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Why aren't tasks and time entries separate?
Why aren't tasks and time entries separate?
Most products have separate tasks and time entries. Why is this a bad practice?
John Margaglione avatar
Written by John Margaglione
Updated over a week ago

One of the more confusing aspects in Outlaw Practice is the integration of tasks and time entries into one concept. In most systems, you would create a task like "Draft Documents for Jones". When the time comes to work on that task, you would create a new time entry, enter a nearly duplicate title, associate the timer with a client and case, then hit start. When you finish, you click stop, then go to the task and click completed.

There are several issues with that method. The first is data duplication:

  1. For every task that turns into work (and what task doesn't?), you need to create a new time entry for it.

  2. The time entry's title is very likely going to be exactly the same as the task.

  3. The notes for the task are likely going to be part of the invoice notes for the time entry.

But there are bigger problems:

  1. There is no association between the task and the time entry, so you manually have to go mark the task as completed. This should be automatic, as marking the time entry completed means the task is completed.

  2. You lose the ability to predict how much work you will be doing on a case. With tasks, we have an estimated time, and association with a case. This enables us to look at the week or month ahead and predict how much work we will need to do for the client, and thus let the client know ahead of time what kind of bill they will be looking at.

  3. We lose the association between the predicted amount of time and the actual amount of time. If an employee consistently underestimates their time, we need to work with them on getting better at estimation (or perhaps work with them to be more productive/efficient).

By combining tasks and time entries, we make it easy for users to have one source of truth for their time. In Outlaw Practice, a task starts its life as a placeholder for work to be done, along with information on who the task is assigned to, what kind of work it is (client, administrative, etc), if the work will be billable, etc. By simply starting the timer in the task, it becomes a time entry used for invoicing. When the task is completed, we click one button and we are done. The time entry is ready for invoicing, and we have preserved all of the information about the life of the task, from conception through billing.

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