Help me log my work day...
November 24, 2008 4:26 PM   Subscribe

Can you help me log my work day?

I am suffering from very serious time management issues and want to try and log what I'm doing to keep track of my time.

Now i tried the quicklog script from Lifehacker for a while, but really I don't want to have to constantly call this thing up and log what I am doing. I've also tried the free software RescueTime software, but that really seems like overkill - I spend too long just unscrambling the huge amount of data it collects.

What I would like is some software that I could set up to pop up on my screen every hour and let me log what I have been doing that hour. That would serve to divide my day into hour long chunks for logging purposes AND more importantly remind me that I've been wasting my time for the last hour and get my ass in gear.

So, my question is, does this fantasy software exist, and if so where can I find it.

Thanks in advance
posted by inbetweener to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
You could call quicklog from a scheduled task in Windows, so it opens every hour (and probably steals your window focus)

quicklog could be edited to then tell you your last entry.
posted by mattdini at 4:36 PM on November 24, 2008

Low tech as it may seem, I currently use a spreadsheet that borrows very heavily from these Emergent Task Timing sheets. Coupled with an unobtrusive tray notification, the raw data gets recorded in manageable chunks for further manipulation.
posted by ktrey at 4:55 PM on November 24, 2008

Journallive is a great solution that will log it all automatically for you - it will also break down your hour by application. LifeHacker also did a post on it.
posted by clarkie666 at 5:03 PM on November 24, 2008

Personal Task Manager, a sourceforge project.

This thing is brilliant. Yeah, it's in dev, but a bunch of features have been added just while I've been using it.

Takes a while to load up, but - It sits in your taskbar, and at the interval you specify, it does a little 'ding' and asks you to specify what task you're working on, out of the hierarchical set of tasks you've entered.

But even better - if you want it logs for that interval what you're ACTUALLY spending time on.
Ie, what application you've had open, and in the most recent releases - randomly captures what the application title bar said during that interval.
So, right now it'd be capturing "Ask Metafilter - Internet Explorer" 10 mins, etc.

The best thing is, I often forget to log my tasks anyway, even though it's easy, but at the end of the day, I can see what files I was actually working on, and log it then - or, several weeks later (damn those monthly timesheets!)

It also shows you on a daily basis, the amount of time you've logged for each task so I can quickly copy that to my timesheet, and a calendar week view that looks like google calendar view, with blocks filled in with task labels (I have extra categories for surfing/lunch etc).

Saved my long-pork, many times over.
Yes I love it, yes I can think of a bunch more features that'd be helpful, no - I have absolutely no connection with the developer.

Cheers, glad I could help. ;P
posted by Elysum at 5:15 PM on November 24, 2008 [3 favorites]

Ah, so basically - kinda similar to rescuetime & journallive, but no sign up required, not a trial version, etc etc.
Just an opensource, straight download.
posted by Elysum at 5:19 PM on November 24, 2008

Inspired by the Emergent Task Timing sheets, Bubbletimer is a web-based version.
posted by seymour.skinner at 5:56 PM on November 24, 2008

My boss wants to micromanage the hell out of me. In order for me to keep track of when I come in, what I'm working, and what problems I'm trying to solve I use twitter. Yes, it sounds absolutely awful but it's fast and easy. I don't have time to fill out spreadsheets or install software on my computer. It defeats the whole purpose of time management. Better yet, it's FREE. Good enough reason.
posted by pixelnark at 6:28 PM on November 24, 2008

I've done several go-rounds of time tracking for various purposes. My very first was pretty low tech - I had a Timex DataLink that had five alarms. I used all five to remind me to write down what I'd done since the last logging. I carried a 3x5 notebook that I used for recording. I used that for my random micro managing boss that would call and say "Well, what have you accomplished today?" This was when I was an itinerant network troubleshooter/administrator.

I next worked at a consulting firm where we had to keep track of our billable hours (and dictate the damn things, which was another story) I set the watch to beep every hour and wrote it down in a slightly larger notebook.

