How to get started with Time Tracking - Guest Post by Mariah of Bloom Hustle Grow

If you consistently find yourself at the end of the week asking, “where did the time go and what do I have to show for it?” then you need time tracking in your life. Time tracking can be a great way to start working on your time management and get a solid understanding of how and at what tasks you are spending your time on.

 
 

 

It is important to track all your working hours to get the full picture. This means even if you are taking a break, you should make a note of it. If you struggle with balancing your work/life activities or if your work day is very intermingled with personal activities tracking your whole day may help you more easily identify periods of time where you can work uninterrupted or find areas you may need to ask for extra support around.

Step 1: determine if you will track set work hours vs. all hours

Step 2: figure out how you will track your time. Like all tools I recommend, the best tool is the tool you will use. There are advantages and disadvantages to the different methods.

 

No Tech

Pen & Paper Method (journaling, notebook, print out)

How-To:

You record your time and what you are doing for any given time frame. This can be done with a journal and you record in a more diary fashion, you can jot down time and tasks on a piece of paper, or you could use a print out with times and blocks to fill in tasks.

Advantages:

  • It’s straightforward and flexible.
  • It allows you more space to document things like feelings and energy levels.
  • It requires you to be part of the process.

Disadvantages:

  • You can’t easily get a big picture of your day to day.
  • It’s hard to categorize and calculate time spent on certain tasks.
  • You have to remember to do it and it takes time to document.
  • You are less likely to document distractions or “wasted time.”

 

Low Tech

A Spreadsheet

How-To:

Set up a spreadsheet using Excel or similar program, use time blocks and then record your task in each block of time. To make it easier to compile, I recommend having a column to categorize tasks (like social media, client work, administrative) and then have a column if you want to add in more details.

Advantages:

  • It’s straightforward and flexible.
  • It allows you more space to document things like feelings and energy levels.
  • It requires you to be part of the process.
  • It allows for data to be compiled and grouped.

Disadvantages:

  • You have to remember to do it.
  • You are less likely to document distractions or “wasted time.”
  • It takes time to open the file and document your tasks.
  • Analysis is limited to how you set up your spreadsheet.


High Tech

An app or software

This is my personal preferred method because you are less likely to “cheat” and it requires less effort on your part. But again, it’s better to have some data than no data at all when it comes to tracking your time, so it’s what you are willing to use.

The major advantages or disadvantages of going this route:

Advantages:

  • It’s the most automated, and less invasive way to track your time.
  • If you use a program that tracks your online usage, you don’t really have the “cheat” factor of under-estimating time spent scrolling Facebook or when you are multitasking YouTube and sort of writing. :)
  • Most programs are designed to allow you to analyze your day and gives you compiled data.

Disadvantages:

  • You usually have to remember to record time away from the computer and what you were doing.
  • You are less involved in the process so for some programs it’s easy to set and forget, and never really look at the reports.
  • Some programs require you remember to start and stop the timer.
  • Different programs offer different features, and some are not free.
  • You have to do at least a little set-up.


 

There are a lot of time trackers available, below are just a few suggestions. Time tracking apps come in many shapes and forms, from mobile apps, online programs, to web browser extensions, to programs you download onto your computer.

 

>> Hours :

Started as an IOS app but has added the additional feature to access online now. It’s $7.99/month for the Pro Plan which is required to access the online features.

This program runs basically like a stop watch where you set up tasks and start and stop your time for that particular task. Very simple and easy to set-up.


 

>> Rescue Time :

RescueTime is a program you download to your computer, which monitors all your online activity. It’s pretty awesome for getting the full picture of where you are spending your digital time; you can even download an app to your phone to monitor mobile activities too (ummm...Instagram anyone). Another nice feature is that it allows you categorize websites into custom categories, so while Facebook might be as default an entertainment category you can make your own category of social media to track work related to social media.

There is a paid and free version. The paid is $9/month and allows you to manually enter personal time (i.e., time away from the computer) plus a few other features.


 

>> Toggl

There is a free version and a few paid plans with different features offered. Toggl is a web-based program that includes apps and browser extensions to help keep track of your time across devices. Toggl is more project based/client oriented and a bit more user-friendly compared to RescueTime. It has more features than Hours, but still, works a bit with the stopwatch mentality. It’s also highly integrative with many other programs to make billing and tracking projects a breeze.



 

>> Daily Time App

Is a Mac Only App that is $6.99 (for the program). It’s a mix between Toggl and RescueTime. But it's easier to customize than RescueTime when assigning time to projects or categories, and it tracks you closer than Toggl, prompting you to check in and assign your tasks to categories.


 

A few other popular ones include PayDirt and Harvest, however, unless you are looking to track time to use to bill clients, they are a bit much to use just to track time for productivity.

 

You can also always consider using a mix of an app and also jotting down what you have been doing away from the computer. Using a program is going to allow you to see better what categories you are spending your time in and give you a little more data without a lot of effort from you.

 

If you are overwhelmed by picking a program then just make it easy on yourself, grab a piece of paper and start just being more aware of how you are using your time. The simple act of being conscious of it will help you identify areas of distraction and what areas you seem to be spending the majority of your day on. It’s all about becoming very aware of where you are spending your time.

Have you ever tracked your time before?

What was your experience?

Comment below.

 

This is a guest posting from Mariah @ Bloom Hustle Grow on Time Management.


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