Using Toggl for keeping track of what I am working on easily

Plenty of times over the years, I have had the thought “If I had only worked on music equally as much as I played video games, I would have… Written a lot more music!” (I mean a LOT more, even if the amount of time writing music was EQUAL)

So last week, I decided I was going to find an easy way to keep track of time spent doing certain activities. Initially I tried some stopwatch apps and several other “professional time management” softwares, but they really didn’t do what I needed and I still had to do a lot of manually stopping/starting, spreadsheet logging, etc.

So I came across Toggl. This thing is awesome. Their slogan is “insanely simple time tracking”, and it really is true! I think what really got my attention was the homepage even has a functional demo of how the software works. I tested it out and thought, “Yeah, this could work!”

There are several ways to track your time: On the web interface, a desktop app, and I think there’s even a mobile phone app. The desktop app even functions while offline and then syncs up with the server next time you are connected. (Essential for me with my laptop’s spotty wifi)

So here’s how I have mine set up:

I have 3 “projects”: Music, Gaming, Studying. Each time I need to keep track of one of them, I simply type in what specifically I am working on. So for example if I was about to work on a song for SDcompo round 74, I would title it “SDC74”, put it in the Music project, and click “start”. And simply click “stop” when I was done.

This in itself is useful, but I also noticed the website has a “reporting” tab which allows you to generate nice looking pie charts. It also has the capability to tag each activity. So what I did is: any time I am tracking anything related to the the “Music”, “Gaming”, “Studying” projects, I also add a tag called: “MGS”. This allows me to easily go to the reports page and see a pie chart of exactly what I want to know: the amount of time I have spent writing Music, vs Studying, vs playing video games.

It looks like this:

Yes, that is the real chart of my last few days.

So cool, and so easy. You can even add a browser bookmark to the exact page of the report (which of course gets updated in realtime as you add time entries from the app or the site).

Already just after a few days of using this, my productivity has been incredible! Maybe there are some of you who have autotelic personalities and write music 24/7 and all that stuff. But I’m not one of them. While writing music is much more of a joy these days, I still have to push myself sometimes. Structure is good.

I think there’s something really useful about logging your time like this. Not only does it keep yourself accountable, but it also forces you to think about what you’re doing before you do it. And then afterwards you can get very clear and visible feedback about the amount of time spent. For example yesterday I played more video games, all the while knowing the chart was going to be out of proportion. “That’s OK”, I thought, it will just encourage me to study and work on music more to get them back in proportion. You know what? It worked! Last night I studied for about an hour and a half, and today is officially “music day”!

Sweet… This is just one of those things that “feels right” and clicked with me right away. Perhaps what I’ve always needed. :walkman:

P.S… Looks like I better get busy on some music tonight to get that red part of the chart bigger!!!

Hm, I apologize for replying to my own thread, but I have to admit I was surprised that this didn’t get any responses. It made me feel kinda odd like “I must be the only one who has trouble with time-management”.

I didn’t use this thing for several months and my spare time became way unbalanced, started downloading a ton of android games, etc.

I started using it again yesterday, and guess what? I’m motivated to work on music today. :) There’s just something about seeing that pie chart in balance that is very satisfying to me. :)

I’m gonna try to keep up with it this time and hopefully it will push my productivity to new heights :)

The best thing that works for me is simply keeping the browser and mail client closed, these are the biggest distractors.
(I don’t have chat clients running, but if you close those too, it should work). And ofcourse your Steam/Origin/Desura client.

The ultimate best thing to do is to simply disable your network card or internet connection, but if you depend on network connections to a NAS or VPN, then that option is not for you.

I think I gonna give this a try. But for some reason such systems never worked for me in the past. I always tend to forget to click the buttons or switching tasks. Then some hours later I spot that open window still saying I’m on a break… <_< But thx, I’ll try.

Edit: Well, now thinking about it, it always worked fine if I used it for work, but never for other activities like house work vs. sports vs. music etc.

Edit a couple of hours later:
Oh boy, I think I’ll have to work on this…