019: Tracking Time for Work

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Time tracking grants some great benefits, but you have to know why you’re doing it. Justin discusses both the why and the how on this week’s episode.

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Time Tracking Basics with Toggl

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Transcript

00:00 Hello and welcome to Process. My name is Justin DiRose, community leader at the Productivity Guild and today we’re talking about tracking time. Well, this week on Monday we officially launched the new Bear Primer. It’s part of our Productivity Guild Pro membership and it’s really a look at some of the main features inside the wonderful note taking app of Bear. If you’ve been on the fence if Bear is the right fit for you or if some of the features are what you’re looking for inside of an application, check out our eight video primer looking at Bear. If you don’t have a Pro membership at this time, we do offer a free month trial for our listeners of this podcast. So go ahead and sign up at productivityguild.com/courses using the code PROCESS19.

00:47 On to today’s topic, which is tracking time specifically for work, but this can be utilized anywhere else in life. Time tracking is a subject that not everybody likes to get into. It gets a lot of um, negative and positive feedback from fans and critics. I’m personally a big fan of time tracking, though I don’t get as super deep into it as someone like CGP Grey on the Cortex podcast does. But if you’re a person who’s looked at time tracking in the past and isn’t doing it now, why would you get into it? Well, here’s a few reasons. First, I’m of the opinion that time tracking allows you to make better decisions. When you have data, you can see what’s really happening. So here, for example, instead of saying, oh well I think I worked for three hours on this youtube video that I put together, you can actually look back and say, oh, I actually only worked for 90 minutes on that, and my time tracking entries actually showed that I spent about an hour and a half additionally browsing around on Twitter.

01:51 That’s just one way that this data can help you. It can help you identify types of time sinks. So you know, okay, I need to put some guards in my time around that. Additionally, it helps you make better, bigger picture decisions. So if you have a particular project that’s not generating enough revenue, say if you’re self employed, but you’re sinking a lot of time into it, you can say, okay, it’s not worth it to pursue that anymore. The other major thing that I find helpful with time tracking is that if you set it up right, it can help you be more intentional with making choices with your time during the workday. So for example, if you’re sitting down to write an article for your blog, you can start a timer to say writing. So that way you have in your mind already said, okay, this time is allotted for writing.

02:37 Then there’s something I think that flips in your brain that allows you to kind of focus in on that task a little bit more with time tracking because you’re creating an outward action that says, this is what I’m doing during this time. But, granted this isn’t work for everybody. And so if you don’t have a clear idea of why you want to time track, time tracking isn’t going to work for you. That’s why I think it’s important to talk about why we track time. So if you want to make better decisions around your time or if you want to kind of give yourself a little bit of a framework to be more intentional with your time, time tracking may be a good option for you. In the past tracking time like this was kind of difficult, but now we have some services out there that make it a lot easier.

03:20 So one that I’ve used in the past that I’m not currently using, but it was really good to get a real sense of what I’m doing on the computer is to use an app like Timing. Timing is an app that runs in the background on your Mac and it takes picture and time every second of what you’re doing on the computer, whether that’s browsing around on the Internet, writing in Ulysses, recording something in Logic, working in Safari, you know, whether you’re, you know, and it’ll show you exactly where you’ve been on the Internet as well. And so you can kind of get a sense of exactly what you’re doing. It’s a great one to just leave in the background and then you can review it at a later time. Timing might be a good option for somebody who just wants to get a sense of where their time is going on the computer during the day.

04:04 The downside is Timing doesn’t really have a great option for tasks that are away from the computer though it can prompt you when you return. I personally found it to be a little clunky to try to manage tasks that way and found that it worked better to just let it run in the background and use it as an audit at a point in time in the future to see, okay, where’s my time going actually on the computer. The other way that I’ve found to track time that’s been incredibly helpful is using Toggl. Toggl is a web service that has a very robust API to connect to in order to be able to do stuff with it. So it just, Toggl is one of those applications that has done well as a web app. You log in and the browser and you can organize by projects, clients and tags, all your different time entries.

