Time tracking

I'm part-way through my 3rd week at LobsterPot Solutions and one of the things Rob asked me to do was keep track of my time, so that he can bill clients appropriately. That's how things work in the consulting business :-)

Some people do this with the old fashioned but very reliable paper and pen. I tried that myself for a bit, but found a) my handwriting isn't easy for even me to read and b) I wasn't that good at consistently writing down new tasks etc.

One interesting approach I have seen is to just block out time in your calendar (be it Outlook or Google). That works as a record, but it doesn't do the 'adding up' bit to give you the end of week totals etc.

Surely there must be a reasonable time tracking application that is free and does enough for me to record what I'm doing and give a reasonable I can forward to Rob? One criteria was that it should store data centrally. Being a consultant I could find myself working at a client's premises in town, at home, or even interstate – so a 'cloud' solution is appealing.

The first application I tried was Activity Tracker Plus. It is a Google gadget that you can add to your iGoogle page and cleverly stores data in a Google Docs spreadsheet. I used this for a week and a bit, but found the editing and reporting were a bit limited. Specifically there isn't a way to edit a previously saved time period, and it just gives you a weekly report but no totals broken down by activity. To top it off when I was trying to correct the time allocated to a task it was messing up the end-time component (a bug I presume).

Lifehacker reviewed Five Best Time-Tracking Applications late last year. Of those, two were web-based – RescueTime and SlimTimer.

I've seen RescueTime used by Ben and I think he found it useful. The free version does have limits though, including keeping only the last 3 months worth of data.

Because of that I thought I'd try SlimTimer. This is a simple web-based app that seems to have enough features to make it useable. I've only just started using it, so it will be interesting to see if it lives up to expectations. If not then I'll give RescueTime a go.

Written on March 10, 2010