Where does the time go?

by Tonia Kendrick on February 21, 2011 in And More,Technology

Back in November, I decided I wanted to track the time I spent on various genealogy projects.  One reason for this was to be able to better plan my monthly to-do lists (I have a tendency to overbook myself).  I knew I wanted a web-based system (preferably one that was free).  There are several available, but Toggl appealed to me as soon as I saw it, so I decided to give it a test run.  I’ve been using Toggl for three months now and I don’t know how I lived without it. (Note that this is toggl – no e.)

Everything about Toggl is so easy and intuitive.  To get started, you can either sign up by entering your email address and a password or simply log in with your Google account.  It doesn’t get any easier than that!

Click on any image to see a larger version

To start tracking your time, just type in what you are working on and click start.  It’s automatically date- and time-stamped.

When you stop working, click stop and you are left with an entry that shows exactly how much time you spent, down to the minute.  When you get ready to work on that task again, just click continue.  You never have to type anything again on the same task, which is one of my favorite features.  There are some things that I do every week, so I scroll back to the last time I worked on the task and click continue.

Toggl totals up your work for the day and you can see as many days on the home page as you like.  You can add projects to group various tasks together and add tags as well.  The clip below shows my total hours spent yesterday.  The projects are in black in the middle of the screen, tasks are to the left, and the  yellow blocks to the far left are tags (a post about how I use tags is forthcoming).  Then to the right of the project, you can see how much time I spent on the task and when.

Reports are available for any time period and can be filtered by project and/or tag.  This shows the work on my Forrester Research project last week.

Reports can also be viewed in tabular form and downloads to csv and pdf files are available.

All of this and more is available in the free version of Toggl.  The ability to track clients requires an upgrade to a paid plan (which I would totally do if I were doing client work).  The paid version adds some other features as well, but I find the free version has everything I need and want.

I really love this program.  It took a little time to get into the habit of using it, but now I open Toggl first when I get ready to work on genealogy, so it’s always there on my desktop.  The good news is that if you forget to click start or stop, you just go back and edit the time entry.  You can also add entries for work that is done away from a web connection (such as at a cemetery or courthouse).  Android and iPhone users can use Toggl on their phones, but there is not a Blackberry version available, so I make a note of my time and enter it when I get back to a computer.

If you are interested in a time-tracking tool, give Toggl a shot and let me know what you think.

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Linda McCauley February 21, 2011 at 12:34 pm

Maybe this would help me stay on task. Like – oh, I can’t click on that right now and wander off in a different direction, I’m on the clock for this task.


Tonia Kendrick February 21, 2011 at 1:25 pm

It actually does work that way for me. When I want to wander off, I’ll think, “oh, I need to wait until I’ve done this for x amount of time, then I can check on that.”


Barbara Poole February 21, 2011 at 3:31 pm

Thank you so much for this information. I can’t wait to begin using it, and now maybe I will stop wasting valuable genealogy time.
Barbara Poole´s last blog post ..George Sanger Poole – Sunday Obituary


Tonia Kendrick February 21, 2011 at 3:49 pm

You’re welcome, Barbara. After the first month of using Toggl, I figured out that there some things I was spending too much time on. I feel like I’m making better use of my time now.


Marian Pierre-Louis February 22, 2011 at 8:05 am

What a great post. This looks like a very handy program! Thanks for the summary.


Valerie February 22, 2011 at 8:39 am

I was just thinking this morning I need to account for my time better. Thank you so much for the post!


Shelley Bishop February 22, 2011 at 10:03 am

Thanks, Tonia. This is such a helpful post! I can’t wait to give Toggl a try. I’m hoping it will help me stay focused, like Linda said, and clarify where my time is going. I could really use a good time management tool!
Shelley Bishop´s last blog post ..The Final Days of Fitch Bishop


Tonia Kendrick February 22, 2011 at 5:48 pm

Thanks for the comments! Come back and let me know what you think after you try out Toggl.


Alari Aho February 28, 2011 at 8:59 am

Hi Tonia, thank you for the nice review!


Alari Aho
CEO, Toggl


Michelle Goodrum March 2, 2011 at 2:27 pm

Very interesting. Lately I’ve been using an egg timer and estimating how much time I should spend on each task on my to do list each day. It does help me stay focused but doesn’t provide any feedback on how my time is spend over the course of say a week. I really see how this could help you in planning and managing your time better!
Michelle Goodrum´s last blog post ..Winter on the Beach – Wordless Wednesday


Ginger Smith March 4, 2011 at 10:24 am

Hi Tonia, wow, this sounds like a very useful tool. I’m with Linda in that I need something that will help to keep me focused. I’m afraid I might spend too much time trying to label what exactly it is that I’m doing though. LOL like reading blogs or applying tags…guess I will have to start the clock for that as well :-)
Ginger Smith´s last blog post ..Godwin Research at the NC State Archives


Tonia Kendrick March 4, 2011 at 9:10 pm

Hi Ginger! I can see how you might spend too much time labeling what you are doing. I probably did a little too much of that at first, but after playing around a little, I figured out how much granularity I wanted in my tracking, so now I don’t have to think about it any more. I just click a few things to set up a new task and go.

One of the things I figured out early on was that I had an idea in my head of how much time I spent “doing genealogy.” After I started tracking, I realized that a good bit of that time was reading blogs, twittering, etc. For that reason, I specifically don’t track those things. I decided I wanted to track the genealogy “work,” whereas the blog reading, etc. is more of a downtime activity.

Good to hear from you, btw!


Joanne March 4, 2011 at 10:49 pm

Perfect! Just what I was looking for. I use a stopwatch on occasion when I am curious. It took my 30 minutes to scan a society Quarterly Newsletter today. This tool will log ALL of them and each of them at the same time. And just in time for this months ProGen assignment on Time Management! Thanks for posting about it and I’ll let you know how I use it.
Joanne´s last blog post ..Changing My System… Again


Tonia Kendrick March 5, 2011 at 8:11 pm

Glad I could help, Joanne! Good luck on your ProGen assignment.


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