04:50 But the beauty of Toggl is that API and what that enables is a lot of third party developers to integrate with it. Two of my favorite Toggl integrations that make using it a lot easier are one, there is an integration with Alfred, the launch bar type app that allows you to just type in some quick keywords to start project timers. But my favorite new one is an iOS app called Timery. I had the opportunity to beta test Timery for the last few months and it is stellar. Let me explain how Timery works. So inside of Timery you have the ability to create templates and these templates can be triggered from within the app. So for example, I can create a template that says I’m working on writing an article for the Guild or I’m working on recording a podcast. Then when I start that activity, I can go into the application and simply tap on that template and it automatically starts a timer with the correct information prepopulated into Toggl.

05:49 The other beauty about this application is that it allows you to use a today screen widget to trigger these time entries. So all I to do on my phone is just swipe to the right from the lock screen, press the correct time entry that and want to start and I’m already off to the races. If you’re someone who wants to track a lot of different kinds of activities, this is the way to go. It’s super easy. You hardly even have to think about it and integrates with the best time tracking service there is out there, which is Toggl. The strength of Toggl is that it gives you fantastic reporting features so you can go back in and very granularly sift through the data and try to figure out where your time is going. So we’re, Timing really gives you a real time picture of what you’re doing on your computer, Toggl gives you the opportunity to get a picture of what you’re choosing to do with your time and where your projects are and such.

06:41 Those are two main types of tactical ways that you can handle time tracking. But there’s another third strategic piece that needs to happen for a time tracking to even matter. And that’s reviewing, just like with any productivity system such as Getting Things Done or Agile Results, the key to making it all work is the regular review. So with time tracking, whether you’re doing it through Timing or you’re doing it through Toggl, the key is to have a set schedule to go in and pull reports and review and make adjustments. So this can be on a monthly basis, a quarterly basis, an annual basis even just depending on what’s going on in your life so that you can go back and figure out, okay, what are the projects and things in my life that are sinking the most time?

07:28 If you’re self employed, another metric to compare this against is the actual hourly rate you’re making while you’re performing those tasks. Another thing that you can use this information for is to get a good picture of what your week looks like. That way you can start to block schedule things a little bit easier. And the other thing too is you can start to see, especially again if you’re self employed and you’re billing time to clients using this information, you can see your biggest clients and also try to double down in the areas that are generating the most revenue for you. Time tracking has the potential to be a beneficial tool for anybody who’s interested in using it. With Timing and with Timery with Toggl, there really isn’t as much of a barrier technologically to getting into using it as there was previously. Before there was a lot of friction that was involved with tracking time.

08:22 Now with these new tools and fancy web APIs that make things easy, time tracking is a lot easier to dive into as well. However, it’s important to remember to have a clear why when you’re getting into something as focused as time tracking because you have to be intentional with this for the data to even matter. If you have days, weeks, or months where there’s data missing over your time tracking, it’s not going to be as helpful for you as if you get a consistent amount of tracked time for the projects that you want to track it on.

08:52 That all being said in the past, we released a course on time tracking with Toggle under the Productivity Guild Pro membership, so if you have a Pro membership or you’re interested in signing up for one, feel free to check that out. It gives a nice overview of how to interact with Toggl and potentially structure your projects and tags and clients to get the most out of the service. And if you’re interested in processing through some of the ideas that we talked about on this episode, head on over to the Productivity Guild Community. There’s a link in the show notes to the topic for this episode and post there. Let us know what your thoughts are or what you’re working through. We’d be glad to help you out.

09:32 Well, that’s all for this time. If you want to join in on the discussion for this episode or if you want to connect with others who are in the process of becoming better on their productivity journey, head on over to the Productivity Guild at productivityguild.com. Or if you want to support this podcast and get access to video modules, productivity courses, and more consider signing up for a Pro membership at the Productivity Guild for just $10 a month. Get a free month trial using code PROCESS19 when signing up at productivityguild.com/courses. Lastly, if you like this show, rate us on iTunes or recommend us on Overcast. My name is Justin DiRose and join me next time on Process.