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What You Said: How You Track Your Time

Earlier this week we asked you to share your favorite time tracking tips, tricks, and tools. Now we’re back to highlight the techniques HTG readers use to keep tabs on their time.

While more than one of you expressed confusion over the idea of tracking how you spend all your time, many of you were more than happy to share the reasons for and the methods you use to stay on top of your time expenditures.

Scott uses a fluid and flexible project management tool:

I use kanbanflow.com, with two boards to manage task prioritisation and backlog. One board called ‘Current Work’ has three columns ‘Do Today’, ‘In Progress’ and ‘Done’. The other is called ‘Backlog’, which splits tasks into priority groups – ‘Distractions (NU+NI)’, ‘Goals (NU+I)’, ‘Interruptions (U+NI)’, ‘Interruptions (U+NI)’ and ‘Critical (U+I)’, where U is Urgent and I is Important (and N is Not). At the end of each day, I move things from my Backlog to my ‘Current Work’ board, with the idea to keep complete Goals before they become Critical. That way I can focus on ‘Current Work’ Do Today so I don’t feel overwhelmed and can plan my day. As priorities change or interruptions pop up, it’s just a matter of moving tasks between boards. I have both tabs open in my browser all day – this is probably good for knowledge workers strapped to their desk, not so good for those in meetings all day. In that case, go with the calendar on your phone.

While the above description might make it sound really technical, we took the cloud-based app for a spin and found the interface to be very flexible and easy to use.

Samon53 offered up detailed explanation of how they’ve combated their procrastination tendencies:

I have recently identified myself as a Chronic Procrastinator, from reading the book ‘The Procrastination Equation’(An extremely good book backed up by many scientific studies http://procrastinus.com/). After doing the short survey in the book I rated in the top 10% of procrastinators and on the website I scored a worrying 100/100. While I’d tried strategies to manage time in the past I’d not stuck to them or had found them ineffective.

Having actually realised the extent of the problem I have started drawing up more charts and timetables and making the activities in them extremely specific so as to really prompt you to get on with them. If you put just a generic activity like work you are never going actually react to a notification about it I go. Start off by assigning work periods for different tasks, breaks etc. then add in further details when you break off working for next time. Try actually specifying the exact task you are going to do.

I draw up charts for work to do lists and timetables for different time periods. One application I used was RescueTime which tracks all of your web use and categorises it. While useful for data it did not really help me in actually saving time, though it may be more effective for some and they do offer a pro service. I find it sometimes provides false reassurement as you tend to assign task that are still useful but not your main goal as productive.

I use Google Calendar with notification on both my phone and PC (Checker Plus for Chrome is extremely Good for this.

I have an extremely reliable watch with both analogue and digital displays with all the bells and whistles but for -when I got it at least- a very reasonable price £22.

I have set-up two computers next to each other one for work one for play the work one with multiple monitors (I’m thinking of trying RescueTime again and setting it up to only allow work). Context for Chrome is great for setting choosing just the applications that you need so as not be distracted by new emails feeds or add-ons etc.

I also multi-task a lot washing up or cleaning why not watch a TV program or radio that you were planning on watching show on-demand so as not to be distracted by watching it later when working. Try not to do thinking work (for me Games Design) and entertainment at the same time it just makes you less productive and more distracted.

I’m a heavy sleeper myself so have three different alarm clocks letup- a Teas-made, Dawn light, and maths puzzle. If you can limit your sleep to the minimum your body will allow without feeling tired you can save a lot of time. I have recently embarked on a new fitness regime to help reduce my sleep time.

Finally working as a group can really benefit some people I find myself a lot less distracted if everyone one around me is working. Procrastinators Anonymous is a good group for support which I’m just starting to use.

In conclusion there are loads of ways to improve your productivity even if like me you find procrastination the Bane of your life. I’m still only part way through The Procrastination Equation so still have not found all the ways that can help me improve, I have only recently started to really fight my procrastination (and am currently still unproductive) and expect to learn more ways to win, so watch this space.

Chester H was one of several readers who used Time Tracker:

I use a program called Time Tracker. This records all programs by actual time used. If I use Microsoft Word I can classify this as work Item with Time Tracker. Most Items come preclassified, however you can reclassify them yourself. You can also define your own categories. The program provides a pie chart for your time usage to the screen by percentage. You can export your results to a CSV file for later analysis. The program is still freeware. It supports Windows 98 to Windows 7.

For more time tracking tips and application suggestions, hit up the full comment thread here.

Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 10/19/12

Comments (8)

  1. spike

    Most of the comments there are referring to Time Management and Task Management (not Time Tracking). Tracking something and managing it are two different things.

  2. Graeme

    I use Klok (http://www.getklok.com/) for all my time tracking stuff. The free lite version is good enough for recording graphic design projects as I really just need something quick to record what projects I’m working on and for how long. I think you get more summary features with Pro, but honestly the free lite version is perfect.

  3. soL

    Are they really Spike? Thanks so much for explaining that to us. What would we do without your swift brain. And I always thought that tracking was, in some way, just one part of the managing process, silly me.

  4. your humble narrator

    I look at my watch.

  5. Chef_

    I was at the site, ready to take the survey, then I thought, Meh, I’ll do it later.

    No joke.

  6. Uncle Nutzi

    @ Samon53 ▬ my family & friends call me the ultimate procrastinator. But I keep telling them I’m not becoming a procrastinator until tomorrow.
    So even tho your program sounds good, I won’t have any use for it until after tomorrow.

  7. Chester H.

    The Time Tracker I mentioned is the incorrect link to page. That is my fault as I said “Time Tracker” and should have said “Free Time Tracker”. The site is called “kviptech”. Refer to this site.

  8. steambc

    @soL – Wow, the guy made an excellent differentiation that can be helpful to the reader. It may not be as obvious as you might think. No need to jump all over the guy like that. You must be having a BAD day.

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