Tracking Software to Optimize Your Productivity
As we discuss in our series on passive income, time is the most valuable resource you have . You can get more money, but you will never have more seconds to live than you do right now. Despite our slow and inevitable march to death, as a group, humans seem very willing to waste time, wasting it doing nothing on completely irrelevant tasks. This is never more true than when you have a deadline looming; As a writer, I know about this.
Time tracking apps are a great way to deal with the very human urge to procrastinate. If someone is going to spend an hour looking at photos of their ex on Facebook, they should be forced to admit that they do. You should also talk to them about that.
Time tracking apps serve other, more professional purposes. For freelancers these are a great way to track how long different parts of a project take, and therefore how much you should charge your clients. For freelancers (solo entrepreneurs) and entrepreneurs, they can give them an insight into how long the different tasks they carry out take, and therefore calculate what you need to do to make a profit. For small businesses and teams, a time tracking app helps everyone identify where staff needs to be directed.
Let’s dig a little deeper.
The Advantages of Time Tracking Software
Tracking how you use your time, both work and personal, has a number of benefits. Let’s cover some of the most important ones.
Time tracking apps add accountability to how you or your team use time. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with browsing Reddit, it’s easy for anyone to get sucked in and spend a few hours on weird Subreddits. If you’re faced with a watch that tracks that activity, it at least makes you realize how much time you’ve spent on it. Similarly, it makes you realize how much time you actually spend working on different tasks. For some people this number will be low— “How come I only did the three hour job!? I was in the office for a long time!” — while for others it will be stupidly high— “My God, have I really not left my desk for twelve hours?”In whichever of the two limits you place yourself, at least it makes you consider how you are using your time.
By making you think about how you use your time, time tracking apps can improve your productivity. I used one myself and found that I always wanted to beat the productivity score from the day before. I wasn’t always successful, but knowing that there was a little app in the background that was recording what I was doing made me at least try. Every time I checked Facebook I would stop and think about how it was going to affect my day’s work.
If you charge by the hour, time tracking software makes it much easier to get paid. Instead of trying to write up a rough estimate of how long things are going to take in advance, or checking your diary and doing it after the job is done, with a time tracking app you know exactly how long each part took. This means you can quickly collect from customers what they owe you; many time tracking apps include a way to create invoices for this reason.
Time tracking software also offers you a measure of protection from anyone who disagrees with your billing. If a client has issues with what you’re charging, you have a way to show exactly how time was spent on their project. Although it is not a magical shield, it will be very useful to protect you if there is a dispute.
What Makes a Good Time Tracking App?
First of all, time tracking software should offer a way to track time. How you do this is not so important. Sometimes trackers are apps that run in the background logging every app that appears on your screen, and sometimes you have to manually start a clock when you start working and stop it when you’re done. As long as the way the app tracks time works for you, it’s a good time tracking app.
Time tracking software will also need some additional features depending on who it is geared towards. A personal productivity tracker needs to break down how you’re going to use your time and gives you an easy way to see if you’re using it well or wasting it. A great time tracking app for a freelancer should have a way to pass results into an account. Again, the specific extras that each app has doesn’t matter that much. What matters is that the tool you choose has the extras that are ideal for you.
Finally, a good time tracking app should be fast and easy to use. You’re not going to use an app that requires you to click through five submenus and enter a secret code to start tracking your time. It has to be good enough to fit seamlessly into your workflow.
Some Great Time Tracking Apps
RescueTime is one of the biggest names in time tracking. Although they have a version for organizations, RescueTime is even better for personal productivity. It tracks everything you do on your computer and automatically characterizes it as productive or not productive.
If you want a simple way to see what you’re spending your time on, check out their free plan. The premium, for $9 a month, gives you some extra features and a longer history report.
Toggl is a time tracking app for individuals and teams that is available on pretty much any platform you want to name. They have Web, macOS, Windows, Linux, iOS, and Android apps, as well as Chrome and Firefox plugins.
The free plan is great if you just want to track time, while plans starting at $9 a month give you access to reporting, insights, integrations, and other special features. It’s a great way to track your or your team’s productivity.
By integrating with your calendar, Timely displays your planned activity alongside your actual activity. It’s the best of both worlds and makes it easy to track how well you or your team are working to meet deadlines. Its live updates and reporting feature is also great for keeping customers up to date on how the project is progressing.
Unlike most of the options on this list, Timely doesn’t have a free plan. Instead there is a free trial period. Plans start at $7 per month for one person and $14 per month per user for teams.
TopTracker is the best option if you just need a simple way to prove to your clients how much time you are spending working on their projects. Although it also records how you spend your time, its best feature is that it can take and anonymize screenshots while you work. This means that you can send proof to your clients that when you say you spent ten hours working on something, you really did. Even better, it’s totally free.
Harvest is a great option if you’re a project manager who simply wants an attractive and easy way to keep an eye on how your team is working. It doesn’t do anything different or revolutionary, it’s just a reasonably priced computer time tracker.
Personal license users can track up to two projects for free; after that, it’s $12 per month per user for unlimited projects.
Paymo is a total project management app. It has tools to help you plan, schedule, invoice, and, of course, track time. If you’re looking for a single app to handle every facet of your team, Paymo is definitely worth a look. With a simple workflow that lets you plan, assign tasks, track what’s been done, and then get paid for the hours worked, it makes life so much easier.
There is a free trial period. Then plans start from $4.45 per month per user if you want the top professional level.
ClickTime is a time tracking app that is geared more towards managing projects. It has tools that let you see if your projects are over budget, how many of your employees’ hours are billable, and if you need to get extra help. Basically it helps the entire management team understand exactly what’s going on in the trenches.
Plans start at $10 per month per user, but it’s only on the $12 per month per user plan that you start to get the truly powerful features.
The biggest benefit of any tracking app is that it makes it easy for you to keep track of how you spend your time. As Peter Drucker says, “What gets measured gets managed.” All of the time tracking software on this list are fantastic for different needs. The best time tracking app is the one you’re actually going to use, so choose the one that works best for you and your team’s existing workflow.