I just discovered an odd little website called ididwork (via Chris Bowler). It’s basically a personal or small-team Twitter, but with built-in tags and the ability to analyze your logged comments. The intent is that whenever you do something during the day, you log it into ididwork and then you (or your manager) can analyze your time.
Well, okay, that’s kind of cool, but to be honest it’s just one more damned web app that I’d need to track, so the ididwork service itself seems like more effort than I’m ready to put into it. Chris Bowler wonders whether there’s a desktop solution (so far as I know he’s out of luck, but maybe someone will tip him off to something wonderful and he’ll share).
For myself, though, ididwork makes me wonder why this kind of thing isn’t built into a time tracker. Currently, most of the time trackers out there can be used in one of two ways: you either track your time for a project in a chunk and write what you did in the notes (easier to manage, harder to see specifically how long a task took) or you can open a new timing ticket for every task (major pain in the ass, but makes retrospective analysis extremely simple). What if instead, while you were timing, you could hit a hotkey, enter a short description of what you just did, and the timetracker would log that snippet with the active session along with the time that you entered it?
I currently use OfficeTime because it’s the best of a large selection of imperfect solutions. Specifically I chose OfficeTime because:
- It lets me start/pause and stop/restart any timing session and only rounds once (rounds when you stop, removes rounding if you restart).
- If I start a new session (in another project or not) the current session is automatically paused.
- It allows me to pause any active session and start a session for any active project from the menubar.
- It has robust reports that let me easily filter past sessions, invoice sessions, and check off sessions as invoiced or reported.
No other time tracker that I’ve found has quite this configuration of features (particularly not in a package that’s so straight-forward and simple to use; interface bloat is a serious problem for time trackers). Where OfficeTime fails me is that it is incapable of showing me the times when I paused and restarted a project, and I usually forget to fill out the comments field as I go, which causes me some headache at the end of the day. Additionally, thanks to my one-session-per-project-per-day usage, when looking back after a week or two it’s almost impossible to remember how long a task on any given day took (assuming that I remembered to note it in the comments field at all).
If all that OfficeTime did was offer an easy way to enter comment snippets and associated them with a timestamp (either real time or, preferably, relative to the active session) then almost all of my issues with it would be solved. Heck, I wouldn’t mind if it just appended “2:13 Finished feature X” to the comments field of the active timer (assuming 2:13 is 2:13 into the timer, not 2:13 PM) most of the weaknesses of the program would be solved (from my workflow’s perspective). Additional analysis tools would be a nice bonus, perhaps, but might just be interface bloat.
Of course, I’m not picky. If some time tracker other than OfficeTime implemented comment logging (assuming that it already had my must-have reports, pause/restart, simple interface, and only-rounding-once features) I’d be more than happy to switch over. Because that particular selection of features sounds to me like about the perfect time tracker.