When I got to my present job I had another micro manager, so I started printing out blank Outlook calendars, a day per sheet. Every hour or so I'd log what I'd done in about half hour chunks. Now I just use a text file to record the day as significant events.

What you might be interested in is not so much a logger, but an interrupter, and there's lots of RSI-prevention software that will do just that.

One thing to keep your "ass in gear" is a plan for the day or week. It can be a simple text file that you refer back to when you can't think of what you're supposed to be doing next.
posted by lysdexic at 7:14 PM on November 24, 2008

Slife automatically tracks what application you are using and what websites you have visited, and what documents you have viewed. It tracks how long you have spent in each application and at what time.

From the website: "Slife lets you specify time goals for your activities. If you would like to spend no more than 30 minutes browsing the web everyday, Slife can remind you when you've reached your goal and track your progress throughout the month."
posted by hooray at 10:35 PM on November 24, 2008

Seconding Slife, which is now available for both Mac and PC. I started using it after having very similar issues to yourself, and it's completely changed the way I approach my work. For instance, looking at the analysis, I've realised I'd be switching applications on average once every two or three minutes, sometimes only for a few seconds at a time. Since then, I'm far more likely to try and just keep one application open, and try to work in half hour bursts. Slowly but surely, I'm rebuilding my concentration span and sloughing off my really, really bad habits.

The best thing about it is the 'grouping' feature - it lets you group a particular set of documents or, for example, time wasting applications, together, so you can have a group per project you're working on, and a group that tracks your slacking time, and get information at whatever level you need.

The 'goals' feature is brilliant too, as above.

Free too. Highly recommended. Plus it doesn't let you 'cheat' yourself by going 'Uh, yeah, sure, I've worked on this document for 45 of the last 60 minutes - with Slife, you can see that in the last hour, you actually spent 22 minutes on that document, 15 minutes on email and 10 minutes on the web.

I'd tried RescueTime as well and found the way the data was presented overwhelming - Slife is way more user friendly and doesn't require sending your data to a web service.
posted by Happy Dave at 1:17 AM on November 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

I wrote a simple Task Capture script in authotkey that pops up at a specified interval and prompts me to enter what I've been doing. I enter text and it saves it to a text file. in 45 minutes it pops up again. If I hit escape or Cancel, it saves the titlebar of the active window to the text file with a notice that I canceled. I'd be happy to post it if you would like it.
posted by TuxHeDoh at 6:35 AM on November 25, 2008

This is easy, your not going to find ANYTHING better that TiddlyWiki....
posted by TeachTheDead at 8:20 AM on November 25, 2008

Thanks very much for all the suggestions - I have tried quite a few of them out.

Firstly, the simple idea of sticking the quicklogger script into task scheduler answered my immediate question - should really have occurred to me, but thanks mattdini for pointing it out!

Not really too taken with Slife after trying it for a few days. I didn't find it very intuitive and didn't really like the way it presented the data. Still I'm persevering with it, sometimes it takes me a while to realise the best way of taking advantage of something... Journallive seemed very similar to RescueTime which was already not doing it for me.

Bubbletimer and emergent task timing didn't really fit the bill.

The major discovery is PTM - I completely agree with Elysum, despite first appearances (it doesn't look very professional) this rather rickety looking piece of software is fantastic. It contains everything I need in terms of task tracking with great ease of use, lots of reminders and lots of easy ways to look at the data.

Really impressed. Can't wait to see how this thing evolves. I'd hope for them to allow you to export your data in CSV format as top of my wishlist.

In the meantime I'm leaving Slife and RescueTime running in the background and continuing to log my day with Quicklogger + Task scheduler (for journal purposes).

Thanks again to all.

PS @TeachTheDead, as a long time user (and lover) of TiddlyWiki as a note-taking app I have absolutely no idea what you were getting at and how TiddlyWiki could help with efficient time-trakcing. I'd be interested to hear in greater detail what you meant.
posted by inbetweener at 10:40 AM on November 27, 2008

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