If you've ever felt fried at the end of your work day yet couldn't account for how you got to that state, you're not alone. One task blurs into another leaving no record of how you spent your time. That's where a time tracker can help. Whether you just want to track your professional tasks to assess your productivity or you actually bill clients by the hour, these tools can help you reclaim lost time and develop more efficient work habits.
RescueTime runs in the background on Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, or Android systems, and monitors your activity. It tracks how long you're on websites or using different applications and generates a report that shows where you're spending your time. You can also set goals for yourself, for example, limiting time on email to less than an hour a day.
RescueTime Lite is free. For $9 per month, or $72 per year, you can get RescueTime Premium, which adds more detailed reports, alerts you when your goals are met, tracks time away from the computer, and enables you to block distracting sites for designated periods of time.
Like RescueTime, Manic Time runs silently in the background and tracks and logs your activity. You can tag specific blocks of time to associate it with a project or client or a non-computer activity such as a meeting or phone call. At the end of the day, Manic Time generates a report detailing where you invested — or wasted — your time.
Manic Time is only available for Windows. There's a free version available with limited features, but if you want comprehensive time and activity tracking you'll need to get Manic Time Professional for $67.
Klok automatically tracks your time as you work on individual projects. But unlike other apps, which usually display time entries as bar graphs, Klok works like your calendar app, showing your project hours as blocks that fill up your days for a much more intuitive snapshot of how you spend your time. Klok's dashboard provides a wealth of intel, revealing trends like on which days of the week you spend the most non-billable hours or your month-to-month productivity fluctuations.
Klok works with Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux, and requires Adobe AIR 2.0 or higher. There is a free version with very limited capabilities. Klok Pro offers much more comprehensive features for only $20.
If you need to track billable hours, Freshbooks "cloud accounting" tool has you covered. You create projects — including the client, tasks, and team members — to track time against. You can manually input project hours or track them in real time using Freshbooks' timer. Once the project is completed, Freshbooks can pull all your billable hours into an invoice.
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