You’ve spent all day working hard on a project.
You took a short break for lunch and paused in the afternoon for an important phone call. Maybe you had a meeting with a potential new client as well.
Now it’s finally time to stop work for the day, but you realize you’re not exactly sure when you started or how long those “breaks” were…
“How many hours did I work?” you wonder, a bit panicked, as you try to figure out how you’re going to bill your client.
Does this scene feel familiar? I know it does for me.
Whether you work for yourself or you have to track hours for a company, it can get confusing when you have to calculate hours worked per day.
Luckily, there are a variety of online tools you can use, such as a free time card calculator, to ensure you get paid for every minute of your day.
In this post, I’ll walk you through the easiest ways to track your hours (with or without a free time calculator).
I’ll also explain why it’s so important to accurately track your hours and I’ll even throw in some bonus tips for better time management.
Ready? Let’s get started!
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How to Calculate Hours Per Week
There are a number of different ways to track your time as a freelancer or an employee for your company.
For simplicity’s sake, let’s focus on the most popular method using your start time and end time.
This time tracking method allows you to calculate hours worked per day, which you can then add up to calculate hours per week.
Let’s consider how to do this step-by-step.
Step 1: Determine Your Start Time and End Time
The first step is to record the exact time you begin working, as well as the exact time you “clock out” for the day.
You can do this manually, use a timer feature on your phone, or input it into a software solution.
For this example, let’s say that you began work at 8:30 am and you ended your day at 5:45 pm.
Step 2: Convert These Hours to Military Time
Depending on where you’re at in the world, you may or may not use a 24-hour clock.
In the US and Canada, for example, it’s much more common to use the am/pm time format.
This is fine to use in your everyday life (especially if you’re already used to it).
But when it comes to tracking hours, the math can become a complicated mess.
To make things easiest for yourself, record your start and end times using a 24-hour military clock.
It’s easier than it might seem at first.
Any time before noon (12 pm) remains the same.
After 1 pm, simply add 12 hours to the time.
Returning to our example, 8:30 am remains 8:30. But when you convert 5:45 pm to military time, you add 5+12 to get 17:45.
Start time = 08:30
End time = 17:45
Step 3: Subtract Your Start Time From Your End Time
You’ll be glad you took the time to convert your working hours into 24-hour format when you see how easy the next step is.
Simply subtract the start time from the end time to see how many hours and minutes you worked.
17:45 – 8:30 = 9:15
Counting backwards from 17:45 (or 5:45 pm) to 8:30 am, you worked 9 hours and 15 minutes. Easy!
Step 4: Subtract Any Unpaid Breaks
This next step will vary depending on whether you’re working for yourself or an employer and how strict you need to be with reporting your hours.
Do you need to actually clock in and out of time-tracking software or an app?
Can you simply record that you took a one-hour lunch break?
Or do you need to document that you took your break from 1 pm and 2 pm?
For the sake of this example, we’ll keep things simple.
Let’s say you took an hour-long break from lunch between 1 pm and 2 pm.
9:15 – 1 = 8:15
After subtracting your unpaid lunch break, your total workday amounts to 8 hours and 15 minutes.
Be sure to check with your employer (if you’re employed) or the local regulations where you live to see if there are any other work-related laws you need to know about.
Step 5: Convert Your Time to Decimal Format
Our math class is going great so far, but there’s still a bit more you need to do to answer the question, “How many hours did I work?”
To accurately tally up the hours you worked each day (and calculate hours per week), your final step is to convert your time into decimal format.
Don’t worry — it’s not as hard as it sounds!
To get the decimal value of the minutes you worked, simply divide those minutes by 60. Here’s what that looks like in fifteen-minute intervals.
- 15 minutes / 60 = 0.25
- 30 minutes / 60 = 0.5
- 45 minutes / 60 = 0.75
Going back to our example, 8 hours and 15 minutes of work are equal to 8.25 hours in decimal format.
(If you had worked 8 hours and 30 minutes, the decimal format would be 8.5 hours. 8 hours and 45 minutes would be 8.75 hours.)
Step 6: Add Up Your Hours for the Pay Period
The hard part’s over — now it’s time to figure out how much money you’ve earned!
Once you’ve calculated your hours worked per day, all that’s left to do is add up each day’s hours for the current pay period.
Depending on where you work or how you bill your clients, you might submit your hours for the week, bi-weekly, or monthly.
Let’s say you’re submitting hours for a standard Monday-Friday work week.
You’ve used the method above to calculate hours worked per day:
- Monday: 8.25 hours
- Tuesday: 9 hours
- Wednesday: 8.75 hours
- Thursday: 8.5 hours
- Friday: 7.5 hours
When you add these together, you come to 42 hours for the week.
If you’re an hourly employee or you charge clients an hourly rate, you can calculate your earnings for the week by multiplying your hours worked by your hourly wages/rate.
