Time tracking as you go
April 23, 2016 10:13 AM   Subscribe

What techniques and/or software do you use for tracking the time you work on projects as you go?

I've been playing with Harvest for tracking the time I'm spending on a consulting project*. There are some things I like about it, but (unless there's a feature I haven't found yet), it doesn't help me actually tally up the time spent. I have to manually take note of when I start and stop working on the project, and then enter the total into Harvest each day. I'm finding it really difficult to make that a habit. I feel like what I need is an app or website where I can just click a "start" button to say I'm starting working on "Category X" for "Client Y", and then a "stop" button when I'm done, and have it feed that into Harvest or something similar.

I've found tons of time tracking software, but it's hard to tell what actually works well. If you've used one for this kind of thing, what do you recommend?

* This project is not actually being billed hourly, but I based my price on how much time I thought it would take me, and I want to track it so I can adjust future bids...
posted by primethyme to Work & Money (19 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I use the free version of Toggl, which sounds exactly like what you want.

* Downloadable timer app
* Manual entry if you need it (if you forget the app or don't have access)
* Categorizes time tracked by client and project
* Automatically creates summary reports accessible on the website

The website splash page is a little annoying, but the interface isn't actually as bad as you might expect.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 10:22 AM on April 23, 2016 [7 favorites]

I've been trying to find a great solution to this problem for literally 18 years (where I have been billable in either 6- or 15-minute increments).

For several years, I was using David Seah's Emergent Task tools - sometimes the planner and sometimes the tracker, but those layouts don't necessarily give me much room for billing notes (which I have to be pretty detailed with on my timesheets), so I have a page I made myself with LucidChart that gives me a half-page printable for my planner (it's not pretty, but if you memail me I'll send it to you). For me, I need a pen-and-paper solution that sits next to my mousepad, where my hand has no excuse not to stop and track every 30-45 minutes.

If our work time entry system wasn't such a piece of crap that constantly times out, I might use a timer or dinger or something that would go off every 30 minutes, but I'm great at ignoring things that take any effort whatsoever.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:23 AM on April 23, 2016

I've used jiffy for years. It does exactly what you're looking for, with an easy start button and stop button by client and tallying the time.
posted by bibliotropic at 10:28 AM on April 23, 2016

I've used a tool called Klok which is pretty versatile.
posted by CollectiveMind at 10:40 AM on April 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the ideas so far. I just wanted to quickly follow up and note that I actually did find a way to do the "timer" in Harvest. It wasn't obvious to me that I could leave the time field blank and it would start a timer. Keep the ideas coming, though; this is very useful.
posted by primethyme at 11:01 AM on April 23, 2016

I use SlimTimer, a pretty aggressively simple/underdesigned web-based timer for all my freelance time tracking. I've never tried feeding the data to another app, but it has options for reports, exporting data, and an API.
posted by teditrix at 11:07 AM on April 23, 2016

I just moved into freelancing (multiple clients, multiple projects), and so far I'm finding Hours Tracker to do everything I want, which is everything you're asking about. It's an app for Android/iOS.
posted by Beardman at 11:18 AM on April 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

I've used slimtimer for years, until it started to give me 404 errors last year, and they were completely unresponsive (because the developers don't touch it anymore) and it took me a bit to get my data out.

Now I moved to toggl. which is alright. I'd prefer it if the first two fields were reversed, but other than that - it works well.
posted by Thisandthat at 11:27 AM on April 23, 2016

I use Hours Tracker too, when I need an app like this (which isn't every day). It seems stable and well-supported; I haven't had any issues in the several years I've had it on my phone.
posted by jon1270 at 11:36 AM on April 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I use the timer function in Harvest and love it. They have a desktop client that puts a little timer in my status/menu bar so I can control it from there without having to do the whole browser thing.

I'm on a Mac, but I imagine they'd have something similar for Windows.
posted by Mondegreen at 12:46 PM on April 23, 2016

I have used both Toggl and Rescue Time before, and liked them both.
posted by sparklemotion at 1:07 PM on April 23, 2016

I just use an excel spreadsheet with the buckets of where time could go, and periodically update through the day...kinda basic, but really works.
posted by chiefthe at 1:25 PM on April 23, 2016

I use Harvest, and just found the setting to track my start/stop time. Go to settings → Timesheet Timestamps → Track time via start and end time. Much better than manually tracking your hours.

I also recommend using the phone app/browser extension.
posted by hooray at 1:27 PM on April 23, 2016

You want FreshBooks!
posted by 6thsense at 3:13 PM on April 23, 2016

I use Hours Tracker on my iPhone for web design and I am really happy with it. I like having it on my phone because some of my billable hours are not when I am at the computer (taking photos, consulting with client, etc.)
posted by The Deej at 6:06 PM on April 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

OfficeTime is one of the rare pieces of software I've paid for that I consider well worth it: I'm a contractor and I'd say that using OfficeTime probably made me about 25% more than any other time tracker (I have used most of the others mentioned here but disliked all of them for various reasons.)

I like that OfficeTime makes it easy to create categories (for each client), to adjust rates for each category/project, to subtract time when I'm idle so there's no guesswork if I forget to stop a timer, and to create reports in many useful ways and to invoice painlessly. It's really powerful software and I wouldn't be able to focus 99% on billable hours and 1% of my time on paperwork without it.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 6:15 PM on April 23, 2016

I use Minco. Not sure what all your requirements are, but it works great for me. It's very simple and works with iCal.
posted by bongo_x at 9:04 PM on April 24, 2016

Best answer: Are you sure you're using Harvest correctly? There's a "Reports" tab that allows you to do all sorts tallying up and filtering. And what do you mean by "I have to manually take note of when I start and stop working on the project"? The "Timesheets" tab allows you to start and stop timers all day long. You can attribute your time spent to different projects and to various tasks within those projects. If you forget to track or make a mistake, you can manually change things, sure, but that's not the purpose of the module.

I recommend you explore Harvest's help pages or email support. They're generally pretty responsive.
posted by Leontine at 9:46 PM on April 24, 2016

Response by poster: Following up: Mondegreen and Leontine got it. As I mentioned upthread, somehow I had missed that Harvest supports timers. Once I figured that out, and combined it with the desktop app that Mondegreen clued me in to, things started working well. Thanks again for the suggestions, everyone.
posted by primethyme at 10:42 AM on April 27, 2016

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