Geetanjali Mukherjee

Monday, July 21, 2014

App Review: ATracker for Tracking Your Time

Today's app review is for a time tracker application that I use several times a day, called ATracker.

Application: ATracker

Main Function(s): Task and time tracking

Why I Use It: To track the time I spent on various projects / activities during the day

How I Use It: 

I had been reading a lot about how tracking your time helps you figure out what you are spending it on. I also read about the importance of deliberate practice, and how you need to put in a certain number of hours honing your skills. I already track the amount of time I spend praying, and am used to the concept that by tracking that over the past few years, I have been able to increase the time as well as see trends. I wanted to be able to track how much time I was spending on important goals such as writing and exercise.

Initially I downloaded the free version, which lets you track 4 projects or tasks. I picked the four main projects I wanted to track, and found the app so useful, I decided to upgrade to the Pro version.

The tracker is very easy to use - which is one of its primary distinguishing features. Once you set up the task (in the Pro version you can choose an icon and pick a colour), you can start and stop tasks with just a tap - which is immensely useful. I have tried out other time tracking apps, which basically just sat on my phone desktop till I deleted them, months later, since I found them too inconvenient to use. The app also displays colourful graphs - giving the percentage of the time spent on the task, as well as the total time. I personally find the percentages less useful - I am more interested in the actual amount of time spent.

What I Don’t Use ATracker For:
I have over 20 tasks set up on the app - but in order to ensure that I continue to use the app without spending inordinate amounts of time tracking everything - I only track tasks that I want to do more of. That means I track all work projects - usually when I start a project I create a task for it. I also track all exercise other than walking ( I use a pedometer app for that, and just recently bought a Fitbit). There was a time I tried to track other things like housework -- but found it too exhausting to track so many different things, and at the same time since I wanted to minimise the amount of housework I did, most of the time I don't bother tracking it.

Some months ago, I also did start to track the amount of time I spent on a certain volunteer commitment - mostly to monitor how much time I was spending and how it was spread out.

I don't however, track the amount of time spent in leisure activities, or even in checking my email, although I can see many people wanting to either monitor the amount of time spent on these pursuits, or increase or decrease them according to their needs, in which case tracking them can be beneficial.

My Workflow:
In the morning as I sit down to work, I start the tracker for the task or project I am beginning to work on, and when I have interruptions such as phone calls, or lengthy bouts of unrelated stints on the net, or I get up to make coffee, I stop the task. When I sit down again, I just tap and the task starts tracking again. This way I have a pretty accurate record of how many minutes or hours I spent each day on any given project.

Something I started recently is keeping a weekly spreadsheet of my work by project. The rows correspond to the week, and the columns to projects - and at the end of the week, or halfway into the next week, I pull up ATracker and set it for a custom range for the week in question. The data displays aggregate data for each task for that date range - which gives me totals for each project during that week. I pop the data into the spreadsheet, and calculate the total number of hours I worked on my various projects. At a glance I can see whether I put in enough hours on my most important projects, and if I'm lagging behind, there is built-in motivation to step up in the next week so I can write down a better number.

These may sound over-the-top strategies - but I have recently started to believe that while I may not be able to control certain aspects of my career trajectory - such as innate talent, and factors such as serendipity, I can control how hard I'm working, and especially, how much effort I'm putting into the work that matters, as opposed to just busy work. Tracking my time helps me to see this concretely, and ATracker makes it easy enough to use on a daily basis.


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