Building a Time Tracking Habit

I’d love to build a time tracking habit for my work time, but I always get involved in whatever I’m doing and forget to change the timer running.

I’ve tried Toggl, I’ve tried setting reminders to check what I’m working on, but I always lose track and it becomes a memory challenge at the end of the day.

I can’t install software on my windows work computer as it’s locked down (rightly so) so I can’t do anything automatically.

I’ve had a look at the Timeular device which I think would remind me more often to change which side it’s on, but I don’t want to spend £90 for it to end up sat in a drawer in a month.

Does anyone have any tips which I can try?

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You are not alone! I outlined my time tracking protocol here (i(Pad)OS apps: unsung heroes and new discoveries). Pertinent point from that post: I’ve built a system that automatically sets an alarm to go off after an anticipated amount of time has elapsed. Sounds like you’ve tried this already, though…

I appreciate the notion of immersion for much of the work I do, so I don’t beat myself up too much for failing to track that work accurately. I might be able to develop a clock-watching habit, but I have to wonder how much that might push an awareness of time into the foreground, to the detriment of the work I want to focus on.

Habit chaining might help here? Maybe, when you make a significant mode switch, you can build the habit of stretching or moving away from your desk for a few minutes (if your working arrangement is desk based set-up). If you can get that down, maybe that can serve as a driver for logging the next batch of activity when you return.

Also, I wonder how much resolution you might actually need for your time-tracking (as in how detailed it needs to be) and what you hope to derive from it. Are you hoping to build up to a minute by minute breakdown of the work you’ve done per day, or would it be enough just to know the different types of work or different projects you’ve given attention to?

With that said, I’m looking forward to seeing whether anyone else has a meaningful suggestion…

Start simple, with a sheet of paper or text doc for writing the time and what you did, or what you’ll be doing. Use that to build the habit of marking each change in your activity as the day goes on. Once you have the habit, optimize with software.

Then use anything automated (browser history, sent emails, automated window/document tracking) to fill in gaps or resolve issues.

Once you have the habit, optimize and automate collection.

This has served me well in the agency world. I’ve rarely seen someone succeed in using technology to avoid having to learn the mindset.

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