Not just get things done, but find out what I did...
March 18, 2013 9:41 AM   Subscribe

In short: I need to track a couple of hundred tasks over 10-15 projects (in any of 7 areas) on the go at any one time. In a month, when I am asked, I currently have only a vague notion which project took up the most time. Currently using Things for Mac and iphone, but am open to moving if it is for a better solution (i integrated time tracking with no loss of functionality). Am ok with paying for it.

I use Things (Cultured Code) pretty heavily for my various work projects. Unfortunately, when I look back to see where all my time went, there is no information at all other than what tasks were completed on which day. I can't see if they took me thirty seconds or thirty days. How do I add that option? How do I track my time in Things or, alternatively, how do I replicate the ease of use of Things and track time too?See my previous comment here for some more information:

Things used to talk to Minco and it was actually good enough that I could have made it work. Unfortunately Things has now stopped exporting to reminders on the mac (only importing from) so this is not a viable work around as far as I can tell unless I do everything in Reminders (which sucks in comparison to Things). I don't really need it to sync with Calendars, but it'd be nice to be able to see what I was working on on a certain day. And how much of my day they took up. A spreadsheet result would also work. Or even some other reporting - I don't have preconceived ideas of what I want other than 'an easy way to report what I have been spending my time on').

So I want to track projects, project tasks, due dates and have a daily job list with visibility of when I need to do them. Things currently gives me this, with the mobile interaction (iphone app) that works for me so I can add jobs and tick them off as I am out and about. It's great. But I have no reporting after the fact and I need to add that.

I have used Timetracker (which is a teeny app and clunky and means double entering) but it's not working very well for me. I end up with knowing which projects my time is split between but tracking any finer than that is clunky and too time consuming. If that added time stamps/totals to Things, however, I'd be all over it like a rash.

Mac OS X Mountain Lion and iPhone 4S (if its relevant).

Help? Any super ideas out there?

Does Minco actually still work with Things (it doesn't look like it does)?

I'd even be ok with a non-real time tracking GTD app that I add chunks of time to somehow. LIke adding 5 minute blocks to projects so they just show a total of time spent (rather than clicking a timer on and off while working, which with my fragmented working style doesn't always work).
posted by Brockles to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I see two angles, maybe working together:

On the GTD side, which seems to be a lower priority - Omnifocus

On the time tracking and project management angle: Basecamp

I've never used things, so I'm not sure how these two tools compare. Time tracking in Omnifocus is possible but not a native thing last time I looked. It is in basecamp though.
posted by iamabot at 9:56 AM on March 18, 2013

Seconding Basecamp. It has a really simple interface, doesn't require much in the way of training, and setup is a breeze.
posted by xingcat at 10:09 AM on March 18, 2013

I use Vitamin R, which integrates with Things and tracks time slices. (It also tracks how focused you were during a time slice, which may or may not be useful to you.)
posted by dorque at 10:36 AM on March 18, 2013

In Things, could you just tag the tasks with durations? "15min", "30mon", etc?
posted by reddot at 5:02 AM on March 19, 2013

I would use Microsoft Project, it is really the standard for project management. That being said, it only runs on Windows - I haven't ever tried using Mac for project management. I used an i pad app to sync my time (work) on each task to the Microsoft project plan. This will give you the time on each task.

If this is something you are using for yourself only you can use one project plan and group the tasks for each project. If this is something you need to show a customer and you don't want to reveal the work that you are doing on other projects, then use a separate plan.

Also, don't use "duration" in MS Project use "work" to track your effort. Duration is the span of time from the start and completion of a task. Work is the amount of effort against the task. (example - 8 hours of work over a duration of 1 day). I know it seems picky but most PM software deals with those very differently.

As for the app I used with the iPad I don't remember which one I was using, some ass hat stole the ipad last fall. There are several out there, make sure they will sync with a local file and don't require project server.

Feel free to private message me if you want help getting this setup.
posted by empty vessel at 9:20 PM on April 8, 2013

I've used MS Project a long time ago and it was clunky then and I'm not prepared to be stuck on a windows machine (way too much of my daily organisation stuff wouldn't work on a windows machine) so that'd be a switch too far.

I'm trying out a different solution and it seems to be working. I realised after a while that tracking each individual task wasn't all that necessary. So I created a list that had just the key points (Project A driver A, project A driver B, project A general, Project A financial, then Project B General etc) so that I have a good level of granularity but not a massive long list of tasks to start and stop. This gave me enough information and also reduced the amount of time I spent stopping, starting and switching areas. I try and organise my list into chunks and click one area until I have done all of that and then move on to the next area. It seems to be working pretty well.

I tried Klok2 initially - not so impressed with the interface and it used its own calendar which was at first nice but I found was dumb after a while because I liked the view but wanted it on Calendar/ical. Also the fact I had to switch back and forth to the window to start and stop the timer was annoying when I have so much stuff open at any one time and it was a pain in the arse.

So I then created a new reminder list (because the interface is easier than Minco's for editing) called 'work' and have installed Minco, which gives me the nice taskbar start/stop option that Klok2 didn't and has a nice drop down that is easy and fast. Click icon, drop to project, double click to start/stop/switch. Easy. It makes a nice csv file of all the tasks and ports all the work to a separate Calendar (Called 'Work' in a fit of creative thinking) which sits in the same app (Calendar) as my normal work scheduling stuff and also shows me just how much of my work day I am wasting....

It works pretty well. Data Pilots in Neooffice use the csv to give me time sheets for each project and good overall tracking with zero input now I have them all set up and have them within templates for invoicing so now fully organised and formatted it is a couple of clicks to invoice each pay period to each company and gives them just enough reporting to keep them happy and not enough to overwhelm them nor encourage stupid questions about how long task 456 took.

In a perfect world, Minco would just time any task that was within a project in Things, but I think I have the best of both worlds as it sits at present. I'm pretty happy with what I have and the only thing that would be better is if I opened a task in Things while I was working on it (like the edit style 'open') and then have that time drag into whichever project the task was in or transferred to. Thats some pretty hardcore stuff, though, and possibly way too much information. Forcing myself to create only 4 areas per main project seems to be giving better results from the time keeping side and I just export my task list logbook (completed task) and print that out if I need back up for what I did during that time.

Thanks for all the input. While I didn't get my magic answer, the options here were helpful and allowed me to correct my thinking on it and produced a better solution than I had, which is as good as resolved as getting something new.

Oh, also, this cost me $15. Total. Basecamp is crazy money (where crazy = something more than a one off $15 payment).
posted by Brockles at 5:18 AM on April 9, 2013

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