For those of us in service-based businesses it is important to track the time we spend on various projects. A contact manager like Act! is great for tracking appointments and to-dos, but as our lives get busier and more complicated, we find we need a more fluid system. That is why I went searching for an application to track my hours in real time.
I began with a simple Excel spreadsheet – as I imagine a lot of people do. Once I started using this spreadsheet I realized a couple of limitations. First, there was no “stop watch” feature, so I would often forget to start tracking – especially if I started a task and then got interrupted and started something else. Another limitation was that the spreadsheet was on my office computer, and sometimes I’d have to track time at a different location or on a different device. The only good thing about this Excel spreadsheet was that it was easy to filter and generate a report or pivot table.
This led me to the Internet to find a suitable time tracking program. I was looking for something that would provide the following features:
- Free or low cost
- Simple and Intuitive so there was no huge learning curve
- Available in a browser from anywhere and on a mobile device
- Able to track time automatically with a timer
- Reporting on time spent grouped by company or project
After looking into several solutions, I settled on an application called TrackingTime. This application met all of my requirements:
- It’s free – (there is a paid version that bumps up the feature set - more on that below)
- There was very little I needed to learn to get started. You can even start tracking without formally creating any companies or projects– I don’t recommend this if you want to get good reporting, but it does illustrate how easy it was to get up and running. Another nice feature is that you can edit a time entry to assign it to the proper company/project after the fact.
- It works in common environments – Windows, Linux, OS X, iOS, and Android – and it’s also available online in a browser. What’s more, if you work from multiple devices/locations, you can track and change tasks on the fly and see the change in real time on every device. I have it installed on my computers and on my phone and tablet so that I can track time anywhere.
- The app doesn’t specifically have a stopwatch or timer per se, but you start tasks by clicking a start button and end them either by starting another task or by clicking a stop button. This is the only semi-drawback that I see to the program – it will not let you track simultaneous tasks. However, you can go back and edit a task to change its start or end time so that you CAN track the time when you’re working on multiple items at the same time.
- Reporting, exporting and analytics are minimal with the free version. However, if you decide this is THE time tracking program for you, you’ll be more than happy to pay for the “PRO” version which is just $4.99/month. When you start your trial you will be using the Pro feature set. Once the trial is ended those features will be turned off.
- One other key feature is that the PC version pops up a notification once you’ve been working on a task for a certain amount of time that says that you are tracking a particular task. There’s also a notification if you are NOT tracking time. These are really key – and what my spreadsheet was sorely lacking. I’m not sure if this is part of the free version or the Pro version.
Beyond my initial list of requirements, TrackingTime has many more features and much greater reporting and analytics than I expected for minimal cost.
If your occupation requires you to track and/or bill hours, and you are in need of a low-cost solution, I would suggest trying TrackingTime to see if it will meet your needs.