How much technology do we need to keep track of what we do?

For the past week I have been using a software timer product to keep track of what I spend my time on when I am working.

For the most part, it has been a big improvement over anything I have ever used before.

I can switch from task to task with very little overhead and the cumulative time spent on any task is instantly visible. At any moment, I can see what my billable hours are and can see whether I am spending enough time on promotional activities.

The product I am currently using, the Secs timer by Sinner Computing, although not perfect, has enabled me to improve my efficiency without costing me more than a few minutes to set it up and use it each day. I purchased a license for it after three days of use because it actually gets the job done. Now, I want something better.

In the process of using this software, I have become an experienced user with a
well-defined need and I am really aware of the shortcomings of existing
offerings. I can now write out a list of the essential functions this product should have. I know
that I am willing to pay at least $25 for a product that meets my
needs and what is more important, I am ready to recommend any product that
actually does the job.

Thanks to my readers, I have been investigating other software products which claim to provide similar solutions. All of these recommended products were lacking one or more important characteristics.

UPDATE: I now have a better solution that incorporates what I describe in this article.

I am not looking for complexity. I am looking for flexibility and simplicity. Here is a list of the must-have features I’m looking for:

– A separate counter can be set up for each task being monitored with a clearly visible  task name.
– Counters will be counting up.
– Counters must have scalable display sizes and colors visible at 6 ft if required.
– Tasks can be reset, started, and stopped with one click.
– More than one task will be active at any time.
– Switching from one active task to another should take only one click.
– Task status of all counters can be captured and saved with a few keystrokes.
– The application should save and remember the last settings of every counter on shutdown.
– The application should be small and stable and no require an Internet connection
– It should not require external documentation.
– A simple readme file should contain all instructions needed to operate the software.

If you have encountered any timer applications which meet these criteria, please let me know where I can find them.

Here is my evaluation of other product offerings so far:

SlimTimer is closest to what I’m looking for, but it’s web based. I need a desktop app.

Egg by Sinner Computing – not flexible enough – no visible task name capability

TimeSprite by timesprite.com – Limited functions – non-intuitive user interface – tracks only Windows apps.

Tracker by Allnetic.com – small and confusing display – app was unstable and crashed after several hours of use.

TimeSnapper – captures and stores screenshots – not useful for cognitive activity.

If anyone has any suggestions, please comment. Thanks!

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0 Responses to How much technology do we need to keep track of what we do?

  1. lb says:

    Excellent analysis — i really enjoyed reading this (and the related entry — http://www.making-ripples.com/2007/02/keeping_track_o.html)

    I don’t know if you’ll find a pre-built tool that quite suits your need. The interesting thing about your needs is that you want multiple tasks running at once. A simple detail like that is a real spanner in the works for these sorts of tools.

    Perhaps the best bet is to find a separate tool (or technique) for loading all of the secs timers in one go (and stopping them in one go).

    best of luck!
    lb

  2. Nir says:

    You can check out yaTimer at http://www.nbdtech.com/yaTimer

    (I developed yaTimer, it was somewhat inspired by this post)

  3. Alf says:

    I’ve been using complete time tracking http://www.complete-time-tracking.com for a couple of months and find it indispensible. A good balance between power and ease of use.

    You mention you want multiple timers active at once. Why? I’m only ever doing one thing at a time!
    Alf

  4. I checked out complete time tracking and find that it does not meet my minimum requirements, although it has many more features than I need.

    I have some activities that have to be monitored while I am working on something else. At the completion of these timed activities, I see an alarm so I can take action.

    The bulk of my production tasks are done one at a time and their duration is not known beforehand. I am occasionally required to respond to phone calls or urgent emails, so it is a big help that switching tasks is a one click action.

    YaTimer also gives me the ability to change the size of the display so that I can see the time from across the room.

    Production in a one person consultancy requires customized time management. Cookie cutter project management and time management solutions have not been useful to me.

  5. Ronald says:

    I use http://www.hourdoc.com for my company. It is easy to use and very affordable. They give free application to companies having less than 50 employees.

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