There are a number of different ways to track your work time, but for the majority of people, something like the free, cross-platform Klok is perfect for managing your workday, seeing how long your projects take and tracking how you spend your time.
- Track any project, billable or otherwise
- Drag and drop time entry
- Provides a simple dashboard overview of how you've used your time
- Track multiple projects
- Export time sheets to Microsoft Excel (or, if using the Pro version, Google Docs)
- Import events from Google Calendar or Microsoft Exchange (Pro only)
Klok takes almost no time to set up, which means you aren't wasting time setting up your time tracker, which would be quite the ironic waste of time. Klok is great for those that have lots of projects going at once, especially if they aren't all computer based -- just add a project, provide information about it if you wish, and start tracking the time you spend on it. You can see all your projects in a calendar-like view, so you know where your time is going (as well as how long a given project takes, for future reference). If you work a job that requires you to bill your hours, you can export your time sheets into Excel for easy conversion or manipulation.
Klok is an Adobe AIR app, so if you aren't a fan of AIR, you may want to steer clear. The constant hidden nags for upgrading to the pro version are annoying at first (since the features are all available in the free version's menus, but then prompt you to upgrade), but once you memorise which features these are you probably won't have to deal with them. The other nice thing about Klok is that you can make it as simple or as complicated as you want -- there are lots of advanced settings for you to delve into if you so choose.
Lastly—and this is less of a downside and more of a disclaimer -- Klok doesn't actually track what you do, it requires you to tell it what you're doing. This is great for jobs with billable hours, or if you spend a lot of your job away from the computer itself, but if you're looking for something that monitors what apps you run and web sites you visit, you're looking for something a bit different, which we'll talk about in the section below.
If you prefer something that tracks what you're doing at all times, I can't recommend RescueTime enough. It's how I started reclaiming my time in only seven days, and it's a great way to see where your workday's falling apart. Just sign up, download the app, and let it run. After a few days, you can see how much time you've spent in certain apps and on certain web sites, and categorise them into "productive" and "unproductive" activities.
Manic Time is another app that automatically tracks your time. It does it a bit differently than RescueTime. Instead of tracking just your activities, you can see a timeline of what time of day you spent in each application, and also see where your computer was idle. Manic Time is a great middle ground between something like Klok and something like RescueTime -- it tracks your computer activity for you, but allows for a lot of manual data entry if you need to manage things a bit more closely.
Lastly, Toggl is about as simple as it gets. You type in what you're working on, hit the start button, and let it time you. When you're done, you can stop it and move onto something else. It's great for billable hours, and it's web-based, so you can use it on any desktop platform (not to mention iOS and Android).
There are a ton of different time tracking apps out there, but the above options should suit the vast majority of people. If you've used something else in the past that you love, be sure to let us know about it in the comments.
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