Two powerful time tracking methods, one digital, one analog

Two powerful time tracking methods, one digital, one analog

Eric Gregorich

I have experimented with many time-tracking applications over the years. I've used applications that provide a timer that you start and stop, such as Toggl, Time Doctor, and Harvest, to applications that automatically track what your working on, like Rescue Time and Timely. They all have their perks. Some require a subscription, which is not ideal for my use case.

I've narrowed it down to my two favorite solutions, one digital and the other analog. I'm currently using the analog approach I describe below.

My favorite digital time tracking application

ManicTime is an application that tracks your time through the use of tags. If you prefer the traditional stopwatch approach, you have the options to start, pause, and stop your time. It even has a built-in Pomodoro option.

What makes ManicTime unique is how it tracks what you're doing on your machine, allowing you to see what you were working on at any given time. Combined with the ability to create AutoTags, you can essentially automate your timesheet. Since ManicTime data only lives on your device, you're not sending your data to any cloud service. Nobody but you can see this information.

ManicTimes' AutoTags feature works by assigning a particular document, web page, application, or anything else your tracking, to a specific tag (or tags). Therefore, any time you spend on these things will automatically appear in your timesheet under the appropriate project.

A ManicTime license is currently $67, which includes one year of upgrades. After one year, you have the option to pay for discounted upgrades.

My favorite analog time tracking method

Tracking your time on paper is a straightforward solution. I enjoy tracking my days' tasks, schedule, and time on paper because it gives me moments to disconnect from the computer. I don't need to fumble around with any other applications.

It's free!

I use this method when I need to track my time for work. I add my schedule for the day and prefix my meetings with a circle. As the day goes on, I fill the gaps with the projects I worked on. When a block is complete, I'll mark the total time spent during that block next to it. When I'm completing my timesheet, I scan the schedule for each day and sum the time for each project. Its fast and flexible.

An example of what my time tracking looks like on my reMarkable 2 tablet

Okay, I'm technically not using paper. I'm using my reMarkable tablet, but the approach is the same.

I started this approach after trying Cal Newport's Time-Block Planner. I enjoyed his method, but over time I realized that just tracking is enough. I don't need to plan my day on paper since the tasks I work on are laid out on my Kanban board. By the way, don't purchase the original version of Cal's Time-Block planner without watching this review first. The quality of this planner is not good. Wait for the next version.

Conclusion

These are just two methods that have both worked well for me over the years. I'm not a fan of starting and stopping timers. I also don't want to spend time messing around with applications. It needs to be simple.

How do you track your time?


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