13 votes

Do you track your time?

Basically the title. Do you now, or have you ever tracked your time to try to measure where it all goes? I've been feeling a little unproductive lately, and have heard anecdotally that keeping a log of time spent can be useful for realigning your priorities. I'm checking out a bunch of different apps and services, but also just curious to know if anybody has had any joy with this sort of thing?

If you currently track your time, what do you use; are there things that you don't bother tracking; and do you feel like it's a useful tool?

If you have in the past but don't anymore, same questions, but also why did you stop?

11 comments

  1. [2]
    Comment deleted by author
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    1. bilbodwyer
      Link Parent
      I can see this line of thinking, but I don't think I agree. For some (myself included), the power of organisation and data is really useful. I live out of to-do lists and calendars, and it allows...

      The thinking on some level seems to be: if I'm productive and diligent with this app, it means I will be productive and diligent with the rest of my life.

      I can see this line of thinking, but I don't think I agree. For some (myself included), the power of organisation and data is really useful. I live out of to-do lists and calendars, and it allows me to offload significant parts of my meat brain onto my digital brains. I can in broad strokes see where my time is going already thanks to these tools, and they do make me (feel) productive. I'm more concerned with habit change, discipline, and an ability to see in raw numbers how much time goes into leisure vs. studying.

      Habit change in humans is difficult, and for example, I have lately gotten into a bad habit of veering off from studying at the drop of a hat, into a rabbit hole of (variously) life admin, band management, social media, or watching TV. I know I need to break this habit, and I have taken other steps towards regrowing my focus. But discipline is a muscle that needs building, and time-tracking feels like a good tool in my arsenal to do that. Trying it out today, I was less concerned with the minutiae of what I was doing and flipping a switch the moment I changed tasks. Instead, just the awareness that I have a timer going for my study time which I would need to stop if I was going to break off and scroll Twitter or whatever... well that kept me in check. And there was something quite satisfying about seeing a nice pie chart at the end of the day showing me the proportion of studying I had done vs. not.

      I certainly don't intend to track time down to the minutiae of how long I spend typing this reply, nor am I going to be logging how long we spend playing Pandemic, Skull, and Catan on board game nights. Again, broad strokes are good enough. It's enough to just have a clock that says "socialising," "university," or "music" without specifying exactly what and how much time has been spent and I feel like that's important to not get bogged done.

      1 vote
  2. [3]
    Omnicrola
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    I've had a number of jobs that have had me track time, sometimes down to the 15-minute increment level. So that was a pain, and largely turns me off of the whole idea of doing it for personal...

    I've had a number of jobs that have had me track time, sometimes down to the 15-minute increment level. So that was a pain, and largely turns me off of the whole idea of doing it for personal time.

    However.

    I have found great value (and sometimes joy) in tracking how much time a specific task takes. Specifically the easy but boring ones. So things that are super easy to procrastinate about such as : taking out the trash, putting away the dishes, folding laundry, vacuuming the floors, etc. The kind of tasks that occupy a disproportionate amount of perceived effort in my head. The things that feel like they take longer than they actually do. So timing how long it actually takes me to take out the trash (at a leisurely pace, speed is not the objective) allows me to tell myself later "stop putting that off, it will literally take you a minute to do that, and then it will stop bothering you that it's not done".

    4 votes
    1. Merry
      Link Parent
      I call this "microwave time". For example, I'm reheating my dinner from last night, I'm going to see how much cleaning I can do in two minutes. It can also be coffee-brewing time, water-boiling...

      So timing how long it actually takes me to take out the trash (at a leisurely pace, speed is not the objective) allows me to tell myself later "stop putting that off, it will literally take you a minute to do that, and then it will stop bothering you that it's not done".

      I call this "microwave time". For example, I'm reheating my dinner from last night, I'm going to see how much cleaning I can do in two minutes. It can also be coffee-brewing time, water-boiling time, etc. It is kind of a fun game to me!

      7 votes
    2. bilbodwyer
      Link Parent
      I used to do this when I was a kid! I would time how long it would take me to clean my room, because it was a useful reminder that it never took as long as I felt it would. I'm not planning to go...

      I used to do this when I was a kid! I would time how long it would take me to clean my room, because it was a useful reminder that it never took as long as I felt it would. I'm not planning to go into that much detail with my tracking, but I can definitely see value in it

      2 votes
  3. [2]
    DataWraith
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    I kind of have to track hours at work, but privately I've never really stuck to tracking my time beyond a couple of weeks. I started a new attempt yesterday though, so it's quite funny that the...

