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When most people talk about time tracking, they usually picture a freelancer nickle-and-diming a client. Or a project manager fighting to keep everything on schedule.
But time tracking is also becoming popular for individuals like you and me. And as with everything else these days, there are some great iPhone apps that make it easier than ever.
Why Track Time?
The essence of time tracking lies in the quote “what gets measured gets managed”. A friend recently spent seven days meticulously tracking his week and found that he was “operating at less than one-third of [his] true potential.”
Each evening, he wasted 3–4 hours on mindless online browsing. His focus ran out after 60 minutes when it came to less enjoyable activities. He was spending less than 3.5 hours per day on focused work. Time tracking is some of the most practical data collection you can engage in.
Just imagine what you could learn (and therefore change) by trying a similar experiment. You could find out how much work you’re actually doing. How much time you’re wasting on social media. How much time you’re spending on fun things outside of work.
Since you’re reading this article, we’ll assume you’re looking for an iOS app that takes care of the heavy lifting, from recording data, to preparing reports. These are the best of the bunch.
1. Toggl [No Longer Available]
Summary: Great for anyone looking for tons of features, cross platform availability, and third-party integrations
Toggl is the best time tracking app I’ve ever used. Available on iOS, Android, Web, Windows, Mac, and Linux, this is a powerful option that we’ve reviewed before.
The foundation of the app is obviously its tracking features. In this case it’s extremely easy to track your time using the one-click, in-app timer. Each entry can be categorized by client, project name, and descriptions. Entries can also be edited, tagged, and deleted. If you’d rather enter your data manually once or twice per day, that’s easily done, too.
To further help with tracking, Toggl also has plenty of tools to integrate the service with other apps. For example, you can automatically track the time you spend in Gmail, Slack, or Trello.
When it comes to reporting, the free account is impressive. You can view a quick summary or a more detailed report of where your time has gone. Reports can be filtered so you can drill down into the data, and compare dates to see how your productivity changes over time.
If you want to export your data, and use more of the team and project estimate features, you’ll need to sign up to to the Pro account for $10 per month. For most people, however, the free account is plenty.
- There’s no way to stop and start a single entry. Each time you stop the timer, a new entry is added to your log.
- No support for Safari.
- No export available on free version.
Summary: Great if you’re looking for a simple tracker with no distractions.
Time tracking doesn’t come much simpler than this. For personal time tracking, ATracker leaves little to be desired. For work purposes and billing, however, you may want to look elsewhere.
The main tracking functions in ATracker are based around “Tasks”. Create a list of tasks such as reading, gaming, writing, or whatever else you want. For better organization, tasks can be sorted into categories.
A few nice advanced features have also been introduced. It’s possible to set notifications for each task, such as a notification to let you know once you’ve been reading for 20 minutes. You can even choose to have time spent on certain tasks added to your calendar. Plus you can track tasks simultaneously.
Tapping on a task stops and starts its timer (also available as an iOS widget). You can also add tasks manually in the History tab. The Report tab then visualizes your time log, allowing you to aggregate data by category, see summaries of the past 7 days, 30 days, or your own custom date range.
The free version will be absolutely fine for most people. If you want unlimited tasks, removal of ads, the ability to export data, and advanced settings such as countdown timers and notes, you’ll have to upgrade to the full version for a one-time payment of $4.99. In my opinion, this is well worth the money.
- No web version.
- No third-party integrations.
Summary: Ideal for anyone looking for a beautiful, simple app that works on all of your iOS devices.
The idea behind Hours is to create a number of color-coded timers. Each timer represents a different project you’re working on. You can add more information to each timer if you like, but a project name is all that’s required.
Once all of your timers/projects have been created, just click the timer next to the project you’re working on. When you click the timer on another project, the previous timer stops (this is essentially the same as ATracker). Hours also supports iOS widgets, so you can easily track your time without unlocking your phone.
As you track your time, the timeline at the top of the screen starts to populate, visualizing how you’ve spent your day. The cumulative time spent on each project is also displayed next to the project name.
If you want to add entries manually, this is possible by clicking on the relevant time slot on the timeline, but this isn’t as easy as it is in Toggl.
On the free account, you also have access to some basic reports. But if you want more detailed reports, team management features, and access to Hours on the web, you’ll have to sign up to the Pro version for $8 per month.
- If you’re tracking via the app all the time, Hours is very nice to use. But if you want to add entries manually (for instance, if your phone runs out of battery), it’s a hassle.
- Needing to pay for web access is frustrating.
- No export available on the free version.
Summary: Perfect for freelancers and small business owners wanting to track their time for easier invoicing.
HoursTracker works similarly to Toggl but the UI is less intuitive, and its features are slightly different. The app is primarily for freelancers, and this is obvious in its workings. It’s easy to add hourly rates to each job. And as you use the timer (either in the app or as an iOS widget), or add entries manually, you’ll see how much you’ve earned for each of your projects.
You can browse and filter your time logs by day, week, month, by job type and so on. Tagging entries also helps with organization if you need to record more details. There’s also a nifty location feature that automatically starts a timer (or reminds you to start tracking) when you arrive at a set location.
While testing HoursTracker, I was happy to see that entries can be paused and resumed (unlike Toggl). Plus, there’s a neat feature that allows you to set an expected number of hours per day. Once you hit your target hours, you get a notification letting you know you don’t need to continue working.
Unfortunately, HoursTracker doesn’t really offer reports. Exporting your data is simple enough though (with a free cloud backup option), so you can always run reports outside of the app. The app also lacks third-party integrations such as those offered by Toggl. If you were hoping for these, this isn’t the app for you.
The free version will only allow you to track for 21 days. After that, a one time purchase of $5.99 allows unlimited tracking on up to five jobs. If you need more than this, you’ll have to pay $9.99 for the Pro version.
- No reporting within the app.
- No third-party integrations.
- It’s a pretty dated UI.
- No web version. Only available on iOS.
What Changes Will You Make?
Whether you want to track your time for just a week, or develop a long-term habit to keep an eye on how you’re working, these apps can help. Not just for calculating how long you’ve worked, but also to help make decisions on how to better use your time.
From my own tests, these four app all have their strengths (despite a few weaknesses). Whichever you choose will obviously depend on which (and how many) features you want to use. Maybe you want time tracking functions for teams, maybe you want to track billables, or perhaps you just want to log the very basics.
Have you tracked your time before? If so, which app worked well, and what did you learn?