By Alex Vorobieff
One of the barriers to getting good information is the time it takes to set up a system for tracking time easily — or capturing just enough information and then spending time on the back end putting it in a useful format.
The Day One diary app is an example of an app that allows you to quickly start tracking your time-spending habits without a lot of forethought. It is a classic diary/journal format. The app basically timestamps your entries and lets you enter information just like a journal. You or your assistant would have to go through the text entries and put the information into a format suitable to see trends. This app would be a good first step to start getting some basic information and shining a light on what projects or areas are sucking up your time. The Day One app costs $1.99.
Time Vault is an app that needs some work to be ready for use. It is not easy to set up, and a guide or video overview would be helpful. I asked the developer if one is available and have not heard back yet. This app costs $7.99.
Time Tag has some promise. Its visual display of where time is spent is ideal for visual people and helps you see where the day was spent. It requires some work to set up the formats and tags and it isn’t intuitive so it takes some time to figure out. The app’s architecture makes it essential that you track by the actual minute of the day, which is very difficult and makes catching up at the end of the day more painful. Time Tag costs $3.99.
Within 30 minutes of buying Time Tracker by Silverware for $2.99, I was done tracking my time with the method I had used every business day for the last two years. Time Tracker is a powerful app that makes tracking time easy. It is designed for people that sell their time by the hour — but aren’t we all selling our time by deciding how to spend our finite resource?
The program is easy to figure out (I don’t read manuals or directions so that is important to me). It allows for starting a timer when you start and then stopping the timer or putting in a manual end time. It also allows for just entering the amount of time worked and ignoring the specific time of day.
The app captures time by allowing you to create events (think of it as a one-page summary sheet of the event). After you have created an event you can duplicate it, which makes it easy and fast to record recurring entries.
The program has a number of items you can track for each event and you have the option of tracking as many or as few aspects for each event as you want. For each event, you may pick from different rate categories that you select and can add on the fly. You then are able to select from your pre-set list of items or add on-the-fly entries for projects, clients, tasks, and locations. The location feature will even pick up your current location through your Wi-Fi or GPS, or you can enter the location yourself.
In addition to tracking productive events, it also allows for easy entry of breaks or wasted time with the break button.
Outside of the event entry you have the ability to create multiple logs, which allows you separate groupings of events so you could track June 2011 in one log or personal 2011 time in another log.
Within a log, all your entries are listed and sorted by client — and you have the ability to filter the entries for different time periods. I did find one bug here. When you sort for today some entries from yesterday came up. I e-mailed the developer and they thought it was an issue with GMT time zone used for the filter versus the local time and they opened a ticket to investigate.
Once you have tracked some time it is simple to e-mail the information or export to Dropbox and the $0.99 additional add-on app is a bargain for this feature.
I found the CSV comma file export to be perfect to allow for analyzing how time was spent using an Excel pivot table. The ability to select which fields to export was perfect since it allows people to customize which fields are exported.
Time is a perishable commodity and if you are talented it is valuable. Time Tracker provides visibility about how you spend your time and it is easy to set up and track time while you focus on your primary role of creating value. When you can see where time is spent, your financial statements can reflect this spending and provide better information to make informed business decisions.
Alex Vorobieff provides fractional CFO services to companies that want to use their financial information to make informed business decisions. Check out his company’s website and his related blog.
Originally published: Aug 28, 2011