I got a great tip about time-tracking the other day from Tricia ( @papercutny ), the UXer in the 2nd room, about time-tracking.
And now I do. I’m a convert! It’s only been two days, but here’s why it’s so great. I’m a freelancer and I need to track what it is I do and when I do it so I can bill my clients. OK, no surprises there. All freelancers use some kind of time-tracking, be it scratches on a wall, a spreadsheet, or many of the time tracking apps out there, like Harvest etc.
What I love about Toggl is that it works with me, it works the way I work. So many products seem to work against the grain and that’s usually why people just stop using them.
So what do I mean by that? Well, one very important feature of any critical tools that I use is that it should be cross-platform. I work on a Mac, I have an iPad and my phone is Android. So it should ideally work on all of these and work via the web in a browser. Toggl does. Tick.
Time-tracking Leads to Reporting
What this means is that when I start work on my laptop, I set the timer going using the application on my laptop. It actually reminds me between 8.30 and 6pm each workday to set a reminder. So I don’t need to remember a new habit. It tells me to start tracking my work. When I get up to go to the toilet, then have a coffee and end up speaking to someone in the kitchen for 20 minutes, I can quickly stop the time tracker from my phone, because the two are totally in sync. Very nice. Likewise, for a meeting, I can quickly pull out the phone and set a timer going and hit the stop button as I leave.
You don’t just time what you’re doing, you assign it to a project and a client. There’s enough detail in there that you can get an overview of what you do each day/week/month without it being overwhelming. I track things by Client > Project > Chunk of Work
When you need to dig deeper you can filter the reports.
After a few days of tracking, go back to the web version and play around with the reports. You quickly start to get some insights into your working time.
Toggl also lets you create workspaces, teams and differentiate between billable and non-billable hours ( upgrade ) but I’m not interested in that at the moment.
Tips for Using Toggl
So here are my tips from a couple of days using it.
- get the mobile app and the desktop app. It syncs well, take advantage of this.
- set realistic reminder boundaries. You’ll only respond well to the reminders to track your time if those are times when you are supposed to be working
- add yourself as a client. Whether you’re at an event, doing accounts, content marketing or advertising for new staff, track it. You need to know.
If you’re the kind of person who has to integrate all the things then Toggl can hook into Asana, BaseCamp, TeamWeek, Github and Freshbooks.
Bonus … and it’s free for what I need it to do. I’m not interested in it hooking up to invoicing, I just want to see how much time things really take and what I should be billing clients.
Here’s a quick tour of the website, but I highly recommend downloading the apps as well.