String on the finger that reties itself every 15 minutes
January 25, 2012 12:56 PM   Subscribe

Time Tracking: So I have this new job where we have to keep track of what we are working on. I have never had to do this before. I want something that will popup every 15 minutes and allow me type a little description and have a timestamp. I'm on a Mac with Lion.

I've searched and searched here and on the google. I must not be searching the right things tho. I find it hard to believe this feature doesn't exist.

There was some AppleScript thing that came up but I am really unfamiliar with all of that and would rather just use something that already exists as a program.

I looked at Klok and Toggl but they don't seem to have the reminder/popup capability I'm looking for.

I know I could set a timer, but then that would be extra steps to reset timer, switch windows, etc. I'd rather it just pop up, I enter info, hit save and it goes away.

Later I could see an overview, export to csv if I wanted.

I'm not looking for RescueTime or similar because I need to be able to add descriptions not just know what I window was open or whatever.

Thanks for any help.
posted by sio42 to Work & Money (18 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
My time as a self-employed contractor was short, but I used Billings on my Mac when I had to keep track of time spent doing tasks. I was more concerned with total time spent on any given project, so I'm not sure if it fits your requirements exactly, but you may want to give it a look. There were lots of time-tracking related features that I never needed; somewhere in there may be the features that you want.
posted by strangecargo at 1:11 PM on January 25, 2012

You could create iCal events at 15 minute intervals and have them repeat daily. Then use Automator to create an iCal Alarm workflow—triggered by those calendar events—which would open up a new TextEdit file, continuous log of your activities or whatever you choose. If you don't set-up the iCal events to provide a reminder then you won't need to dismiss those windows. You'll just be presented with the document.

Automator seems daunting at first, but it's pretty fun to mess around with and fairly easy to figure out. It's now my first thought when I need a unique scheduled action on my work machine.
posted by popculture at 1:23 PM on January 25, 2012

i don't work the same hours everyday. is there a way in this Automator that i can turn it on when is start work?
posted by sio42 at 1:30 PM on January 25, 2012

Personal Task Manager is free, and does exactly this. Unfortunately, it's Windows software. If you can't find anything else, you could run it in a 'rootless' VM with VMWare Fusion and the pop-ups would appear on your OSX desktop.

I would look at Toggl's desktop app. Also, check out and MeFi's timetracking tag for more options, some of which are OSX based and have reminder prompts. That's how I found PTM.
posted by theclaw at 1:43 PM on January 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

i did look thru the time tracking and similar tags. they all seem to be for windows or don't have that feature. that's how i found klok and toggl.

but thanks tho.
posted by sio42 at 1:44 PM on January 25, 2012

Dayone on the app store is very cheap and can be set to prompt you to put in entries at configurable intervals. It has a nice accompanying iPhone app which syncs over Dropbox or iCloud.

I use it with LaunchBar to log my activities in a seamless manner (the AppleScript for this I put on the Objective Developments forum), though I know others have integrated it with quicksilver, Alfred at al.

It's a cheap and effective solution which doesn't get in the way and let's me log from anywhere.
posted by davemee at 3:45 PM on January 25, 2012

Apologies for let's and lack of links; iPhone knows better. Thinks it knows better, anyway.
posted by davemee at 3:47 PM on January 25, 2012

Good grief. Here's my third response. I have to clarify - I don't have any connections with either LaunchBar or Dayone, other than being a user of both, and finding great satisfaction in them.

Dayone seems to be ten of your US 'bucks' on the Mac App Store and the dinky but full-features iOS counterpart is only 2 on the iOS Store.

If you're looking to dweeb out for total automation, LaunchBar is the best €24 you'll spend on software (but not required for this process). The Dayone script I wrote is on the Objective Development Forum, and the alternative scripting solutions by Brett Terpstra is on his site, but requires some extra ruby voodoo.

