Time Tracking apps

There is something about the idea of quantifying where our time is spent that is so attractive to many of us. If we’re are going to make spending decisions then we need to know, like money, how it is being spent.

Below are the current state of my mind when it comes to time-tracking apps.


Timery looks good, but I don’t fancy having to keep opening and closing the app 4-8 times per day to log my daily activities. It’s a shame the app cannot run on the lock screen so I only need to tap the screen to stop/start (I can them assign the time worked to projects later that day). Starting and stopping timers with Siri could work but like anything with Siri is sure to be unreliable and if I have to check the timer started or stopped it defeats the purpose of using Siri to begin with. Also, something about having to keep voice activating timers over and over 50+ times per week could get old quick.

Also, I find the pomodoro technique invaluable for getting work done which is a feature that is not present in the app despite it being perfectly suited for it.


Suffers much the same as Timery, too much manual editing and back and forth between the website or app. No pomodoro.


Timing is also a good app that I’ve been using for a few months but it cannot differentiate easily whether I am using YouTube or Reddit for productive or non productive purposes. Sometimes I use them for entertainment other times for research/product reviews or to learn something. It allows you to set rules for a given website or app but it doesn’t obviously know why I am using them so it means I have to keep editing in the app what project the time spent on the sites actually slots into. It’s not the fault of the app, apps just haven’t gotten to reading minds yet.

Furthermore, it is not cross-platform. Whether this is the developers fault or not, any work/time-wasting I do on my iPad or iPhone is not logged. I’m writing this all on my iPad now and it’s not logged. It’s also not available on Windows which I use sometimes, mostly for gaming. I could keep switching back to the Mac to manually add time spent on other platforms but it would verge on the ridiculous.

Another subscription… sigh

So, in reality, it is only capturing around a third of the time I use computer or mobile devices and even on the device it works on, Mac, it’s not accurate without still a lot of fiddling. Therefore, the way I see it, if all or most of my time spent digitally lis not going to be accurately logged then I may as well not use Timing at all.

Pen and Paper

I think that instead I will use a pen and paper to log time spent on my most important projects in conjunction with a Pomodoro app on my Apple Watch (cross-platform, cross-location and easy to stop and start).

• Subscription cost of buying 1 notepad per year is £10 or less
• Cross-platform
• Cross-location
• Offline access
• Ease of use - just open and write, even easier if you the ribbons which bookmark where you left off. Also you don’t have to keep opening and closing it to log time, just leave it open at the page you want for as long as you need it!
• Acts as a physical reminder on my desk that I need to time log
• Can transfer time logs to a digital tool once per week when doing your weekly review to ensure your information is not lost (or you can use a scan app and save it as a pdf).
• Writing down your accomplishment has a greater sense of tangibility. Also, handwriting is fun!

I’m going to test pen and paper time—logging using the following methodology. This is something I’ve came up with quickly so it has no bells or whistles, I will reiterate on it in time if I stick with the method.

I’ll use a single page per week. The days of the week will be on a separate row and then I’ll use a ruler to draw a few lines vertically to the right of them so I can have a different column for 2–3 ‘move the needle’ projects I want to work on that week.

Throughout the week, I can then log next to each day the number of minutes I spent on each project. At the end of the week, I’ll do some basic arithmetic and add up the columns to determine how much time was spent in total on each project and all projects altogether.

I can then easily switch to different pages to compare my output versus other weeks. Can also add notes next if needed if I establish any root cause behaviours which are interfering with working on the most important work.


No app can run on the lock screen but the today widget has been invaluable for me to start and stop timers - and if your today screen is available while your iPhone is locked then that might help you.

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If your goal is to see where your time goes and you don’t need all the features intended for billing clients and so on, I have been very happy with “Timelines Time Tracking”. I think it is iOS/Watch only so it isn’t going to track your activity on your computer, but it may be handier than pen and paper (although I do see the appeal of that as well!)

You setup different “timelines” you want to track, and then there is a very simple interface for starting / stopping the timer. You can give a name to a particular event on the timeline, and it automatically collates the data with matching names, so this gives you a sort of subproject view (if you think of the timeline = project, event = subproject).

You can see your data on a timeline that you can zoom to all different levels, so you might zoom in to see a day in 5-minute increments, or zoom out to see an entire week, month, year etc. You can pull up a pie chart showing how your time is allocated. You can filter on your timelines as well. I have mine setup with mostly work-related projects and a couple personal areas I want to monitor, and it is really easy to filter out the personal things so that I can see how much time I spent on work projects in a given time frame (or vice versa).

It is a really well-designed little app, for $7.99 one time purchase, and I have no idea why it doesn’t get mentioned more when people talk about time tracking. I picked it because I really didn’t need all the complexity of the “popular” time tracking apps when I’m never going to plug in an hourly rate and create invoices or report time on a timesheet. This is purely for my own personal understanding of how I spend my time, and this app is (IMO) perfect for that use case.

No affiliation with the developer, just a really happy user (I never write app store reviews, but I DID review this one)

Timelines Time Tracking by Lukas Petr


If I might, I’d like to mention Tyme 2. It is light weight, you can access your timers from the menu bar, and provides easy summaries for invoices. It is available without subscription through the Mac App Store (if you don’t want to use their sync system) or with subscription (reasonable) with their sync system and multiple user data summaries.

Been using it to track my project hours for my custom woodworking business and it has worked flawlessly. After despising subscriptions I went ahead and subscribed for the rock solid sync service (as opposed to iCloud in the nonsubscriber version) and the ability to track my employee project hours in one place.

Completely satisfied (and I’ve tried all the tracking software out there)!

Couldn’t be happier with Timeline Time Tracking. Eye-pleasing design, too!

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