Looking for an easy and free way to keep track of how you spend your time? I’ve been using Toggl and I love it!
As a freelancer, I work on lots of different projects, both here on my own blog and on other sites. I generally owe a post, not four hours of work. And for years, I’ve gotten by not knowing exactly how much time I spend working. Since I work from home my workday is intermingled with laundry, dishes, errands, Facebook, naps…you get the idea. And that workday often extends past bedtime, more often than I’d like to admit. It’s been really difficult for me to estimate how much I actually work.
A few months ago I decided to try to keep track of my time. I started with a spreadsheet, and that lasted about a day. Then I tried a few different sites and apps until one, Toggl, finally stuck. I’ve been using it ever since. Out of all of the sites and apps I tried, it was the easiest and most intuitive, and for my purposes, it’s free.
There are paid versions of Toggl, but those seem more appropriate for team managers. Since I’m a one-woman show, I just need the free version. If you manage a small team, you should know that you can manage up to five people on the free version. Since I’ve only used the free version, I’ll only be talking about features available for free.
The concept is simple: you use the Toggl timer to keep track of your tasks. Tasks can be categorized by project, and projects can be assigned to clients. You can also add tags to each task. For example, as I’m writing this, my task is set to “blog post” and the project is “Amy Ever After.” If I wanted to I could tag that as “home” or “diner” so that later I could filter by where I worked. It’s very flexible. And on top of all of that, you can set up multiple workspaces, say one for home and one for work.
If you’ve done a task with the same name recently the name will autocomplete and the project will be chosen automatically. Or, you can just find the task in your list of recent tasks and click on the “play” arrow. When you’re done you click the “stop” button.
On the timer page, you can see at a glance how long you’ve worked that day, with each project represented by a different color, giving you a quick idea of how your time was spent. If you want more detail, you can see the starting and ending times for each task (and edit them if you need to). And if you want a bigger picture, you can go to Reports and look at an overview by day, week, month, or any custom time frame you like. You can also filter the reports by Client, Project, Tag, or Task, and sort the lists by name, duration, user, or day/time.
The best part is, you can get as specific or broad in your tracking as you want. I’m using general task names like “blog post” and “podcast prep.” But if I needed to I could have a different task for each blog post or freelance article. It’s completely customizable.
There’s also an app. I use the website about 90% of the time, but the app is handy for when I’m working on the fly. You can start a task on the website and finish it while on the app, or vice versa. At times it has seemed like they weren’t synced up, but they’ve always caught up with each other eventually.
Seeing exactly how much time I spend on each task has been illuminating. Since I tend to work in small chunks with lots of distractions I do have to remember to start and stop Toggl each time, but if I forget I can usually remember well enough to enter a good estimate. It helps that the tab Toggl is open in turns red when the timer is going, and gray when the timer is stopped.
Whether you need to report your time to someone else or you just want to get a good idea for yourself, Toggl is an easy, free way to keep track of what you’re doing.