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Getting a Grip on Wasted Time

I don’t care what the The Rolling Stones say: during a typical work day, time is not on my side.

I’m a consultant, writer and entrepreneur, so that means juggling multiple projects and staying on top of a huge diversity of platforms and deadlines. Add competing family and personal needs and sprinkle a generous dose if OSHINY Syndrome on top, and it’s hard to know if I’ve been productive enough on any given day.

I’d be lost without Toggl.

I’ve tried several time management and project tracking apps and systems, and Toggl is by far my favorite. It’s cheap (starting at $5/month for a one-user account), easy and flexible–three of my favorite things.

What Is Toggl?

Toggl tracks the time you spend on different tasks, tags those entries to your clients or platforms, and allows you to run reports looking at your work in different ways.  You can use it on the fly, or you can report your time spent after the fact.  You can “punch in” to start a clock running when you start a conference call, for example, or you can summarize your time researching or writing different posts at the end of the day.

Toggl does four key things that help me manage my time:

1. It aggregates and summarizes my work. At the end of a crazy day where I’ve worked bits and pieces all over the place, I still know how much time I’ve devoted to each of my clients and projects.
2. Having that aggregated data means I can identify trends, time sucks and efficiencies.
3. The very act of tracking–especially turning on that dang timeclock–can make me more disciplined. Twitter is not nearly as intoxicating when an accountability clock is running.
4. It trades info seamlessly with Quickbooks (and Freshbooks) making invoicing much easier.

It’s actually sort of fun to use Toggl, and believe me, I don’t say this about many tracking systems. I’m an Aquarius/ Year of the Dragon/ENFP. That means I like the big picture, and tracking is not my jam. But I work from a project management perspective, so I know that Toggl is highly useable, fades into the background, doesn’t demand much, and offers me a lot of data and discipline in return. Unless you have something that already works for you, I’d suggest you give it a go, as the first trial month is free.  The takeaways about how you have been spending your time are useful alone.

So maybe The Rolling Stones are right. Time IS on my side. Because the bottom line is I’ll never be your beast of burden. I work for myself, so I owe it to myself to figure out how I spend my time. So do you.

Do you have tracking system that works, or are you in need of one?

photo source: Riebart/Michael Himbeault on Flickr

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