<firstimage=”//static.makeuseof.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/clock2.png”>Over the past few months, I’ve discovered a very strange phenomenon creeping into my work schedule. I seem to keep losing time.
How do you lose time? It’s easier than you might think. You get started on an article or working on some project, and then it strikes you to check email. After answering two or three emails, you get back to your project. Then, it strikes you to check Facebook, and then Twitter too. After responding to a few comments on your friend’s wall and posting a few tweets, you get back to your project. You glance at the clock and realize that somewhere in there you’ve just lost two hours. Ever since the advent of Facebook and social networking in general, time seems to disappear. It’s not that I am not working hard, it’s just that I get distracted, and from what I hear from friends – a lot of people suffer from this situation.
One solution – actually, probably the best solution – is to really track your time so that you can see what you’re really spending all of your time doing. Over the years, we’ve offered a number of great tools to help track time, like Shankar’s list of 5 tools , Damien’s list of 6 desktop tools , and directory listings like CronSync or MyHours.
Klok Tracks & Invoices Time
To solve my personal dilemma and discover my “missing time”, I did some hunting and decided on an app that I thought offered the most features with the best interface. That time tracking software is Klok. Klok is a desktop time-tracking tool based on Adobe Air. It has a very small learning curve, and it’s a powerful desktop time tracking tool that not only lets you keep track of your time but it also includes a built in invoicing feature that requires hardly any work to maintain or use.
The layout is simple, yet everything is at your fingertips. The calendar of time used is displayed on the right and all of your projects are listed to the left. Then there are all of the timesheet reports and archives on the lower left, and of course the menu at the top.
When you’re ready to start working, just click the green “Add” button at the top left, and type in the name of the project you want to track. If you are billing hourly for the task, click on the “Billable” checkbox and type the hourly rate that you charge.
You can color code each project, which makes the graph and pie-chart reports make more sense. You can also add sub-projects to each project. For example, I have about 4 or 5 responsibilities that go along with doing SEO work for MakeUseOf, so I’ve created an SEO project, and under that I added the related tasks as sub projects.
As you can see here, you can really organize your tasks and break down your time in a way that helps you eventually get a better picture of where you spend most of your time and effort every day while you’re working at your computer.
Tracking time requires very little effort – you won’t find yourself wasting time dealing with this program. Just click on the project or task you plan to work on, and click the “Start Working” button at the top (or right click on the project and click “Work On“).
By the way – the automated time entries are not set in stone. If you need to tweak any of the time entries, just click the “Time Entries” tab, click on the entry item, and you can edit any of the details for that entry at the bottom of the screen.
The coolest part of Klok, in my opinion, is the dynamic calendar display that graphically changes as you track your time. As tasks are logged, you’ll see color coded entries automatically appear in the calendar. This is nice later on as you’re trying to come up with a realistic schedule for yourself. Just look back and see how long specific tasks really took – not how long you would like them to take. You can also modify these automated entries quickly by moving them to a new start time or stretching out the end time.
Click on any of the timesheet links at the lower left corner of the window and you’ll see a detailed display of your timesheet, including all of the time you’ve logged and all projects you’ve logged to. Time is broken down for each day as well as the overall total. If you’ve marked any tasks as billable, you’ll see those totals here too. You can save this information as an Excel spreadsheet, making billing your clients a breeze.
Within just a few days, this software helped me identify the culprit in my schedule – answering emails. On some days, I had clicked to work on the “managing emails” task, and it was nearly an hour and a half by the time I was done reading and answering emails.
It may seem like common sense to figure out where you’re wasting unproductive time, but in reality, using the computer is like walking into a time warp. You can play a game, explore forums or spend time on social networks and hours can pass without you even realizing it. Apps like Klok help you keep yourself accountable, and it can really help freelancers keep track of, and correctly bill, for all time spent doing work for clients.
So give Klok a spin and compare it to other time tracking software solutions you’ve tried. In my opinion, it really is the cleanest and easiest tracker to use – what’s your take? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Image Credit: Maarten Uilenbroek