Tracking what you do with your time can help your productivity. Seeing the data right there on your computer screen helps, because it’s undeniable. If it shows that you spent 41% of your time on facebook that week, you can’t say, “I don’t spend much time on social media.” Um, yes, you do. It’s right there. Having the data doesn’t mean you’ll make changes, of course, but it’s hard to make changes without it. There are different kinds of tracking programs. This post is about two of them. Perhaps one or both will help you.
I started using Rescue Time in 2010. It works in the background, automatically tracking all computer activity (and the paid version allows you to track offline activities, too, by entering them manually). I loved Rescue Time from the first day I used it, because it confronted my brain once a week (and any time I checked it in between the reports it sent me) with my productivity score and everything I did on my computer. My first week, my productivity score was 44%. After I adjusted the settings, ranking activities and programs more accurately (email might be productive for some people and very distracting for others, and Rescue Time allows users to rank different things as productive or distracting for them), my score jumped to 56%, which Rescue Time said was average for most users.
Average wasn’t good enough for me. I wanted (and still want) to be far more productive than the average person, so that score served as a challenge for me. My score is usually 75% and I’m pleased with that. I’d give Rescue Time an A grade, until just recently, when it stopped working right for me. It’s possible there’s some problem with my computer, or my account, and if so, that would not affect other users.
For some reason Rescue Time started dropping several days each week from my log, and I need that data. I do David Allen’s weekly review, and my Rescue Time report is a large part of that. Support at Rescue Time wasn’t any help, though they tried to be. I had heard about Toggl before, so when I was talking to someone at Firepole Marketing recently and she suggested I try Toggl, I decided to use it.
Toggl is not the same as Rescue Time at all. The user has to manually click every time when beginning and ending a task, unless that user has a Mac (I don’t). Toggl doesn’t run in the background, so if I don’t select a task, it’s not recording anything. I don’t remember to start recording most of the times that I begin a task. That would be a new habit I would have to get into.
Toggl allows users to edit the times, which is good. If I want to keep track of how much time I spent on something, I have to go back and try to figure it out, which takes . . . time. It took me over an hour to go back and edit entries all throughout the week last week, when I used it.
Toggl would work very well for someone who is not an ADHD-type of person. It would be great for someone who has the presence of mind to turn it on every time and to click it when toggling between tasks. Unfortunately, that is very much “not me.” Remembering to do something that’s needed for developing a new habit isn’t the easiest thing for me.
I’d give it a D grade for my needs. It’s better than nothing, and it’s helped me know that I spent far more time on one project than I had expected to, but it’s nowhere near what I need in a time-tracking or productivity-enhancing program. I need something that operates in the background, automatically, at all hours, because I don’t remember to do the tracking. That’s just one of the reasons I don’t charge by the hour, ever, because it wouldn’t be accurate no matter how hard I would try to make it so, and integrity is really important to me, so I charge by things I can measure accurately (by the word or by the project).
Toggl could be great for the typical person, though, and I’d recommend it to normal people.