123: A Focus on Time

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Okay, David, how do you get your daughter to spontaneously come home with a pizza to share? Teach me your ways.

Great episode! This is one of my favorite topics, even though I also work in an industry that tracks billable hours. I find myself informally teaching time tracking effectiveness to coworkers who have an anxious and avoidant relationship to time tracking, and certainly don’t see how it can be put to work for them as well as their employer. One of the biggest benefits to using an app like Timery (or a color-coded spreadsheet if your days are filled with fewer, larger tasks) and then periodically transferring to the agency billing system is it gives you ownership and malleability of your data.

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I use http://timelyapp.com/ for my time tracking. Cross-platform, and works on iphone/ipad, and with the right add-in I stalled on my phone, tracks locations as I go to different tasks.

I use https://triplogmileage.com/ for tracking time (and mileage and route) for driving. It starts when I connect to my car’s Bluetooth and exceed 3 km/h.

(And for scheduling, I’ve just started using https://x.ai, and am pretty happy with it.)

Something that @MacSparky mentioned was “moving the needle” activities and not having a great catch all for this.

Maybe a way to think of it is combined with the idea of roles. As (and this is a caveat that I’m not good at naming things) “peak of iceburg” activities. So as an example for me seeing patients in clinic is one thing that makes my role as a Dr progress. Dictating letters from a clinic isn’t but it’s supporting that important part of the role. If I can think of a way to move time to those peak activities that’s good. Hope this un formed thought makes some sense.

Great episode.

Great episode! Apart from wanting :pizza: this gently nudged me to approach time tracking on my own selfish terms. I do come from a line of business that requires time tracking and 99% of my colleagues (and from time to time myself) have always hated it (which is due to the solutions required to use that are galaxies apart from the comfort and polished design timing offers. That being said, I do see the value in time tracking and the conscious evaluation that comes with the approach described in this episode. Long story short: I am looking to implement this.

As described, the web solution works well on mobile. I was quite happy to find that the folks at timing offer some shortcuts that work great. The needed API key is a breeeze to generate and the shortcuts allow you to really quickly get started. I really like this, because it doesn’t require the tandem solution of timery and toggl.

I found three other ressources (located amongst others under the help page of Timings website) that I find worth mentioning, because they immediately worked and clicked for me:

So, with all this in place I now just have to find out a system that makes sense to my brain, because after listening I kind of realised I need a system that can span across timing and in my case OmniFocus, in order to not feel overwhelmed. I am wondering how you guys approach this?

Right now I am kind of thinking about a templated structure like shown below, which is heavily influenced by the plane metaphor Ali Abdaal uses.

MacSparky has a similar approach using the terms maker, manager and consumer

  • Project / Perspective
    • Term A = planning, goals, direction
    • Term B = creating, maintaining, organising
    • Term C = actually doing the stuff that needs to be done, aka “needle work”

Anything that is not within the scope of a project set up that way would go to a “black hole” project…

This structure could then be also reflected in your task manager of choice. I imagine it could massively reduce mental overhead, because it’s a system of sorts and only has a few items to remember. Right after listening to the episode I drafted a list of a potential project setup and really got lost in detail and classification attempts — hence the idea for a simplified structure that delivers consistence (it’s not really useful if I want to enter a task or something and can’t remember the “correct” tags or self imposed “rules”…)

On the other hand: I may be overthinking this :joy: — thoughts on this are definitely welcome.

Last but not least: @MacSparky mentioned taking a screenshot and including this with his reports. Same here: how is everyone approaching this? Timing would, after all, be only one data source along with Apple Health, for example. Is someone using kind of a spreadsheet to document the outcome with the data that is meaningful to you. In order to look at it over time?

Oh boy, that might be my longest post ever here. So, thanks again for this episode that really brought some momentum for me and my relation to this topic. I’m really looking forward to see how this dance evolves.


Hello y’all! :wave:

A couple things after listening to this episode: The desktop Toggl app (while underwhelming) does offer a Timing-esque window tracking mode: The Timeline Feature

This may keep some of y’all from having to run two solutions at once to get the data you need. I use it to backfill lost data and keep myself accountable.

I’ve also written a custom toggl client that I have open sourced… it’s inspired by the time tracking practices I’ve heard on Focused, as well as Cortex: Headspace v1.0

I’ve written more about it on my blog… but the key insight was that each time I started a new workstream, I did the same basic three things:

  1. kill distractions, launch work applications (it also can block applications from launching!)
  2. position windows where I wanted them
  3. start a timer

It’s pretty code-heavy, there’s not a configuration GUI, but I thought I’d put it out there if anyone wants to tinker with it. Let me know if you want to try it, and need some help getting it set up.

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I really want to like Timery. What keeps stopping me is the Toggl backbone. Is anyone else ever worried that the Toggl rug could get pulled out from under Timery? The setup makes me nervous. It doesn’t make sense (business-wise, at least) for Toggl to provide a free API that Timery gets paid for, so I wouldn’t be surprised if API-breaking changes just happen someday. (It doesn’t help that Toggl as a company just seems like a bit of a mess… so many half-done apps and discordant products…)

I also really want to like Timing, but the lack of a “real” mobile app experience is a deal-breaker. (Why hasn’t Timing built out something for iOS? It boggles my mind. I really don’t want to have to manually maintain API keys or visit a webapp to do something as interaction-heavy as time tracking…)

We’re so close to a one-app complete solution, yet so far…

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If you really want a time-tested time tracker with no depedencies… emacs orgmode? Clocking Work Time (The Org Manual)

Hah, thanks. That solution still has a pretty significant dependency: I’d have to use org-mode.

It’s not that any dependencies are bad. It’s that there’s a weird disconnect between Timery and Toggl that seems fraught. I mean, we can barely depend on third-party Twitter apps and the Twitter API.

Toggl’s backend doesn’t seem that complicated, so I guess I’m hoping that Timery’s dev could build their own, or provide hooks into an alternative, if Toggl ever goes kaput/gives up/changes the API.

So I’ve tried to use timery to track my time for a week. It just doesn’t work for me. I’m always forgetting to start or stop the timers and I either have something untracked, or a timer that ran for 6 hours, when it should’ve been 1 hour.

Anyway, the thing I love the most about this episode is the introduction of the Sorted app. I never heard of this before and it is really making time blocking click for me. I’ll write more as I spend more time with it, but thanks for mentioning this app.

Great episode!

Got me to start trying out hyper scheduling my days in the morning. But another factor in trying that was that Toggl lets you import calendars to view along side your timers. So Toggl automates comparing my plan to what I recorded doing; budgeting vs spending as you say.
I just made a private calendar called Intentions that I use to plan my day, and that shows up alongside my tracked hours in Toggl. In the timer page on Toggl, there’s a Weekly calendar view.

Also wanted to share the Alfred workflow I use to interact with toggl. I don’t think I would use toggl as consistently as I do if it wasn’t for this tool. Super fast, very reliable, works how I expect it to. Can’t ask for more.

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