Why I Track Time

Why I Track Time

(Justin DiRose) #1

Originally published at: https://productivityguild.com/2018/why-i-track-time/

There is only one subject in the productivity space I’ve seen to be so highly contentious and subjective: time tracking. If you’ve listened to Cortex (one of my favorite productivity/business podcasts), the topic has come up a number of times, with highly polarizing reactions from the audience. I get it, too. Time tracking can be…

November Pro Newsletter -- Prioritize Responsibly
(Michael Wilson) #2

Thank you for the post. A good read

(Wilson Ng) #3

Time tracking is indispensable when trying to prioritize. I’ve been doing something a little different with OmniFocus and Fantastical that I’m trying to prepare a Pro video for. I’m still in the midst of trying to figure out this experiment myself. I’m trying to poke holes at it and find the failure points. As someone who works for himself, I sure fall into the trap of just getting deep into a project and ignoring the others. Time limits mean nothing when I’m the one in charge. That’s especially true when it’s a passion project and I want to ignore all the other stuff such as admin work and the frog that I didn’t eat first thing in the morning.

This is another habit that I’ve been trying to tackle lately. I wonder if the Apple Watch with an iOS time tracking app would actually help me track time?

I’ve been using OfficeTime for my time tracking. I keep seeing the Timing app and Toggl come up a lot. I think MarketCircle Daylite has their Billings app but I’ve never tried it. The Sorted 3 app does look like an enticing app that will help me auto schedule my tasks. I see that Things 3 tries to do something similar with asection for Today, This Evening, Upcoming, and Anytime. I’m not exactly enthusiastic about OmniFocus 3’s Forecast but there is a Forecast tag to put tasks in the Forecast perspective. That’s another experiment for me to try one day.

Has anyone else found resistance with their time tracking? I’m curious.

(Beck Tench) #4


I really really resist time tracking. The only thing that’s ever worked for me was creating project sheets with pomodoro estimates for the time I need to spend on contracted work (I did this when I was self-employed). I would mark off the pomos as I completed them and could even try to “beat” my estimates to get a better hourly rate.

Currently, I time block my schedule each week on Sundays, but I’m not very disciplined about actually following through with what I’ve planned for myself. I am pretty disciplined, though, at going back and marking a check :heavy_check_mark:︎ for the things I did and deleting or moving forward the things I didn’t do. While writing this reply, I looked through at prior weeks and now think maybe it would be best to actually not delete them but mark with an x :heavy_multiplication_x:️ so I see what I’d intended to do as well…

(Jennifer) #5

I started tracking time to give clients better invoices.

I continued (and arguably got obsessive about) tracking time because it helped me be realistic about how long things really do take. These days, if I tell a client it will take me three hours to write a 2000 word article, I know that that is a reasonable estimate because of my time tracking.

(Jennifer) #6

I resisted it for years until I installed Timing on all of my computers (even my son’s Mac… heh). It does the tracking in the background, and I usually forget it’s there. Then I think “oh no! I have to invoice and I didn’t write down how long I was working on X for Y!” And I open up Timing and it’s all right there, usually already sorted and ready for me to export as a spreadsheet. And then I usually go back and sort the unsorted things and make a mental note of the days where I spent the entire day reading a website like Productivity Guild, rather than doing something that pays (and is thus a bit more productive…) :smiley:

I had a couple other tracking apps that would come in and nag “you’ve been slacking for 2 million hours this week” and those don’t motivate me, they annoy me. I’ve found that I will start playing solitaire immediately after reading a RescueTime nag letter. :rofl:

(Justin DiRose) #7

This is so good and so true. They only mean whatever weight you put on them.

I hear there’s a new iOS app coming down the pipe for Toggl that will make automating things a lot easier. I have no more info than that at this point.

I also use the Toggl workflow for Alfred quite a lot when doing my day to day work. Does a great job.

This seems to happen to everyone who time blocks. How does that quote go…

Planning is everything but plans are worthless.

Or something like that.

In my experience, you can only accurately forecast about the next 30 seconds of life at any one time (maybe a slight exaggeration there). Every time I try to time block in advance, there’s always a major change between planning and executing.

This is how I got into it, too.

I really value the ability to realistically look at how long things take. Do I regularly reference it? No, but when I’m faced with decisions, it totally helps.

I am not a fan of nagging apps either. They might work for some people, but I find them to be like the nagging mom always having to tell you what to do. If I can’t get myself to do something, I actually haven’t chosen to do it. I have other problems then that an app can’t solve.

(Wilson Ng) #8

It feels nearly impossible for me to plan more than one to two days in advance. I’ve gotten into the habit of choosing one Most Important Task (MIT) in the morning and one MIT in the afternoon. I’ll consider my day a success if I can get those two done. Then I’ll choose from my short hot list (Today perspective) of tasks to work on when I encounter some free time and no one needs my attention.

(David Sparks) #9

One thing about being a “firm” lawyer for so many years is that time tracking has been second nature for me. For me, the best part of time tracking is the data analysis. One recommendation I’d give is to not only look for time sinks but also look for how much time your actually spending on the projects most important to you. If you time track, you’ll probably be surprised how little time your priorities get if you’re note deliberate.

(Justin DiRose) #10

Really good advice here @Sparky. Awareness is half the battle, right?

(Francesco D'Alessio) #11

Started reading a few replies back from this and they’ve given me some nice ideas of applying this.

Time-tracking I’ve only ever done to audit myself every few months. Without a doubt, I’ll be back here to read your comments once I’ve found time-tracking to fit right into my toolkit.

The next thing I want to add to my workflow is habit-tracking. After reading Atomic Habits, I’ve been really into understanding how to track mine and endorsing good behaviours.

(Justin DiRose) #12

I’m really getting into this too. Have yet to read Atomic Habits, but it’s on my list!

(Wilson Ng) #13

It feels like this is the key ingredient. Add one piece of a workflow at a time is a better way of getting a habit or part of a productivity workflow to stick.

I remembered reading GTD the first few times and trying to get all the parts adopted at one time. A complete and utter failure. That’s like trying to trying to put up the walls and the roof while also laying the foundation to the house. The foundation hasn’t hardened yet and I added all the stuff on top while the foundation is still wet.

Would love to hear about your adventures!