Dayone also has a command line client, if you have no friends. But my process with LaunchBar and Dayone is to hit ctrl-space, type 'log', space, then whatever I'm doing. It gets thrown into Dayone and timestamped forever. Brett's solution adds in date modifications and flagging, which I don't need. But as I mentioned earlier - Dayone will harangue you regularly with a menubar item popping out and demanding you make a record, without needing any other software.
posted by davemee at 4:13 PM on January 25, 2012

I have a free Paymo account I've been really happy with. They have free time-tracking software for OSX called Paymo Plus that I finally installed and it seems pretty handy. I've been using the browser-based tool but this is much more sophisticated. It records how long you spend on each window (and each tab in Chrome) on every application you run.

For instance, so far, it seems I've spent 3m 22s on this page and 23s on the web page I linked above for Paymo Plus. You can then create projects/tasks and dump all of your work into a task bucket and it will total your time. Cool!

Update: I've now spent a total of 7m 2s on this page. :)
posted by funkiwan at 1:03 AM on January 26, 2012

You could install Notational Velocity and then create an app with Automator:
Launch Application (Notational Velocity).
Pause (15 minutes)
Loop (automatically) stop after 50,000.
Save the app and have it auto-run run by adding it to login items under users & groups in the system preferences. I'm not sure if it has the functionality you want, but it would pop up a prompt every 15 minutes and give you a pretty simple interface for note taking.
posted by jade east at 1:51 AM on January 26, 2012

Timeslice for Mac-
posted by ebesan at 5:53 AM on January 26, 2012

I'd really like to recommend the App Directory, but Gawker-site links don't work for me much of the time. (I suspect my work firewalls and their corporate-centralized CSS, etc. just don't get along.) Time-tracking is one of the Productivity categories they cover.
posted by phrits at 6:47 AM on January 26, 2012

I love Billings for when I do work when I have to bill by the hour. Plus I can see do i spend more time on coding, design, support, etc. It's fantastic.
posted by Brian Puccio at 6:48 AM on January 26, 2012

day one seems pretty neat. i'll have to check that out.

it looks my best bet is going to be to use the Automator with the iCal unless i buy day one.
none of the other things seems to have the popup thing like DayOne has.
posted by sio42 at 10:28 AM on January 26, 2012

TagTime: "We wanted something completely passive that doesn’t try to automatically infer what you’re doing. You might think “completely passive without automatic inference” is an oxymoron. But we hit on a solution: randomness. The idea is to randomly sample yourself. At unpredictable times, a box pops up and asks, what are you doing right at this moment? You answer with tags each time it pings you. At first this yields noisy estimates but they’re unbiased and over time plenty accurate. It’s just a matter of getting a big enough sample size — collecting enough pings, as we call them. It doesn’t work for fine-grained tracking but over the course of weeks, it gives you a good picture of where your time goes."

Alas, it's not really for public use at this point. "We’ve open sourced the code on github, and if you know how to clone a git repository you can figure it all out just fine, which is to say it is not exactly user friendly. If you’re interested in hearing about development, and being notified if/when it is ready for consumption by normal people, you can drop us a line. There’s also a barebones implementation available on the Android Market. The source code for that is included in the TagTime git repository."
posted by barnone at 1:00 PM on January 26, 2012

WhatchaDoing?: is a Free Time and Task Management tool that runs in the background and periodically prompts you to record your task activity with as little as one click, no need to constantly split attention to work and time tracking.
posted by barnone at 1:03 PM on January 26, 2012

i've recently gotten an ipad2 so if anyone comes back to look at this and has an ipad specific rec i'm still open to ideas.

i got the dayone ipad app, but the minimum timing frequency is daily.

thanks for all the replies tho. glad it's not just me looking for an answer.
posted by sio42 at 11:15 AM on February 8, 2012

just a follow up...i asked popculture about his method for using Automator since i couldn't figure it out. when he went to take some screenshots, he discovered that the newer version of iCal has a built in feature to open a file, run a script, etc as the alarm for an event.

i've just set it up and it works great. opens up my TextEdit file and i used Spark to make a timestamp keyboard shortcut. the longest part was setting up a bunch of events in iCal to repeat.

i'll probably work out something more elaborate later, but this is great for now.

posted by sio42 at 8:05 AM on February 23, 2012

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