As someone who works from home and has various projects and clients going all at once, I tend to be uncertain of how much time I’m spending on each project. And I am not really good at estimating my time-on-task after the fact.
Lately, I’d realized I had no clear idea how I was spending my days—was I working as much as, or more than, I thought I was on each of my various projects? What WAS I doing with my time? Rather than devoting a ton of hours to a project or a client without recognizing it, and rather than frittering away time in front of a glowing rectangle, I wanted to be aware of my time-on-task and my time OFF task. And I also didn’t want to have to spend extra time trying to add up long columns of small numbers.
While I was wondering about this, I discovered a solution (with the help of one of those glowing rectangles).
Toggl is a free online time-tracker for a bunch of different projects. So for those of you who, like me, have a number of projects going at once, you can track each of them. You do have to do it manually (it doesn’t read your mind), and it doesn’t seem to allow me to choose more than one project at once (which would be useful if I did work that overlapped between projects), but I actually like both of these aspects of how it works.
If I’m not intentional about what I’m focusing on, I tend to have three email accounts open, and I bounce between them whenever something new happens. Which is terrible for my brain. And I think multi-tasking is a myth. What we call multi-tasking is actually poorly focusing on a lot of different things in rapid succession, rather than truly focusing on one thing, and then truly focusing on another. The way that Toggl works forces me to consider what I’m doing at a given moment. And it forces me to recognize when I’ve switched to a new task. I hate to use the overused buzzword “mindfulness” here, but it probably applies.
Toggl has other features, too, particularly useful for teams of people, and it syncs with a handful of other services so you can expand its usefulness. For me, though, just having someone (something) else in charge of adding up seconds, minutes, and hours and putting them in bar graphs and pie charts for me to look at is good enough for my needs. So you might want to try it too.
For those curious about my research process: I imagine there are other products out there that fit this need. I didn’t experiment with those; I just signed up for my free account (I temporarily upgraded to the Pro version before I wrote this little piece about it, but I didn't need the extra features that increase the details and allow for more users, so I downgraded back to the free service). I’m not getting any kickbacks from this post—there’s no referral code as far as I can tell. I’m just trying to make my own world better, and if it helps you, too, even better.