For example, if you make $20/hour, then you earned $840 (excluding any overtime pay) in a 42-hour work week.
Where to Find a Free Hour Calculator Online
Don’t worry if you’re not a math wizard.
While it’s helpful to know how to manually track your work hours, there are plenty of online resources you can use that will crunch the numbers for you.
Here are some good websites that offer free hour calculators:
If you need something with more bells and whistles than a basic calculator, you might consider using a time-tracking app, software, or browser extension such as:
Some of these programs have basic editions that are free, or you can upgrade to a premium version with extra features.
It all depends on what you need — for example, if you’re a solopreneur or if you manage a team of employees.
Why Is It So Important to Accurately Track Time?
If you’re new to freelancing or a job that requires you to track your own hours, you might wonder:
What’s the big deal? Can’t I just be on the honour system?
To be fair, it is quick and easy to come up with a rough estimate of your hours worked and send in an invoice.
However, this lackadaisical approach comes with some potential problems too:
- You’re relying on your own perception and memory, which may or may not be accurate
- You won’t have anything to give your client or boss if they ask for a specific breakdown of your hours worked
- You won’t have any idea of how much time or effort team members devoted to a group project or assignment
- You could lose money if your employees aren’t honest about the number of hours they actually worked
With so many tools available, there’s really no excuse not to calculate and track the exact hours you or your team work each week.
For one thing, tracking time helps you to stay focused.
Did you know that multitasking decreases your efficiency by as much as 40%?
When you’re consciously tracking your time, you’re less likely to multitask and more apt to focus on one project or task at a time.
Another major benefit of tracking your hours is to protect yourself from burnout.
It’s only natural to devote a lot of time to a project, especially if it’s something you’re excited about!
But regularly putting in overtime, working late, getting up early, and failing to factor in any downtime is a sure recipe for burnout.
In fact, 50% of employees and 53% of managers admit that they feel burned out at work — even in hybrid or work-from-home environments.
Tracking your hours won’t magically prevent burnout, but it will give you an accurate picture of how much you’re working.
Logging your hours makes you more vigilant about how you’re spending your time and (hopefully) will motivate you to take better care of yourself.
A third reason why it’s so important to calculate hours is that it ensures a fair work environment for everyone.
If you’re billing a client, you don’t want to overestimate your hours and ask for money you didn’t earn.
At the same time, you wouldn’t want to underestimate your hours and receive less pay than you’re entitled to.
Bonus: 3 Tips for Better Time Management
How can you maximize your work hours so you can enjoy a better work-life balance?
Let’s wrap up our discussion with three proven tips to help you improve your time management skills.
1. Plan Ahead
Before you officially clock out for the evening, take 10 to 15 minutes to prepare for the next work day.
This might include:
- Organizing the items on your desk and around your workspace
- Creating a list of the most important tasks you need to accomplish tomorrow
- Clearing out any clutter or trash that built up during the workday
- Preparing your coffeemaker, breakfast, and/or lunch for the next day
By getting these trivial matters out of the way at the end of the day, you can start being productive as soon as you sit at your desk the next morning.
2. Create a Time Audit
You might get into the habit of tracking your work hours, but what about the rest of your daily activities?
Could you be losing (or wasting) a lot of time without realising it?
For example, how much time do you spend checking your email, browsing social media, or watching YouTube videos?
How accurately do you estimate the amount of time it takes to complete a task, such as composing an email or making a phone call?
If it seems like you never have enough hours in the day, try a time-tracking app that monitors not only your hours worked but all of your other activities as well.
This could be a very eye-opening experience!
3. Try the Pomodoro Method
No, I’m not talking about making your own spaghetti sauce (although it’s okay if you want to do that too).
The Pomodoro Method is an easy time management hack that many professionals use to increase their productivity during the day.
The process is easy:
- Set a timer and work without stopping for 25 minutes
- Set another timer and give yourself a 5-minute break
- Work another 25 minutes, take a 5-minute break, and so on
After 4-6 Pomodoros, you can treat yourself to a longer 15-30 minute break.
This method helps you to stay focused and fresh (without getting bored) and it also helps to motivate workers that tend to procrastinate.
How Many Hours Did I Work? Now I Know!
Unless you’re an accountant or a math teacher, you probably don’t work with numbers on a daily basis.
You’d much rather focus on getting your work done — and doing a good job — than wonder, “How many hours did I work today?”
Luckily, it’s easier than ever to calculate your hours worked per day.
Use the tools and tips discussed above and you’ll be able to submit an accurate report of your working hours.
Getting paid for your work is just one step on the road to success. What else do you need to know to become wealthier, healthier, and wiser?
Keep browsing my site for more helpful tips, advice, and hacks!
This post about the cheapest ways to live is a good place to start.