One of my first jobs was as a real estate settlement coordinator, and I learned valuable lessons being thrown into the fiery brew of emotional sellers, unreliable home inspectors, and mortgage refinance. The habit that has stuck with me the longest, however, is logging how I spend my time each day at work.
In that first job, it was crucial to note my contacts, how much time was spent, and who promised to do what. On day one, my boss gave me a legal pad and told me to keep a running log of my day. She said, “trust me, you’ll be glad you did.”
The first time I got into a dispute about whether a certain termite report was supposed to be submitted, I was able to say, “on February 22nd at 10:30am, you committed to sending that report by today.” BOOM.
In a subsequent job, I worked on a government contract, where I had to designate (at an hourly level) which project I was working on. (Also on paper, pre-Internet.)
Whether you are trying to track your activities for accounting purposes or for productivity, it’s much easier now. (I still log my days in a Moleskine, though– old habits die hard.)
These five apps will help you track and manage your time much more efficiently than my old legal pad.
Tsheets is one of the most popular time tracking and scheduling apps, approaching its 11th birthday.
- TSheets is the only time tracking app embedded into QuickBooks Online
- See who’s working, their GPS location, and what they’re working on straight from your phone or computer
- Create, update, and dispatch employee schedules on the fly
- Turn a tablet into a mobile punch clock on any job site with TSheets Kiosk
In June 2008, Liz Strauss did a 4-part interview with Matt Rissell, CEO of TSheets, with lots of insights regarding time tracking.
Weekplan is currently beloved by more than 300,000 users. Its simple layout is based on time-tested management techniques. They include a free multi-step online course on time management.
- Uses a weekly grid based on importance and urgency to track time allotted to tasks.
- Balance your time with a role-based system.
- Pomodoro timer integrated to keep you focused.
- Syncs with Google Calendar and provides analytics (ultimate plan).
Toggl claims to “drive a stake in the heart of timesheets,” which sounds great to me! The whole point is to make it so easy that you don’t forget to use it, and Toggl succeeds.
- Useful for teams, with billable rates and time audit tools.
- Includes project management tools.
- Integrates with lots of other tools, including Asana, Freshbooks, and Basecamp.
- Track time automatically or manually, with tagging and projects.
I fell in love with Timely when I saw on their site that it was “meticulously designed by vikings from Oslo, Norway.” A productivity app with a sense of humor. Timely’s secret sauce is the gorgeous calendar-based interface, which makes it simple to just dive in and start tracking.
- Sync meetings and calendar events into the app.
- Set money or time-based project budgets and then track progress toward the goal.
- Understand how the time is being spent with tags and subtags.
- Integrate with other apps like Trello or email, and keep a detailed activity log.
The guys at Blue Cocoa (two teenagers) are going to have a hard time with their SEO strategy, but their Time app is really cool. It functions mostly as a to do list, but I include it here as a time tracker because that’s how I’ve been using it.
- Click any to do item to start a color-coded timer that changes as the time ticks down.
- Easily just drag to reorder, add/delete, or shift the timeframe for any task.
- If you take too long, it goes into “overtime” with a red timer, to push you to finish.
- Stats and insights into how you’ve spent your time.
- Powered by artificial intelligence, which learns your behavior and offers tailored suggestions to help.
What’s your favorite time management tool right now?
Author’s Bio: Rosemary O’Neill is an insightful spirit who works for Social Strata — makers of the Hoop.la community platform. Check out the Social Strata blog. You can find Rosemary on Google+ and on Twitter as @rhogroupee