in with your Harvest account, and you will see that the timer you just created on the web is running in perfect synchronization on your native Mac app.

Timers syncing from the web to the native application
 

Double click on the timer in the native application to edit it any way you see fit. Save it and return to Harvest in your browser. Refresh the page, and you'll see the changes you made on the native app appear online. Best of all, it works just as good with all of the Harvest Apps, so you can track time wherever you're working—with your iPhone or Android device, or inside popular web apps like Basecamp and Google Apps.

Editing the timer in the native application 
 
 
Notice that the note appears in the web browser
  

Invoicing From Your Timesheets

You most likely have heard the old adage, "Time is money". Well, my favorite part of Harvest is its ability to turn my time punches directly into money, with its simple invoicing tools.

To begin creating an invoice, you could just click on Invoices from the top navigation bar. But, before you go to much further, I would strongly recommend setting up some basic settings by clicking the Configure link in the sub-navigation bar. There are a ton of settings here that'll make sure your invoices are perfect for your business.

Creating invoices in Harvest
 

You'll want to adjust at least these key settings:

  • Company Info: Your invoice represents your brand. So make sure your company name, email and physical addresses are completely filled out.
  • Appearance: On the appearance tab, be sure to upload a logo, check the snail mail friendly option if needed, and click Save Appearance.
  • Online Payment: Easily set up your payment gateways (i.e PayPal, Stripe) to allow these invoices to be paid via credit card and more online.
Creating invoices in Harvest continued
 

Now that your settings are configured, let's generate your first invoice. Click on Overview from the Invoices sub-menu. Then click the Create Invoice button. The default answers for Client and Invoice Type are great as they are, so click Next Step. The default answers for Billable Hours, Invoice Type, and Expenses are perfect as well, so click Create Invoice.

Lastly, just fill in the Subject and click Save Invoice. Now you can send the invoice, print it, or save it as a PDF. And that's it—you've turned your time tracked in Harvest into an Invoice in only a few clicks, and it'll take even fewer next time.

The generated invoice
 

Conclusion

Hopefully, by now you are able to see the power of Harvest. With just a few small steps, you'll have control over your labor costs, time punches, and invoicing. And with a few extra apps or integrations with the web apps you already use, you'll be able to track your team's time spent on work without wasting anyone's time. It's a great tool, one you should be sure to try in your business if you haven't already.

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