I’ve said it a million times. I suck at tracking time! I have tried most every time tracker there is and written numerous posts about my struggle with time tracking. No matter what I try, I still resist starting a timer, forget to turn it off, or to assign it to the correct project.
I think subconsciously, I don’t start the timer because:
- I think I will only be doing something for a few minutes
- I multi-task, so jump between things every few minutes
- I don’t want to know how much time I am spending/wasting on something
- I am “playing” or learning and don’t think I will be billing or accountable for that time
Whatever the reason, not tracking time is an excuse to WASTE time.
I have recently been trying to lose a few pounds I gained over the summer. I spent a month doing the Total Wellness Challenge, where I was accountable to eat healthy foods and avoid processed and unhealthy foods. While I felt better, I didn’t lose weight doing this, and it was really frustrating. So, I started using the My Fitness Pal app to track everything I eat. I have been doing this for almost a week and am seeing results already. Tracking time to be more productive is like tracking food to lose weight. If you are keeping track of it, you are accountable for it, and as a result, you pay more attention to what you are doing/eating and more conscientious about how you are spending your time/calories.
And yet … I still suck at Time Tracking
I really do! I recently reviewed time spent within the excellent Toggl report. I was surprised to see a lot more hours than expected on a current project. When drilling down into the details, I discovered some errors in my timekeeping, for example:
If you look back on my previous productivity blog posts, you will see that I periodically commit to doing a better job at time tracking. I get bursts of motivation to use Toggl. BUT I still don’t do it all the time – not even close. So, I am (again) rediscovering RescueTime to make up for my lack of turning on the timer and to look at how I am spending my time.
I have written about this before: I use the paid version of RescueTime because it gives more detailed reports. I don’t use many of the other premium features.
At the end of the day, I take a look at RescueTime and can see at a glance how much time I spent on certain websites and applications. I spent some time categorizing websites and applications so they would fall in the right place within the tracking reports in RescueTime. This is so helpful to fill in gaps where I didn’t use the Toggl Timer, or forgot to turn it off.
Toggl also does some live tracking, but it only goes back a week, and doesn’t generate the same type of “at a glance” list that RescueTime displays. It is helpful to look at the Toggle Timeline, however, to see how pathetic my use of the timer can be. The colored bar below the line is my tracking, above the line is the Toggl tracker. When you hover over the tracker, a window pops up to show what you were actually doing during that time (clearly, not focused on working when Googling how many calories in kale and walnuts!)
Another feature of RescueTime that I have started using is the Alert function, and the ability to create a Zap with Zapier. I set up an alert so that when RescueTime tracks me spending 15 minutes on a Website Development category activity, it creates a time entry in Toggle that reminds me later to go check on RescueTime to see what I was doing, or to start my timer.
Toggl also has an autorecord feature. It does not work perfectly (I think perhaps I just don’t notice the reminder!), but you can set up some keywords that will trigger a Toggl pop up reminder. It doesn’t seem to automatically record/track time as the name suggests.
Time Tracking Habit, One Step At A Time
It is definitely not as efficient to back track and fill in time, but it is better than nothing, and in fact, it forces me to pay more attention to how I spend my time. Developing a habit of tracking is difficult to do, and I may never be good at it; however, using RescueTime as part of my daily review is not a bad habit as a supplement to running the timer.
Let me know if you have tips on developing a habit of running a timer, or what you think of RescueTime if you use it or give it a try!