    I kind of have to track hours at work, but privately I've never really stuck to tracking my time beyond a couple of weeks. I started a new attempt yesterday though, so it's quite funny that the thread came up just in time, so to say.

    There's really only three options for time tracking:

    1. Manually clock in and out
    2. Run a completely automatic time tracker like arbtt
    3. Run a semi-automatic TagTime-style stochastic tracker

    Number 1 never worked for me outside of work because I would get distracted and forget to clock in or out.

    Number 2 kind of works, but you'll have to be able to deduce exactly what you are doing based on the windows that are open, which can be tricky. It's also a bit of a privacy liability because it tracks everything you do on the computer.

    Number 3 is what I'm currently using. The idea is that the program randomly pings you (with a pop-up on the computer or a notification on your phone), and you 'tag' what you're currently doing (e.g. "Youtube" or "Tildes"). Since the pings are in somewhat random intervals, you won't get minute-accurate reports, but it'll tell you, for example, how much time you tend to spend on YouTube in the long run.

    It does take a while until enough pings accumulate and you can start drawing conclusions, but for someone trying to improve productivity by seeing where the time-wasters are, I think this is certainly the easiest way to do it.

    3 votes
    1. bilbodwyer
      Link Parent
      I like the sound of this approach! I might give it a bash if it feels like Toggl is too much for my needs.

      Number 3 is what I'm currently using. The idea is that the program randomly pings you (with a pop-up on the computer or a notification on your phone), and you 'tag' what you're currently doing (e.g. "Youtube" or "Tildes"). Since the pings are in somewhat random intervals, you won't get minute-accurate reports, but it'll tell you, for example, how much time you tend to spend on YouTube in the long run.

      It does take a while until enough pings accumulate and you can start drawing conclusions, but for someone trying to improve productivity by seeing where the time-wasters are, I think this is certainly the easiest way to do it.

      I like the sound of this approach! I might give it a bash if it feels like Toggl is too much for my needs.

      1 vote
  4. [2]
    eladnarra
    Link
    I do, using toggl - partially for work hours/invoicing, and partially for health/energy pacing. I have various things that I know take a lot of mental energy (work, college, health appointments...

    I do, using toggl - partially for work hours/invoicing, and partially for health/energy pacing. I have various things that I know take a lot of mental energy (work, college, health appointments and dealing with the medical system), so I track those. I can tell if I'm doing more than usual (often precipitating a crash) or less than usual (a more subtle sign that I'm in the middle of a low energy period).

    Toggl also has a pomodoro feature which I use to try to enforce breaks, which is... Somewhat successful.

    3 votes
    1. bilbodwyer
      Link Parent
      Toggl is where I landed as well, their free tier looks completely suited to my needs. Depending how it goes I might downgrade to something even simpler, as they have a lot of power that I don't...

      Toggl is where I landed as well, their free tier looks completely suited to my needs. Depending how it goes I might downgrade to something even simpler, as they have a lot of power that I don't really need.

      Your approach seems similar to what I'm looking at: things which take concentration and mental energy.

      2 votes
  5. parsley
    Link
    I stopped tracking my time because my supposed lack-of-time issue was really a lack-of-energy issue, and living under a timer just made being tired more dreadful. What I do is set timers for stuff...

    I stopped tracking my time because my supposed lack-of-time issue was really a lack-of-energy issue, and living under a timer just made being tired more dreadful.

    What I do is set timers for stuff I want to do, usually gaming or reading, but also some tasks that I would consider work. My objective is not so much to track my time but to stop before I'm out of energy, and then consider if I want to do something else. Often times I just set another timer and continue with whatever I was doing, but being able to make the decision before I'm exhausted really helps.

    2 votes
  6. nacho
    Link
    I guess I sort of do this the other way around? There are a number of things, (working out, eating a warm dinner, reading news, etc.) I do every single day without exception. That way I ensure...

    I guess I sort of do this the other way around?

    There are a number of things, (working out, eating a warm dinner, reading news, etc.) I do every single day without exception.

    That way I ensure there are a number of productive things I always get done and never don't do.

    The only real time tracking I do is hours worked so I get paid properly.

    1 vote
  7. lou
    Link
    I've tried doing that. Unfortunately, this makes my anxiety much worse.

    I've tried doing that. Unfortunately, this makes my anxiety much worse.

    1 vote