Why I use something different ....

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... than one of those bloated, overcomplex time tracking tools!

Preamble: Initially, this was meant as a comment on "Productivity Tip: Time Tracking and Task Lists, Unite!" at css-tricks.com, but somehow felt slightly too expansive, so I turned it into a blog post instead :)

I love time tracking and I love task lists, but boy do I hate managing them both. So, I've been using my time tracker as my task list.

I use Harvest for time tracking.

Oh no .. Yet another complicated overloaded solution, that does not adapt to me, but instead I have to adapt to it. Sorry, but: Rejected!

I'm always looking into improving my daily tools of trade, but this one just isnt it. My current "weapon of choice" is something quite different.

Over the years, esp. since I started full-time freelancing, I've tested quite a lot of different solutions, starting from complex project management tools (like JIRA) over "simple" task lists (GTD / Basecamp), plus mixed applications like Trello. This includes offline, local install-centric as well as pure online and mixed online solutions with partial offline support thanks to add-ons or purpose-crafted apps. But either they were too complex, too reduced, or, the worst part, one had to excessively adapt to their given workflow.

Thus, it took me quite some time to find a proper "self-time" tracker, which a) is very adaptable to my purposes, AND, b) most important part: Runs locally. Online applications are a dime a dozen. I've even used some of these in the past, but they always felt .. limited.

Sharing data is a plus, also cross-platform support, but ultimatively, it's the reduced complexity that makes me cry with joy whenever I use it. So I present to you: TimeSlotTracker

Yep, the UI looks slightly outdated or is not so easy customizable / adaptable to your regular desktop, some hotkey definitions are unfamiliar (eg. minifying to / reopening the app from the tray bar (if supported; depends on your OS) is done with Ctrl + Left Mouse Key), and the built-in reporting is a bit lacking - but for its main purpose, tracking the time of a single user, its perfect :)

Tracking time is done by adding a task with a useful title, optional description, and next on, adding time slots to these. There can only one actively running task at any time, but thats ok. Finish one task after another, do not try to do everything at the same, else one wont get ANYTHING done :)

Thanks to the simple hierarchical tree model, one may easily create main tasks as project names, and add lots of sub tasks as single steps, milestones or whatever you want to call it. Also, adding sub sub tasks to sub tasks and going even deeper in the tree is easily done. So, whether you like to granurly control each single step, or just want to track your overall work performance - all of this is possible.

And thanks to its data storage being XML, making backups and creating tools to handle more stuff, like proper reporting / statistics, is straight-forward :)

A few other features are:

  • Java-based (and thus, available on any major platform, including Windoze and Mac OS / BSD)
  • Report generation in several formats and time units (week / month / all, etc.); I seldom use them, but sometimes, a nice HTML report per month or so is a nice touch to present to your clients :)
  • JIRA connector - haven't used it myself yet, but its been reported to work acceptable
  • Adding additional and editing attributes of tasks and timeslots
  • Document progress using automated screenshots (found in the configuration dialogue under "Monitoring")

Helpful resources:

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